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Monday, August 29, 2011

Quickies: The Committee In The Backfield

The Low Down: Did Denard Robinson count as a running back last year? No? Shoot... Unlike the days yore, Michigan's running back situation was more of a running back by committee last season. If you would've asked Fred Jackson he would've said the committee had the same skill set but only better than this committee...
Remember these guys?
We know this not to be true... So what was the committee?
Presumed starter last year, I guess was, scat-back extrordinaire Vincent Smith. He did lead the team in rushing yards outside of Shoelace. Behind him was Brandon Minor version 2.0, Mike Shaw, who ran with rage right into lingering injuries. The 3rd back in the mix was meaty freshman, Stephen Hopkins. Next up, was high-school highlight tape super-star, Fitz Toussaint. Toussaint has been victim of the nagging injury plague seemingly, since his arrival on campus. He did take his first career carry 61 yds and followed it up with a TD on his next run. The official MGoBlue website lists his position last year as "superback", so that must be good... Lastly, we had Mike Cox who's career stat-line looks like one helluva good game: 19 carries 169 yds 2 TD's... The big problem with Cox, has been his lack of knowledge on the playbook.

If the committee was one, the committee back would've come in 19th in the country with 1297 yds on 264 carries. Not to shabby... The problem in my mind is that's 4 dudes who totaled just a smidgen under 400 yds less than your quarterback. But, then my mind is all like, "Denard though?"... "Denard..." Rich Rodriguez was fighting for his job and he needed to do what he had to do to win. None of the backs stood out more than the others so he stuck with what worked, Denard left, Denard right, Denard pass, Denard left, so on and so forth...

1 Year Later:
MANBALL!!! 1 RUNNING BACK!!! I wanted to stop here, but better judgement said I'd be selling you short.

Since Brady Hoke came in, he has placed an emphasis on this team establishing a power run game with a feature back to take the work load. I would suspect that of the 264 carries all the running backs combined got last year, Hoke and Borges would like to see about all of those go to 1 guy. The rest of the carries that don't go to Denard will be divided up between everybody else.

General consensus back in the spring was probably that you'd see Michael Cox or Stephen Hopkins take charge by the fall as the lead back. Both are bigger, stronger, bruising backs. Cox, who committed to this style of play for Lloyd Carr, was definitely excited to be back to running downhill...
“When I came in, I committed to coach Carr, and I committed to this type of system,” Cox said. “I'm definitely happy to be back in the system that I came here for.”
Much has seemed to change from then till now however. Michigan brought in two pretty highly-regarded recruits in consensus 4* Justice Hayes and under-the-radar 3* Thomas Rawls. Hayes was more fit for the spread and is likely to be a slot-type player for Michigan. He likely won't see the field for Michigan this year as a running back, but fall-camp reports suggest that, he could return punts or kicks. Rawls is like Mark Ingram only better. What say you Fred Jackson?
“Honestly, I did get a chance to watch Mark Ingram a few times,” Jackson said. “Mark is probably one of the best guys ever to come through here. Mark was great, but there’s something about this kid Thomas. If I was to compare them as high school backs, give me Thomas Rawls.”
So there's that... And then there's this..
Fitz Toussaint apparently blew up at the scrimmage last Saturday causing the internetz to go into an uproar and as recent as 8-23 Shaw is the projected default starter due to consistency.Vincent Smith is also pretty much locked into a 3rd down back. He's a great blocker and causes some matchup problems out of the backfield, with his pass catching abilities. There hasn't been much news on Cox or Hopkins, so with those guys we'll see.

I Know I'm Forgetting Something... OHH YAH... Fullback... Guess What? We will use one this year. John McColgan will be it and  I suspect that he will be relieved by Stephen Hopkins (maybe Steve Watson too) from time to time. 

Expectations: What is them?

Seriously, I want to sound smart here and say X, Y, & Z are for sure going to happen, but really if you have an idea, maybe you could email me and I'll post it. So, since this is my blog and nobody takes me seriously I am just going to take what I do know and mix it in with my best educated guess.

