Over at Wolverine Nation, Rothstein wrote up a fluff piece on the improvement of our linebacker corps.
CliffNotes version: he points to the new scheme and improved depth and experience as the main reasons for the overall on-field improvement. Which, like, duh.
Some interesting quotes:
"It's different," linebacker J.B. Fitzgerald said. "Everything is a little bit changed up when you change coaching staffs and all that. However, I think our comfort level this year is really good."
"We don't have to just count on our first string," cornerback Troy Woolfolk said. "If they go down or they get tired, our young set of linebackers will go in and do the job. It's not the man, it's the position."
Nothing really new or earth-shattering, but our linebackers haven't been terrible, and overall I'd say they've definitely been better than last year's group. Hopefully Cam can stay healthy the rest of the year. I am really excited for Jake Ryan's potential, the kid has looked pretty good in the first couple of games, especially if you consider the fact that he's just a redshirt freshman.
After reading a variety of things about the reasons for the horrific FAIL in defensive coaching, and, most of all, after watching dismal performance after dismal performance this year, I've noticed one common theme in the defense's problems -- consistently bad decision-making by almost everyone on defense. Defensive linemen and linebackers don't fill the correct gaps; linebackers overrun the play (often, this is a variation of the first problem); defensive backs aren't in the correct zone or decide to cover the less dangerous receiver in their zone; defensive backs and linebackers take bad pursuit angles. Etc.
I find it endlessly frustrating to watch the same mental mistakes made over and over again, by the same players and, even more disturbingly, by different players. It's one thing if Obi Ezeh is a really bad decision-maker. But the bad-decision disease seems to be spreading to the whole defense.
Although GERG bears a lot of the responsibility --probably most of it -- I don't think it's all his fault. I think Rich Rodriguez has shown an insufficient tolerance for bad decision-making. In some respects, this is the principal flaw in his coaching at Michigan.
It's not just bad defensive decision-making that hurts the team. Other parts of the team are infected. Look at Jeremy Gallon. He has made bad decisions from the beginning of the season on kick returns, but he's put out there again and again. Players on both sidess of the ball make the same kinds of dumb penalties week after week. The kicker puts two consecutive kickoffs out of bounds at crucuial times.
I know the team is young and that young players make mistakes. But should they always be making the same ones over and over again? It would be one thing if the defense was thwarted by poor decisions on backside contain one week and by poor decisions about zone drops in another week. But the team keeps making the same bad decisions over and over.
This kind of problem is really attributable to the head coach. He could make it clear that he won't tolerate stupid mistakes made over and over again. But I have not heard anything from Rodriguez along those lines. He just seems to keep blaming his team's inexperience. And he allows his coordinators and position coaches to put the same guys in the same situations where they've made bad decisions before -- and then they keep making them. I'm sure that the coaches are telling the players about how to make the correct decisions. But the message does not seem to be getting through. Only the head coach can really do anything about making sure that his coaches are communicating effectively.
If this really is a flaw of Rodriguez's, firing GERG or even the entire defensive staff is not going to solve it. I like Michigan's offense. I think there are few coaches who could have seen the potential in Denard Robinson as a quarterback and then brought that potential out of him, with spectacular results. I want Rodriguez to succeed. But I'm really starting to wonder if he can -- especially if he's not doing enough to prevent bad decision-making by his coaches and players.
I have to admit to being a GERG fan after he coached my youngest son at the M Football Camp a couple summers ago (sentimental fool that I am). He was terrific to Evan and all the other kids.
Nonetheless, I have been perplexed by M linebacker play -- tentative, out of position, overrunning, but most of all, caught in the wash. Watching M LBs, they seem to initiate play from 3 or fewer yards behind the LOS. Watching other teams (and M teams past), you see them most often position themselves 4-5 yards back on anything other than 3rd and long. The difference is, what, 30-60% more distance? More decision time, more distance to get downhill momentum, more opportunity for angles to the ball, more distance and space for an OL (slower and less agile) to cover, and, importantly, a lot less wash.
Being over half a hundred years old, my own high school experience is probably less than relevant, but I do have vivid memories of my coach yelling, "Move back, dumbass!" more than a few times after I buggered up a play for any of the reasons mentioned above.
Any opinions from the more learned amongst us?
It seemed like Demens was a big upgrade from Ezeh. I am not a football analyst, so what did y'all think? Will Demens retain the starting job?
Ok, so Obi Ezeh had an especially bad week or he simply can't make complex play reads.
What would the consequences be of sending him downhill on every play? With someone like Mike Martin there, it seems like he could cause damage on every play up the middle and cause center backfield penetration.
If nothing else, it would quicken the pace of each play and maybe prevent offenses from having time to go deep. Would this compromise our underneath coverage too much?
I think of Obi Ezeh as the Anthony Morelli of Linebackers - all the physical tools but never doing the right thing at the right time.
Immediately following the game, I posted an inaccurate image to describe the game and asked for suggestions to make it more a propos .
BlueSeoul, Capitain, and others suggested ways to make the image more precise. Here is my effort.
AllinforDG suggested I put Gerg in the fetal position. Since I could make that work, he is shouting and pointing. Something I saw him do all day.