"Northwestern fans can be both heartened and disheartened by the loss to Minnesota just like how nineteenth-century resurrectionists were heartened when they pried a heart from a freshly-buried corpse and then disheartened it when they sold it to a disreputable anatomist."
Mattison has us transitioning to a 4-3 defense. This strikes me as a good decision, in the abstract. But I'm curious as to what everyone thinks about this. How will it fit our personnel? What will it allow us to do on defense? What, specifically, will it help us improve upon from our 2010 defensive nadir? Are there any drawbacks to using scheme in the Big 10 or FBS that we should be aware of?
This season has had moments of extremely heated debate, regarding the performance of the defense. The schism in views is based on two views:
1. GERG is a bad coach
2. Our talent level is severely depleted
I decided to look at tackling technique of our defense, more specifically on the bad technique aspect of it. This particular point of emphasis is almost consistently attributed to coaching, as good technique usually only transfers to the game field when it is instilled upon repeated coaching and re-coaching in situations where poor technique is used.
This season, time and again, we have the ball player wrapped up, and then 3 yards later they have picked up the 1st down on 3rd and forever. I thought it was about time to look at tackling, both who is making/missing them and why.
About the analysis:
1. I regarded made tackles as anytime a player made contact with the ballcarrier and that ballcarrier ended up down by contact using solid tackling technique. I did not look at technique of made tackles, as after 1/2 of tape review most of the tackles that were made were of good technique. Any tackle that forced the ball-carrier out of bounds was counted as a made tackle.
2. I designated missed tackles as failing to make a tackle in space, taking an extremely bad angle on a tackle that should have been made, or simply just getting the hit but not bringing down the ballcarrier.
4. Bad Form takes into account any missed tackle that used any of the following:
- Head on the upfield side
- Arm/Jersey tackling
- Any hit at or above the numbers
- Getting "shook" in open field due to not breaking down or overpursuit.
The difference here is missed tackles in my mind sometimes come from being literally overpowered or stiff-armed, not a technique avenue. If the UM defender made the hit with the head on the right side and attempted to wrap up but the ballcarrier just slipped through, I counted this as a missed tackle only. If, however, the same play happened with the UM defender coming in high and behind, this was counted as both a missed and bad form tackle.
To derive the "Tackling Efficiency" I used the following formulas as necessary (feel free to critique or ask me to add things, as I am not a math whiz)
- Player Tackling Technique: (Made Tackles - Missed Tackles)/(Bad Form Missed Tackles+1)
- Team Tackling Technique: (Made tackles - (Missed Tackles+ TDs))/(Bad Form Missed Tackles)
Individual Players Tackling Efficiency:
|UConn||Notre Dame||MSU||IOWA||Season Ave|
* N denotes games where player did not participate or had no made or missed tackles
A few notes from the individual analysis:
- Kovacs is by far our best tackler, with Mouton, Johnson and surprisingly Gordon #15 as the 2,3,4 respectively.
- Of the guys on this list, the biggest suprise was Martin, however I think it is important to remeber that this tackling eff. calculation puts weight on total tackles made, and Martin gets doubled. A lot. (in review of my stats, Martin only missed 3 tackles total, with 2 by bad form)
- In the two games Demens played, he was an absolute tackling machine.
- Ezeh really cannot tackle.
Team Tackling Technique:
|UConn||Notre Dame||MSU||Iowa||Season Ave.|
We were much better at tackling UConn in space than anyone else, not suprisingly this was the team with the least athletic roster.Notes from the team portion:
- MSU was an absolutely terrible day, with almost a missed tackle per made tackle, and lots of bad form tackles all over
- We are consistently worse at tackling with good technique than all 4 of the opponents analyzed, two B10 "good" defenses and 2 middle of the pack to bad defenses
- On the season for these 4 games we are averaging about 2 missed tackles with 1 missed tackle by bad form every 3 tackles made
These statistics correlate with what I have been seeing every week. Mouton is great at times and inconsistent at times, and Kovacs is a stud at bringing down the ball carrier. Ezeh was a sub-par MLB and Martin gets doubled. I have high hopes for Demens, Johnson and Gordon (both of them).