EDIT: I had this post about ready to go, got busy, and over the weekend Michigan had their scrimmage. Brady Hoke announced Shaw would most likely be the starter, more than likely backed up by Fitz.

So before the presser, I would've said Shaw starts by default, maybe gets backed up Fitz and only that because of practice hype. Thanks for reaffirming my thoughts Brady, I appreciate it.  Yeah, Shaw will start, how long his body can take the pounding of being the man at running-back, is yet to be determined. I like Fitz backing him up and taking over if Shaw goes down, if only for the reason I've had an affinity for Fitz since the first time I saw the gold that was his high-school highlight tape.

How good the offense looks early will be very important for the stat line of the RB's, If the offense struggles early, how long until Denard starts to see more and more designed runs? The offensive line in my opinion, should still be very solid and create many of  those running lanes for the backs. I will make my ridiculous prediction now and say that by the end of the season whomever our starting tailback is will amass over 1,000 yds by the end of the season. If I had to boldly predict who that'll be, I'd say Toussaint. That's my story and I am sticking to it. Next up, the wide receivers. As always, Go Blue!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Attrition Strikes

You won't see those mugs roaming the sidelines any more
This morning (FR) TE Chris Barnett joined the attrition party, when it was speculated and than confirmed that he too would be leaving The University of Michigan. He will be joining (JR) WR Je'Ron Stokes and (FR) OL Tony Posada, whom also left the program this past week.

Barnett... Had an interesting recruitment where he flopped from Arkansas to Michigan on signing day. He came into camp blimped out to 280 and was most likely headed straight for a redshirt. It won't hurt the team this year but after Kevin Koger and Steve Watson are gone , that'll only leave us with Brandon Moore as a realistic option at TE, for next season. Let's hope Ricardo Miller can get on the Craig Roh diet ASAP.

Posada... This one doesn't hurt that much. Posada came in pushing 340 lbs when in HS he was listed around 310. He wasn't going to see the field any time soon unless sudden DOOM imploded the offensive line. Posada was also most likely going to wind up behind one of the highly touted recruits that will be coming in, in the class of 2012.

Stokes... The blow from Stokes' departure might be a little easier to take knowing that Darryl Stonum will be returning next year after he serves his redshirt. But personally, this one hurts. Stokes was a guy that I had always had high hopes for at Michigan. As a former college receiver myself, I really liked his tape out of HS. He was a highly regarded guy by all recruiting services and unfortunately for him WR is one of the positions Michigan has been deep at for the past few years. Maybe he was frustrated or the writing was on the wall for him during camp with the new staff.

Where does it all mean from here? Stokes' departure makes it sure that the coaches will take a receiver or more likely, two in this years recruiting class. Our OL class and depth chart moving forward is good, so the Posada transfer shouldn't have too much of a ripple effect. Barnett's exit leaves us paper thin at TE. Let's all pray for Ricardo Miller to become beefy and hope one of 2012 guys comes in ready to play.

As always, Go Blue.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Quickies: Quarterback

Man, Denard's Smile Gets Me Every Time
The Low Down:
Michigan began last season returning, the previous years starter, Tate Forcier, along with Denard Robinson. They also brought in highly touted dual-threat QB Devin Gardner. Well, Tate Forcier lost his wings at the start of camp and by the end of camp he lost his starting job, as Denard beat out Tate and Devin, to win the starting job and Rich Rodriguez believed he had found his next Pat White. Michigan for the 3rd time in as many years would have a first year starting quarterback.

Rich Rodriguez by all accounts made the right decision. In 2010 Denard Robinson put together arguably the best all-around performance a quarterback has ever had accumulating 4,272 total yds, helping Michigan's offense be one of the most prolific offenses in the country. He was named the Big Ten player of the year and was named an All-American. For those of you keeping track Robinson was responsible for just a hair over 67% of Michigan's total offense last year (6,353 yds). Denard's legs were, in my opinion, his most valuable asset as he amassed an NCAA-QB record of 1,702 yds on the ground, which was only 29 yds shy of being the nation's top mark for the year. He also proved that his arm was a Div-1 arm as he completed 62.5% of his passes for 2,570 yds. Not too shabby for a first year starter, that wasn't recruited as a QB by basically any other program, save UCF.

