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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.

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