Surprises for me came with the discovery of Gordon (not Cam), that dude was all over the place when he was in/not getting blown off the ball by a OT. Secondly, I think Floyd has the potential (if he develops his man coverage) to be an absolute terror on the corner. He can and will tackle in space.
As a team, I think the debate as to what this attributes to is still open for debate. Does this attribute to talent? Possibly. Is this more attributable to the coaching/GERG? Yes. However, with the limited bodies he has on his side of the ball, it might be due to the fact that live tackling is just not an option with this lineup.
Regardless of the cause, the tackling is terrible, and is apparently getting worse through the season. This attributes in my mind to the coaching, specifically the D-Coordinator.
I can only hope the tackling technique is going to get better, because as it stands through these 4 games it cannot get much worse. I will do my best to analyze Indiana, PSU and Illinois when I get some more time, to give a more all encompassing picture of our D (takes a significantly longer time because I have to watch the whole game).
[Ed-M: What are these numbers? Returning players on 2-deep? Next year's upperclassmen? Whatever: to the board with you]
edit: fuck it, see below. Much better stated.
I am sorry for not writing what I was using down. I DERPed up. I am doing this by Varsity letters earned by returning players.
For paragraph 2 I will state this: for career back-ups I awarded a varsity letter only if they are an upper-classman. This was to differentiate between a returning sophomore who only played (for example) 3 games and crap time, and who hasn't gotten enough lifting time in and a 5th year returning senior (who you could say would equal Banks I guess, so it's still off). The thought was that a returning 5th year who was a career back-up would only get 1 vasity letter awarded beause they didn't do much in PT, but they did get scheme training, and weight training.
*We run a 3-3-5, not a 4-3. Thus, we’re under a player here.
**For convenience I’m putting the Spur as a WLB, not an additional safety, for this metric.
*** based on the metric below, the average is 5.9 years of PT.
Complicated crap that you might not care about:
If you shift the numbers on DL to a three man front, it gets really complicated. Whose production do you take out? The other team's least or most experienced player? I can't think of a metric for this other than AVG EXP/player/3 DL positions. If you use that, the average EXP for DL is about 5.9 years. If anyone has any better ideas for this metric, tell me.
WHAT THIS MEANS:
You’ll see that our DL is more experienced than average (per player, not unit) while the rest of our D will be just around the normal experience level. In Fact, our secondary will be more experienced than the average BT secondary. This makes sense.
- We lose 1 player in the secondary: Rogers. Not much of a loss, but a significant loss when you think about PT. Counter that with Woolfolk, a 5th year Senior taking Roger's place, and you don't lose any experience.
- We don't lose any other players in the secondary; everyone comes back with experience
- After such decimation for two years, we should have expected this. It only makes sense that teams will tend back to the norm.
The fact that the DD argument will no longer be tenable next year (due to us having MORE!!! experience than an average BT team) is a good thing. While we can no longer cling to that as a legitimate excuse for RR, we can now bring up our expectations.
- DD is no longer a valid excuse. It's premise was that we lost experience; we now will have average experience. If low PT was the reason for a poor defense, a middling PT/experience factor should give us a middle-of-the-pack defense.
- Our D SHOULD be middle of the pack, based on the PT logic. I've argued from day one that a middle of the pack D would give us a shot at the BT title and if our O is #1 (which it could be, but depends on TOM) a shot at the MNC.
- We should shoot for the BT title next year. If our offense continues taking the strides it has, and we stop this TOM BS our D should finally be good enough for this to be a goal.
I just watched "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" with my kids.
Soon after, this vision of a future homecoming game discussion between Michigan football alumni popped in my head...
John Wangler: I got a Marion Body
Elvis Grbac: I got an Erick Anderson
Brian Griese: I got a Sam Sword
Tom Brady: I got a Rob Renes
Denard: I got a rock.
John Wangler: I got a Keith Bostic
Elvis Grbac: I got a Chris Hutchinson
Brian Griese: I got a Glen Steele
Tom Brady: I got an Ian Gold
Denard: I got a rock.