However, for all of the exciting plays and incredible memories, the picture isn't all roses and butterflies. Because of the heavy emphasis on the usage of Denard's legs (19.69 att/gm), Denard missed time in 10 of 13 games last season. Devin Gardner began the season as the backup until the emphasis of him getting a redshirt cleared the way for the more experienced Forcier to be the immediate back-up to Robinson. Forcier seemed to pick right up from '09 and even led Michigan to a win in triple-OT against Illinois, securing Michigan's first bowl in 2 seasons.

Robinson tied for the league lead in INT's with 11 and he also struggled in the red zone where he only completed 44.1% of his passes. I attribute much of those struggles to a first year starter who felt the need for his offense to score on every drive to keep pace with the opponents walking past our defense.

1 Year Later:
Much has transpired since the Gator Bowl. Tate Forcier was sent home during the bowl week for grades. He then awkwardly left the program after he was maybe told, "thanks but no thanks", by Dave Brandon. He was going to play at Miami, than maybe Hawaii, and eventually he has found a home at San Jose St. We'll always have Notre Dame 2009.

Welp, On To The Next One

In that same time Rich Rod was canned and Michigan  lost the proposed puppet master to, Denard and the offense's success and in the process scratched the whole spread 'n' shred. Would he stay or would he go? That was the big question surrounding Denard Robinson after Rich Rodriguez was let go. Denard stayed and it does not appear that, to him, leaving was ever a question. So, Denard's back, Devin will be backing him up, and Michigan was able to snatch yet another recruit from the grips of Purdue on national signing day, in project QB, Russell Bellomy.

QB- Depth Chart
Denard Robinson (Jr.)
Devin Gardner (Soph.)
Russell Bellomy (Fr.)
Jack Kennedy (RS Jr.)

Al Borges is now our offensive coordinator. He will bring his west-coast offense and  Brady Hoke wants to run MANBALL, allowing the offense establish a running game that doesn't consist of Denard, Denard, and more Denard. The fascinating thing about Denard's numbers last season was that he did it, missing time in all of those games and it's not like teams didn't know it was coming either. Week-in and week-out teams knew they'd be getting a heavy dose of Denard. The major transitions for Denard will be coming from under-center, and the passing game which is going to be much more timing oriented. Denard seems to be doing a good job adapting according to Borges.
"He's playing good. He's kind of a kick to coach. He's upbeat all the time." He's been receptive to every bit of coaching since he's been here. Timing is getting better in the passing game every day. The guys worked in the off-season, but there was room for improvement. "It's not there yet, but it's showing some promise."
If there's one thing the previous coaching staff could take from the RR tenure is that whole, not coaching to your talents thing, RR was accused so adamantly of doing in his first year. I think Borges is a smart guy and he's still going to let Denard be Denard. Ace from thewolverineblog, posted this blurb from a Rittenberg piece on the offense. Al Borges had this to say...

Our offense is not zone read or spread,” offensive coordinator Al Borges said, “but we’ll do some of that stuff.”
Borges envisions Michigan’s quarterbacks lining up under center about half the time, perhaps a little more than half. The rest of the time, they’ll line up in the shotgun. In the shotgun, Michigan will use two running backs about half the time and one back or no backs the other half the time.
But before you think you have it all figured out, read this.
“Schematically, we’re blowing everything up and starting over again,” Borges said. “We’re still going to gear everything we do offensively to the skills of the people that are doing it, in particular the quarterback. Are we going to look just like we did at San Diego State? Probably not.
“We may in three or four years. We’ll see how this thing evolves.”
Brady Hoke takes it one step further...
"You've got a system that you wanna run, but you're not going to be putting a square peg into a round hole either." Al Borges has a coaching pedigree that proves he can adapt to different personnel. He'll get playmakers the ball. "At the end of the day, we've still gotta block up front, and knock people off the football."
So yeah, MANBALL with a good amount of things the Denard's really good at, like running stuff from the gun.

