I GIVE UP ON HATING WISCONSIN
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?
I would like to focus on the future of Michigan's defense without blaming anyone (i.e. Carr, RichRod, Shafer, GERG, Bill Martin, etc.) for why it's so bad this year. I would simply like to look forward and ask:
Is Rich Rodriguez (with or without Greg Robinson) capable of fielding a competent defense next year? By competent, I mean lower than 60th in the nation in total defense).
I've been a big supporter of RR and have spent countless hours defending him to relatives and friends that don't want to hear any of it. I keep telling them to wait and be patient. Today, one of these friends asked if I thought the defense would be even decent next year. I didn't have an answer.
Any thoughts? Will Woolfolk make enough of a difference? Is there an underclassman likely to make a big improvement next year? To fill in for Mouton? Are there any OMG shirtless defensive recruits seriously considering UM? I'd like to offer comforting news to the doubters, but it's hard to do when it seems like the D could actually be worse next year.
There has been much angst and hair-pulling on the board over the performance of Michigan's defense, and particularly, the commitment to the 3-3-5 stack scheme. I happen to be one of those who thinks this scheme is in place largely to make do with current personnel and to cover the inexperience in our secondary. Gerg, from my perspective, is doing a fine job, and our defense is doing as well as they can. They know they aren't the same caliber as a typical Michigan defense, but they're not throwing in the towel.
I find it wickedly delicious that we are likely committed to Gerg and the 3-3-5 for at least a couple more years. Why? Largely because of the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" meme. Specifically, I think that with a 8 - 4 record or better, you don't change things. In a sense, because of the Shafer flameout, Gerg will be given more time. (if Gerg was the first DC, you could contemplate a change. As the 2nd under RR, he gets a longer leash, as to release him would be for RR to admit failure.) You simply can't change the DC again. Whether you like the 3-3-5 and Gerg, going to a 4th DC would be disastrous. Also, because of the lack of emphasis on recruiting defense adequately, and because of the Demar and Cissoko and Turner and Emilien flameouts, none of which Gerg can be blamed for, it is likely he will be given several years to get skilled athletes in place, before he is judged.
This, for someone like myself who thinks the 3-3-5 is a good scheme, and Gerg is a good DC, is just fine. But it must be schadenfreude for those who love Michigan yet dislike Gerg. Like him or not, I don't think he's going anywhere, anytime soon.
Someone who taped the game, look around the 12/13 min mark of the 4th Q.. Michigan is lined up in a pretty standard looking 3-3-5 stack with Patterson at the nose. He drops into a short zone and Frazer, looking for the quick slant, hits him in the chest with the ball. Sounds a lot like this, from the MSP Preview Issue at p.79:
When defenses began zone-blitzing in earnest, however, the quarterback's hot reads were suddenly all wrong: instead of throwing a slant away from the man defender for a big play, the ball could land in the chest of a zone defender who had dropped from the interior or flowed from the opposite side.
However, the same article in MSP notes:
But, as previously indicated, one of the most attractive features of the 3-3-5 is the ability to use zone blitzes without having to drop a defensive lineman into coverage, unlike a traditional 4-3.
The thing is, as I sat there watching from sec. 44 with a perfect view of it, I don't remember thinking "blitz" on this play. So someone with the tape, go back and look and answer me these questions three, 'ere the other side ye see:
1. Was there a blitz on?
2. Was Patterson actually dropping into an underneath zone or did he just see a big lineman in front of him and think, "yeah, this isn't happening, maybe I'll just hang out"?
3. If no on (1) and yes on the first part of two (2), then what in Sam Hill is GERG up to? Because it's creative, and me likey.
Yesterday's game showed me just how different it can feel to be a college football fan. It was strange to question whether Michigan was legit, to wonder if we might be embarrassed by a blowout loss in our own Bigger and Newly Redecorated House. Every turn in our favor filled me with relief more than excitement. In the end I felt calm, with none of the jubilant, happy-dancing, shake my ass celebration that followed last year's blowout opener. It seems that the last two seasons, and especially last year's collapse, have allowed my brain to be more detached from the game emotionally. I am happy and relieved that we won, but I am afraid to jump on the wagon that could be heading for another cliff.
I do think this year will be different though, because I learned some things yesterday...
- Denard Robinson is so awesome, he deserves to have his name spelled out in its entirety whenever it is written or spoken.
- Michigan is capable of good turnover Karma after all, what with recovering all three bad fumbles/muffed punts committed. (Gallon, really? WTF?)
- Michael Shaw is possibly the best compliment to Denard Robinson at tailback because of speed. When the two of them come together for the exchange the defense almost has to commit before they know who has the ball in order to have a chance at stopping the play.
- UConn showed what happens when the defense does not commit. The combined speed of Shaw and Denard Robinson tears the defense asunder.
- We are spoiled at Michigan when it comes to sure handed receivers.
- GERG has installed the first defense I can recall that seems to actually "bend" but not "break." The lack of big, game-changing plays was refreshing.
- Giving up yards while making the other team sustain a drive can actually be a recipe for success. The one turnover of the game seemed almost scripted to illustrate the virtues of this defensive approach.
- Ipso-facto, I guess GERG is actually a good coach that maybe we can all have a little faith in.
- Craig Roh is going to be a huge factor in this defense's success. When left unmarked (or marked by a TB) he creates big problems in the backfield. Marking him leaves less beef to stop Mike Martin and Co.
- Jonas Mouton and Obi Ezeh are good at some things at least. Mouton can really deliver the wood, and Ezeh is a sure tackler. Hopefully they can show continued improvement. Our run D up the middle still looks pretty bad at times.
So the opener is a win once again (YAY!). ND may expose our defense more with their spread attack, but after watching them some yesterday I feel good about our chances. If Charlie was still their coach I would be penciling in a win. I think we should be ready for some regression on offense though. Studying the film from the UConn game will no doubt give the ND coaches an edge that UConn couldn't have. Can a defense focused on stopping Denard Robinson actually slow down this offense? There is still much to learn...
Shout out to Kovacs who looked even better than last year. Dude is still way undersized and gets dragged at times, but he was no doubt in great position to make plays.
Also let's all try to keep away from the Tate bashing. That is a 19yo that played his heart out for this team a year ago, only to be sitting at 3rd string now. I could plainly make out that he was simply trying to hide from the cameras at the end of the game and we should all try to have some respect for what he is going through. For all sorts of reasons this team needs him and I hope he feels that and stays.
Edit: I forgot to mention our lack of penalties. One personal foul at the very beginning and that was all she wrote. The discipline of this team, should it hold going forward, may be what keeps the results mostly positive.
= -5. But seriously folks...
I have been reading that it looks like the 3-3-5 is in fact the primary defense being used right now in practice. The D-Line will be Martin, Campbell, RVB, but right now Greg Banks is in Martin's spot. The Spur and Bandit are the Strong (Box) Safeties that will line up outside the D-line and closer to the line of scrimmage than the Linebackers. The Spur and Bandit spots are occupied by Kovacs and Mike Williams. Your MLB is still Ezeh, LOLB is Mouton, and ROLB is Roh. Woolfolk and JT Floyd are your CB's and Vlad is your FS (Cam Gordon is in his place right now)
I also wanted to put this topic in because it looks like the 4-3 Under is also being implemented with the same line-up, only Roh is the 4th D-lineman with his hand down and Mike Williams is the new SAM.
I think most of us on this board that were going back and forth about 4-2-5 and 3-3-5 changes with Roh putting his hand down, but it looks like instead it will be GERG's Under package.