John Wangler: I got a Jim Herrmann
Elvis Grbac: I got a Tripp Welborne
Brian Griese: I got a Charles Woodson
Tom Brady: I got a Dhani Jones
Denard: I got a ROCK.
note: always recruit players with SOLID names like Steele, Gold, WOODson, Sword --- it seems to work.
Why was I so feared, and you so loved? What was it? I was no less honorable. I wanted to do good. What betrayed me? My mind? My heart? Why do I condemn myself so? I swear, on the lives of my children: Give me a chance to redeem myself, and I will sin, no more.
If you have followed this series, you are now familiar with the message: light but focused recruiting plus really bad attrition equaled a defense with some really great players and some suicidal kittens.
Here's a question: based on recruiting and retention from 2006 to the present, how good will Michigan's defense be this year?
This diary will look at the talent on Michigan's roster in 2010 versus that of 2009, plus that of two rivals in that time, to try to get an idea of what kind of team we will be looking at this coming season.
In the first, we met the family.
In the second, we saw that family destroyed.
Today, I bring you Part III.
You know, the one that's chronologically incompatible with the other two, with the substantially lower production values, that rehashes old characters and plotlines from the previous flicks in order to squeeze more cachet out of the franchise.
In the third (and final?) installment of the Decimated Defense Trilogy, I will look to the future, comparing Michigan's 2010 defensive roster and attrition numbers against those of last year, and also against 2009 and 2010 for two relevant rivals: Ohio State and Michigan State.
Still interested? [ED: YES YOU ARE.]
[Editor's note: holy hell, man. This is like a PhD thesis.]
It hits you like a thousand knives stabbing you all over your body. You can't breathe. You can't think. At least, not about anything but the pain.
I'm searching for a metaphor.
Amidst the phantom flags and the Angry Michigan Hating Bounces and the dropping of babies on 3rd down on Saturday you could not possibly have missed a notable lack of competency in the 11 guys tasked with making sure the other guys score less than we do, otherwise referred to as "Michigan's Defense."
This is Part II of the afore-bumped diary "The Decimated Defense," a look at what has happened to turn Michigan's once vaunted defense into..
I don't have a metaphor...
Something that has a lot of really shiny beautiful parts, that ostensibly looks like something grand and wonderful, but like with some major defect or hole in it, from which pours in death and destruction...
In the wake of, well, that, I'm sure that you, as I, need to understand what happened to Michigan's defense, how we got here, will it get better, and can it be avoided again?
In the first of this series, I went through Michigan's last five classes to see if we could find where and what went wrong in defensive recruiting to lead us to a day when Jordan Kovacs was all that stood between the program and the bottom of the sea. We looked at the cheap rivets, the lack of safety training, and missing life boats, while Brian UFR'ed a really big iceburg.
It was long, and mostly stuff you already knew, and at one point you had to fix yourself a sandwich, but at the end we identified two factors that were very likely contributors:
- Small classes
- High attrition
Today we put that in context. I compared the current rosters to the recruited rosters of Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Michigan State and Alabama, to see how each of these teams were built, and what was lost along the way, in order to understand why should so many other luxury liners and loveable tugboats and whatnot stay dry as we face a watery grave?
(Excel spreadsheet lives here.)
Recruiting: Quantity and Quality
Rose: The fall alone would kill you.
Jack: It would hurt. I'm not saying it wouldn't. Tell you the truth, I'm a lot more concerned about that water being so cold.
Here's how Michigan stacked up in pure defensive recruiting from 2005 through 2009 (Rivals ratings used):
|Michigan||Alabama||MSU||Notre Dame||Ohio State||Penn State|
This counts every recruit that came in ready to play defense, except athletes who played their entire careers on offense. It also includes offensive recruits later moved to defense. It excludes walk-ons.
Many nuggets here. Let us bullet:
- Notre Dame fans who blame recruiting for some of their woes have a beef. Their classes have been highly ranked, but even smaller than paltry Michigan's!
- Bama LOL
- Michigan and Penn State recruited pretty similarly. The big difference was that PSU brought in 7 more 2-stars.
- Michigan and Ohio State both recruited 20 players of 3-star caliber, and 3 blue chips, but OSU had 9 more 4-star players during that time.