Expectations: What is them?
So the general consensus across the national media seems to be, that this new offensive scheme is most likely going to hurt Denard's production. I personally couldn't disagree more. While they focus on just the idea of a scheme change, I prefer to focus on what the coaches have said and what that actual scheme change means for Denard, Devin, or anybody else that lines up at QB next season.

So let's run it down... Denard missed significant time last year, if Michigan can find a #1  running back to take the running pressure off of Denard, that only means a better chance of having a health Denard all year and it doesn't allow teams to key on him alone. I don't know about you, but healthy Denard all year? Yes, PLZ!!!

Running things from under-center is only going to open up opportunities for the QB's to make plays with their feet. Many of Denard's runs last year were designed runs. What happens, when Denard or Devin drops back, can't find an open receiver and has wide open running lanes? With the ability Denard has, I expect him to absolutely break off some big ones this year when the play breaks down. Will he run for over 1700 yds again, probably not. The good news is, I don't think he will have to.

The one area of slight concern for me, is in the passing game. Once we get in the red zone Denard has to improve on that 44% number from last year, and how does he respond to timing and precision routes. To answer both of those I think he will look like a quarterback with a year of experience under his belt. We saw what kind of jump he made from year 1 to year 2 and there has been nothing but positive feed back from the summer and the start of fall camp about his work ethic towards the changes to his footwork and the passing game in general.

There's a great chance for Denard to be just as effective, he'll probably throw for more yards, maybe somewhere in the 2,800-3,000 range and probably run for less, most likely somewhere between 1,000-1,300. If one of the backs takes charge and becomes very serviceable, I will be just fine with those numbers and I expect him to be right up there for All Big-Ten contention. Lastly, if Denard does go down, I don't think Gardner will be too much of a drop off. He's not as much of a threat in the running game, but he's a big tall guy who can see the field from the pocket and when he does run, he's dangerous (think Bowling Green last year).

So fear not, my friends, when doubt creeps in your mind between now and September 3rd, remember this smile and you will be at ease...

As always, Go Blue

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Quickies: The D-Line

This, We'll See Tons of This (Fingers Crossed)
The Low Down:
In 2009, Brandon Graham got held on every single play and last year our undersized d-line only brought three and the defense gave up 4.5yds a rush (insert a knock on the 3-3-5 followed by some rabble, rabble). Craig Roh, who showed promise as a true freshman being a rush end was moved to more of a hybrid-esque linebacker position. Mike Martin at NT and Ryan VanBergen at SDE (Strong Defensive End) were the staples in the line. At DT we had platoon between Greg Banks, Renaldo Sagesse, and Adam Patterson. William Campbell was on the D-Line and then he wasn't, after an uninspiring freshman campaign and a not so awesome start to the season, that saw him basically only see the field in a goal line run package as a blocker. Quinton Washington essentially flopped spots with Campbell mid season, but to my recollection didn't see the field on the D-Line.

The team alone only had 18 sacks coming in for a not so solid 93rd in the country. VanBergen and Martin are our 2 returning sack leaders with 6.5 between the 2 of them. Greg Banks (2) and Adam Patterson (1) were the only other lineman to register a sack. I'm not counting Roh's (0.5) because as far as I'm concerned he was a LB. If you're searching for a moral victory defensively after last season, Michigan did have more TFL's (Tackles For Loss) than little bro last year. Michigan came in 73rd while Sparty came in 86th nationally. Again, outside Roh, VB (8.5) and Martin (6.0) are the only players along the line that returning with stats in this category.  

I've said it once, and I'll say it again, that 3-3-5 thing, whatever it was, wasn't conducive to our defense (any aspect of it) at being good. With the 3 down lineman trying to plow through these big manball offenses in the Big Ten, pressure isn't going to be applied and more often than not your best player (Martin) will be getting double teamed and taken out of the play. This also as mentioned allows the lineman to get to the second level easier making it much more difficult for LB's to step up and make a play. 

1 Year Later:
Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison are both former D-Line coaches, so you know they will coach the group especially hard and expect much from this group. This is evident by the constant coaching and expectations on Martin, who has taken notice and been one of the teams key leaders this off season and early into camp. 

In hindsight I am pleased I couldn't get to this post last week, as my thoughts and opinions would most likely have turned out to be pretty inaccurate. A week or two ago, I say the 2-deep ends up something like this...

Roh CampbellMartinVanbergen
BlackAshQ. WashingtonHeininger

Now one week later, there's some rumors out there that this might be the case...

BlackCampbellQ. WashingtonHeininger

Damn you internets... Damn you...

No Freshman on the 2-deep quite yet, but keep an eye out for Frank Clark, who basically traded spots with  other freshman Brennan Beyer. Clark has been generating a substantial amount of buzz through fall camp. I would expect to see him in pass rushing situations only as size wise it'll be hard for him to hold the line and play the run effectively.

Let me butter you up with the good stuff, Mike Martin and Ryan VanBergen return to anchor the line. These two guys, past Brandon Graham, have been the 2 most consistent players on the defense I can recall over the past 3 seasons. Both have added some weight and appear to be primed for great seasons. Martin is set up for another All Big-Ten Caliber season, with a huge chance to improve his draft stock. Rittenberg gives him his #10 spot in his preseason top-25 player rankings. Craig Roh is getting moved back to where he belongs, on the line with his hand in the dirt. Roh also got jacked up over the summer bumping his weight up from 251 to 269. There hasn't been much hype about Roh since the inception of fall camp, let us for now attribute that to the illness rumors floating around Roh. PLZ DON'T BE MONO.

The elephant in the room... Will Campbell...  It was reported shortly after Brady Hoke's hire that Campbell was moving back to defense and that Hoke and Mattison were going to make a point out of developing the 5-star recruit. It appeared early in the fall that Will was on his way to doing what the coaches asked of him to be a major factor in this front 4. He was even praised by Hoke for his commitment to the team by meeting his weight goals.
Will Campbell left spring at 342 pounds and came in at 316, 319,” he said. “Just watching him move around and do those things, you can see that. That’s a commitment. A commitment is always important - he showed his teammates he’s made a commitment."
Then this gritty, hard working walk-on, named Nathan Brink popped up, and Campbell's consistency has been a cause for concern. At first it seemed like your typical fall camp overachieving all-star like hype, but sounds like kids' got game. Mattison on Brink.
"He has come out every day as tough as he can. He listens to [defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery] on every word. When he tells him to step a certain way, he tries to step a certain way. And he's really, really physical." …
"In the spring it was mentioned a number of times because his toughness stuck out like crazy," Mattison said.
Nothing is set in stone and I am a huge proponent of the best players on the field, but how disappointing would it be to see Big Will not being able to beat out an under-sized walk on for the starting role. I'm still keeping my fingers crossed and that, the coaches are just toying around with different options and the rumors of Will barely hanging out with the 2's are just of the motivational type fluff.

With Terry Talbott off the team with a medical exemption, the depth on the line is thin and it's vital that Will and/or Q. Washington really step up their game. This team desperately needs a player at the DT position to take the pressure off of Mike Martin. If teams are allowed to double team Martin because he gets no help in the middle we could have some serious concerns.

Expectations: What is them?

3 things in my mind are cut and dry. Martin, VanBergen, and Roh. That 4th spot will be a mystery until either Sept 3rd or when Brady Hoke releases the depth chart. If Will Campbell isn't there at the beginning of the season, I will be worried about the production of this unit and more importantly if Campbell will ever amount to a productive member of this team. VanBergen is big enough to move inside but what does that do to the SDE position? Hello Brink or Heininger? Maybe Jibreel Black but most reports have him somewhere in the doghouse.