- Michigan State clearly isn't in the same recruiting league as these others. They're basically averaging one lower star per recruit
- ...but out of a respectable class size.
- Even so, Alabama had more 3-star defensive recruits over this time than Michigan State.
Michigan's closest recruiting analogue here is Penn State, with the high-end (4-5 star) recruiting separated by one more 5-star guy for us. You can call Notre Dame basically a Michigan-light. If anything, the Fighting Irish have been even pickier about talent than U-M, OSU and PSU, except they haven't been as successful at reeling in the big fish as any of the major schools profiled.
For these schools, the distribution seems weighted slightly toward the top, but their bell curves are only slightly ahead of OSU and Bama. However, when placed beside each other, it's easy to see how large amounts of recruits can generate a much more sizeable talent pool from which to draw starters.
So recruiting tells a story, but certainly not the story. Certainly, Alabama and Ohio State recruited the most 4- and 5-star players, and subsequently have great defenses.
Michigan and Penn State should, just going by recruiting, have about the same level of defense, with maybe one more NFL-bound player in Ann Arbor, and maybe a bunch of 2-star guys backing up at Penn State instead of Michigan's walk-ons. Or it would be, if attrition was constant. We will see in the next section that it isn't. But you knew the problem wasn't just recruiting, anyway, since you know that Penn State's defense is legitimately good, and Michigan went into this season steering a pre-WWI luxury liner.
First, though, while we're on pure recruiting, let's look real quick and see if it's actually the age of the recruits that matter. Since they should be theoretically the heart of a great defense, and since the distribution among all schools except Michigan State was fairly equal when it came to 4- versus 5- stars, let's just look at those two groups, and when they came in for each school (MSU left out to spare them the indignation of looking like Antarctica):
|Michigan||Alabama||Notre Dame||Ohio State||Penn State|
[At this point I would ask everyone else to pause for a moment while we give Irish, who has been waiting patiently all this time, an opportunity to assign righteous blame on Ty Willingham. HE did this, precious!]
Okay, so other than an '05-'06 "Domer LOL," did we get anything out of this?
Penn State's great defense has a lot of high-rated juniors and seniors on it -- more than any other school. Michigan was kind of even, but actually should have had more upperclassmen than Bama or Notre Dame. Ohio State has been strong all the way through. Alabama is going to be really really good in a few years.
There's nothing here to suggest Michigan should be really bad. Not yet.
The Other Shoe, of Which Its Current Gravity Situation You Were Well Aware
Rose : Don't you understand? The water is freezing and there aren't enough boats. Not enough by half. Half the people on this ship are going to die.
Cal: Not the better half.
Cal, if you make it off that ship, and if that whole heir-to-a-robber-baron thing doesn't work out for you, you might make a fine SEC recruiting coordinator.
What I'm talking about is Alabama's over-signing strategy, which has been covered many times on this blog. In short, the Crimson Tide under Saban have recruited more guys than they have scholarships for, expecting enough will find reason to get themselves expelled or booted off the team before the count becomes official. The ultimate effect is that Saban has a strong incentive not to keep troubled players, particularly less talented troubled players, in school.
I bring it up now because:
|Def. Recruits||On Roster||On Roster %|
- Michigan has had higher attrition from 2005 to 2009 than Alabama.
- Let's rephrase: Michigan has had higher attrition than a team that has been TRYING TO SHED PLAYERS.
- If Ohio State is pulling a 'Bama, there is zero evidence for it here. They have a reasonable number of recruits, and very low attrition.
- Penn State, as I mentioned before, is a much older team, and therefore has had a lot more time to lose guys to graduation and leaving early for the NFL and whatnot. In that light, their retention rate is pretty darn good.
- Michigan State and OSU ended up with about the same number of recruits on their respective rosters, while Bama was just a bit higher.
- Notre Dame's team is much, much younger, hence the high retention rate.
- Attrition has generally been higher for the teams with coaching changes in the last few years.
- Michigan's 28 scholarship athletes on defense may work on your pre-2005 EA Sports video game (which had a 55-player limit) but is way, way below the competition.
- 58.33 percent, as it turns out, is in fact quite putrid.