So with all the uncertainty, I'm gonna go out on a limb here and make a highly and most likely inaccurate and very flimsy prediction. Will Campbell, will take a hint and will be consistent enough by seasons start to secure the starting role at DT. VanBergen, like never leaves the field so, when Will goes off expect VanBergen to move inside bringing Nathan Brink, the defensive line's Jordan Kovacs  on the field at the SDE position.
To take my flimsy uneducated prediction further, VanBergen and Martin will both be All Big-Ten, and Roh will be right on the cusp of All Big-Ten. This unit, as long as someone can step up to take double teams off Martin, should be able to apply more pressure to the backfield than what was seen last year. This as stated before should help the secondary and free up the LB's to read/react and make plays. Improvement, my friends improvement.

Up next: Now instead of talking about how crappy the 3-3-5 kind was, I get to over speculate on if this offense will take a step back under Borges or not. I'll get it out of the way and start with the QB's. As always, Go Blue.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Quickies: The Linebacking Corps

See a theme with these pictures?
The Low Down:
What happened to the 2007 version of Obi Ezeh? You know, that guy that played along side Crable, and Chris Graham, on a defense that stifled the Florida Gators in the Citrus Bowl? He at one time looked serviceable and appeared to have potential. Two defensive coordinators later, he was projected as a co-starter with Mark Moundros who, until last year was a specialist at fullback. Well, Rich Rodriguez didn't need a fullback and Obi Ezeh, didnt play downhill, waited for plays, and was just no longer any good. The implementation of the 3-3-5 forced Craig Roh to play out of position, get his hand out of the dirt, and read and react as an OLB (outside linebacker). Jonas Mouton seemed lost in pass coverage, except for that one magical play against Notre Dame. It's still a mystery why Kenny Demens was behind Moundros and Ezeh on the depth chart to begin the season, but clearly at the end what we saw was an upgrade.

The heat to win was on and Rich Rodriguez hit the panic button and forced a 3-3-5 onto Greg Robinson, hoping to emulate the success he had at West Virginia. The only problem was as stated earlier on this blog, Greg Robinson had no clue how to run a 3-3-5 and it was no more evident than by the simple alignment of the linebackers in particular. Here is the alignment Michigan had last season...

Courtesy MGoBlog.

As you can see the linebackers are lined up directly behind the down lineman. This is bad. Simply put the problem is aligning that close to the line of scrimmage is that it allows offensive lineman to get the to second level quicker opening up lanes. Even if you plug some lanes, you're leaving wide open cut back lanes (think the Wisconsin game).  Here's what West Virginia looked like when you know, their defense was good...

Thanks again MgoBlog
Do you see that, isn't it clear? Those LB's are what, 6 yds off the line of scrimmage except for the guy who is obviously blitzing or at least disguising his blitz. Linebackers have to be able to read and react and play downhill. Lining up a yard or two behind the lineman does not allow you to do this.

1 Year Later:
Jonas Mouton and the enigmatic Obi Ezeh are off to try their hands at the NFL. We now have a DC who spent the last 3 years working with the likes of Ray Lewis and Terrelle Suggs. I'm excited to be done with the defense quickies so I don't have to discuss that 3-3-5 was crappy on all accounts and that we have this new fangled 4-3 defense that is going to be, in my honest opinion, oh so much better. Alas, the fact remains, we have this new 4-3 defense that I suspect will utilize the talents and free up the LB's to make plays. So who do we have to fill these positions?

Kenny Demens returns with a year of experience at MLB, and practice buzz says he's locked that spot down. Craig Roh has been moved back down onto the d-line. Cameron Gordon has added weight and moved down into the box as the SAM linebacker and I suspect will be able to hold off Jake Ryan, who stirred up a lot of buzz in the spring. At the Weakside Linebacker, JB Fitzgerald and Brandon Herron will fight it out.

Expectations: What is them?
You'll notice a theme here with the defense and I'll give you a hint, it'll rhyme with immovement... Improvement and let me tell you, I'll be damned if anybody can convince me differently. Obviously just how much, will be a question until the team can be seen on the field (by the way I'm a huge proponent for at least 1 preseason game in college football). In the 3 years of the RR regime, Michigan's LB's averaged just under 4 sacks/yr and our rushing defense ranked 35th, 85th, and 95th in the country.

Greg Mattison has said this defense is going to be more aggressive and more of a blitzing defense, so expect the linebackers to be causing more havoc in the backfield sacking the quarterback. Also, the linebackers will now have 4 down lineman for the opposing offensive line to handle, which should allow them to read and react more freely, not to mention they won't be lining up 2 yds off of the line of scrimmage anymore. I think a reasonable leap in rushing defense is expected maybe somewhere in the average of the last 3 seasons which would put somewhere around 70th nationally.  For reference, Arkansas was 70th last season allowing, 162.62 yds/gm, Michigan allowed, 188.92 yds/gm. If they were to jump up to hypothetically in the top 50, you'd have to see about a 40 yds/gm improvement, which is quite a bit to ask/expect. But like John Lennon said,
You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.
One move to keep an eye on, and I think will help this defense immensely is Cam Gordon at the SAM position. The kid plays with a mean streak and has the experience and athleticism I believe to be decent to good in pass coverage and has added weight to be able to come up and attack the run. So, all in all, "blah, blah, blah, improvement, blah, blah, blah". Up next, The D-Line. As always, Go blue.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Quickies: The Defesnive Backfield

Due to time constraints in my schedule these previews are going to be more snapshot quickies than elaborate essays with graphs and charts.

A reoccurring theme from last year. A DB chasing the opponent.

The Low Down:
Inexperience. 7 yd cushions. Attrition. Injuries. Scheme. Need I go on. The secondary wasn't very good to put it nicely. What we should of had coming in after 2009 was an experienced Troy Woolfolk and either Demar Dorsey or a proven JT Floyd/James Rogers lining up at corner along with everybody's favorite walk-on Jordan Kovacs at SS and Cam Gordon or Demar Dorsey at FS.

What we wound up with by the end of the season was journeyman James Rogers and freshman  Courtney Avery at Corner.  Jordan Kovacs and low 3*, should have absolutely been redshirted, Ray Vinopal at FS after Cam Gordon's move down into the box. The 3-3-5 didn't apply much pressure and it seemed as though the corners were always 7-10 yds off of their man. Demar Dorsey never came. Cullen Christian wasn't ready to see the field and transferred after the season. Woolfolk and Floyd were victims of the Angry Michigan Hating Gods, when their ankles exploded. Kovacs was reliable and FS was, well the same thing we've seen at the FS position at Michigan for a while, not a whole lot.

All in all there were a lot of factors into the secondary not being able to cover receivers or tackle them very well. Two very important things to playing in the defensive backfield.

1 Year Later:
I am a firm believer in the value that experience has for a football team and more importantly defense. The depth chart at the end of the season read like a simple math equation: walk-ons + freshman + position switch players = bad. This year if all the stars align correctly their should be hope for improvement. The old adage "it can't get any worse" applies here. The secondary will be more experienced and I would expect the 2-deep to look something like this by the time the season gets started..

CB #1
CB #2
T. Woolfolk (SR)
  J. Kovacs (RS JR)
C. Johnson (Soph)
C. Avery (Soph)
T. Tallbott (Soph)
 J. Furman (RS FR)
M. Robinson (Soph)
JT Floyd (RS JR)

There is two things that gets me giddy about this depth chart. There are no true freshman and there are no walk-ons. That means if we do see any freshman on the field they saw the field because they were better than the experienced player ahead of them.

Expectations: What is them?
Simply put, improvement. It has to improve. If any of the starters in the secondary go down there will be someone who either has a years worth of game experience or a years worth of being in a college program backing them up. That alone should lead to a decent jump in performance. A passing defense that was 112th out of 120 teams can't be that bad with a year of experience and what seems to be, by all accounts, a better coaching staff and an overall better scheme right? Just say it with me one time... Right...

Greg Mattison has stated that he wants this defense to be a blitzing defense. Moving to the 4-3 and getting pressure on the QB should alleviate some of the pressure of the of the DBs and cause an opportunity to get more turnovers as Michigan only had 12 INTs last season. Three of those 12 came in the ND game mind you. With these two factors alone (pressure & experience) I suspect the secondary statistics to jump up to respectable, maybe somewhere into the top 70 statistically.

Michigan also won't have to face some of the experienced quarterbacks that they did last year. No more Tolzien, Stanzy, or Pryor. They will however, be stuck facing with an experienced Ryan Lindley from SDSU, Persa, and Cousins. It should be noted that SDSU lost their top 2 wide outs to the NFL and their best 2 returners are out for the season with injuries. We don't know who will start for ND, Purdue, OSU, or Neb, but out of those 4 teams ND scares me the most from the QB position. That could change quickly but I'd like to see what happens at OSU and what Taylor Martinez brings to the table this season. The passing attacks from Minny, Eastern, Western, and Illinois for whatever reason don't strike fear into my heart, whether it be their QBs or skill position players.

 The biggest early season barometer for the secondary and their success this year will be the night game against ND. That should come as no surprise as they are easily the best non-conference team on the schedule and a Brian Kelly offense can wing the ball around.

Barring Angry Michigan Hating Gods swinging their malice down on the secondary again, I think the 2-deep is going to look much improved from a year ago. So if any of that other mumbo jumbo made sense, you and I alike should expect and see improvement from the secondary this season, even if only it's because of scheme and experience alone. Next up, the linebacking corps. As always, Go Blue.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Practice Has Begun

Today is the first day of fall practice, the offseason is to me is over...Let's get excited.

Coming up later today, preview of the secondary. As always, Go Blue.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Return From The Pooper

My Thoughts Exactly
Well, sorry for not giving anyone a heads up, but I jetted to Ohio over the weekend for a friends bachelor party. So for the two of you, who actually read my thoughtless opinions on this here blog, my apologies.

There's not much like going and spending a weekend with a bunch of old fraternity bros on 50 acres in the woods, smack in the mountains. I felt like Jeff Bridges in True Grit, smoking cigs, and popping off rounds with guns. The main difference, I guess was, I wasn't on horseback, had running water, and wasn't hunting a human being (though I really really wanted too).

Another alarming difference was, Jeff Bridges didn't have to take his convoy through Columbus (damn GPS). I had been through Columbus once, at a younger age, but now at 24 the loathing I have for the place is beyond mend.

Now, for all the disdain, I have for the state of Ohio and that thing they call a football program, I'm not one those fans, who is going to constantly reference lathering Columbus up in feces, or bombing the shoe, or anything EXTREME!!! But, there was this overwhelming part of me that wanted make a pit-stop in Columbus and use the worlds largest toilet seat, to see just how good my aim was. I realized, I am upstanding human being and didn't want to stoop to the cooler pooper shennanigans that burdens Ohio on Saturdays during football season.So, my first official pit-stop won't be until I pony up the coin and go to The Game.

Now, if you ever are in Ohio, I recommend, going around Columbus and heading into the Smokey Mountains, stocked with guns, friends, and plenty of booze. The greatest thing about this region is that, running into locals is difficult to do for about 30 minutes of driving. The scenery was great, and really there's nothing like spending a weekend with friends shooting guns for about 6 hours straight during the day and drinking all night. I grew an inch and came home with lung cancer, all from the same festival.

So to get off my meaningless rant on Ohio, I just wanted to let you guys know that content per daily basis is much more difficult than I could have imagined. Working a real life job is not conducive to me writing material every day. But, over the next couple weeks I am going to start position group previews.  I'd like to get one up today, but that all depends on workflow obviously. So, keep your fingers crossed, not only for content, but for my lungs, as a cigarette will never sound appealing to me again. As always, Go Blue.