but, if they are our two top losses (and I agree they are), this defense should be better. Also agree that we will see coaching impact continue to be a ++ factor. Should be as good a team defense as we've had; only question is who joins Ryan as a true impact player/difference maker. Would love to see Countess and someone on the d-line fill that slot.
First Look: 2013 Defense
DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE
- S Jordan Kovacs. Long time safety blanket specialized in open-field tackles, especially on fourth down, and was rarely victimized by his brain. Speed exposed by speedy South Carolina receivers, but you'll miss him early when someone screws up and you remember what it's like to have a safety biff a tackle and turn not much into lots.
- SDE Craig Roh. Journeyman switched positions every year, finally finding a home at SDE. Four sacks were second on the team to Jake Ryan; did a lot of non-boxscore stuff. Quality player; never quite panned out into the QB terror he was purported to be. Production should be replaceable.
- MLB Kenny Demens. Started every game, finished second on team with 82 tackles, 50 of them solo. Surprisingly quality in coverage; never great; guy you can win with.
- DT Will Campbell. Long-time disappointment got serious in 2012 and turned in adequate, blocker-absorbing season. Not an impact player—1.5 TFLs on the year. May go late in NFL draft thanks to sheer size.
- CB JT Floyd. Three-year starter turned career around after debacle of 2010, but was always kind of a sore spot as teams went after him and his lack of speed over and over again. Rarely cracked; had to be covered for at times. Iffy run defender. NFL FA type.
- WLB Brandin Hawthorne. Nonfactor.
Ryan, Ross, QWASH
- SLB Jake Ryan. Barbarian was Michigan's sole impact player on defense; shut down screens consistently, explosive rusher led team with 16 TFLs and four forced fumbles. Remember that thing he did? Yeah.
- MLB Desmond Morgan [probably]. With James Ross champing at the bit to enter the starting lineup, the stout Morgan is likely to move over to middle linebacker, allowing Ross to flow freely. Morgan was third on the team in tackles last year—M's linebackers were 1-2-3 like nature intended, with Gordon and Kovacs next—and displayed tackling prowess. He'll get pushed; he'll have to be forcibly unseated.
- NT Quinton Washington. Season surprise turned nose tackle from looming liability to actually kind of a strength. Not a Martin-type penetrator but ended up powerful and difficult to block. Range spans from merely okay to All Big Ten. Has future as wrestler named QWASH if football doesn't work out.
- CB Blake Countess. Freshman starter was hyped up as next great Michigan corner before being hewed down in the first game covering a punt. Will likely return to the field corner spot he locked down in the offseason.
- CB Raymon Taylor. Stepped in for Countess after Courtney Avery didn't seem up to the task and held his own for the most part. Teams mostly went after Floyd, leaving him alone. Did get burned for a touchdown in the bowl game. Tendency to get lost on zones should attenuate; has better size than any other experienced corner and will probably end up at boundary with Floyd's departure.
- WLB James Ross III. Bloodhound as a true freshman but too slight to take on blockers and big tailbacks effectively. With a season in the weight room should go from promising to excellent. 2012 : Jake Ryan :: 2013 : James Ross.
- FS Thomas Gordon. Unsung counterpart to Kovacs has not made as many flashy TFLs but is part of the Michigan defense's remarkable ability to prevent big plays over the last couple years. Probably takes over Kovacs's frequent blitzes.
- MLB Joe Bolden. Played a lot as a true freshman and will push Morgan and Ross equally. Survey says he loses the starting job but gets so much time he's essentially a third ILB starter. Needs to get a little meaner, work on pass drops, all that freshman business. Will be quality.
- Nickelback Courtney Avery. Diminutive but quality underneath cover guy; PBU and INT sealed OSU game; also a crappy edge tackler; fine option as a third corner.
- DT Jibreel Black. Spotted Roh, could not take his job; may be a candidate to move to SDE if he can put on the weight; emergence of Frank Clark threatens to cut into playing time.
- WDE Brennen Beyer. Best of the three WDEs at run D; nonfactor getting to the QB. Let's all focus our Heininger Certainty Principle at him.
- WDE Frank Clark. Co-starter at WDE made more plays behind the line (9 TFLs) and batted down a lot of passes, but had trouble beating blocks—thus all the batted passes—and still blows contain responsibility on the read option a maddening amount. Up or out for him.
- SDE Keith Heitzman. Redshirt freshman flashed a couple things in the spring game and came on as a rotation guy about halfway through the year, grading out okay. Could emerge into SDE starter or could maintain that rotation thing another year.
- NT Ondre Pipkins. Massively hyped recruit was rotation partner with Washington. Got knocked over by a running back once; did bull his way into the backfield impressively a couple times. DTs need time; Pipkins should make a leap in the offseason.
- WDE Mario Ojemudia. Hilariously undersized high school DT promised to be mini-Martin… still working on that. Needed size, technique; may burst past WDE competitors with strong offseason.
WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY
A couple guys on the DL. Last season this post focused on the three departures from the line, found only Washington and Campbell and what seemed like a woefully undersized Roh, and was pushing any button available whether it was marked "PANIC" or not. A year later, Roh was good, Washington dang good, Campbell at least serviceable, and we're all like COME AT ME ATTRITION BRO.
The problems here are insignificant compared to last year. Michigan gets Matt Godin, Willie Henry, Chris Wormley, and Tom Strobel off redshirts. They'll add an early-enrollee in Taco Charlton plus a couple of guys who just showed very well at their respective all star games in Maurice Hurst and Henry Poggi. They return Washington, Pipkins, Black, Heitzman, and three guys who saw time at WDE. They will find folks to fill in the gaps.
They do have to figure that out. First up: dollars to donuts Black moves to SDE. It's a better fit with his size, he spent that fateful final drive of the Outback Bowl running around the South Carolina left tackle, and even if it's a horde of redshirt freshmen who would hypothetically replace him, there is a horde.
At the now-vacated three-tech spot, pick from Wormley, Henry, and Godin. I bet Wormley is the winner there. There will be rotation, and improvement, and you will feel fuzzily positive about this in September.
Lineback—nevermind. Demens was missed in said bowl game, but with another offseason behind Morgan, Bolden, and Ross the ILBs should actually get better next year.
Not having an utterly reliable tiny linebacker at safety bailing your ass out for four years. Miss you, small guy xoxo.
WHAT'S THE FIRST FOUR SEASONS OF BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
Keith Heitzman is like a living breathing miracle of having a two deep
DEPTH DEPTH DEPTH DEPTH DEPTH DEPTH DEPTH WOOOOO! We covered the line. Each positions has a two-deep of non-true freshmen, many of them proven or hyped. At linebacker there are three quasi-starters plus a solid rotation at SLB. The secondary is a bit dodgier but Terry Richardson should be serviceable as a sophomore.
Experience. Michigan loses five starters, yeah, but that's almost literally all they lose. Mike Jones may or may not return for another season of staring from the bench, other than that the only player they lose is Brandin Hawthorne, who was exclusively special teams as a senior. They return 16 heavy contributors to the D, 17 if you count Jarrod Wilson.
Linebackers. Ryan, of course, and then you've got Ross/Bolden/Morgan returning in the middle. Many people will pine for Michigan's linebacking corps next year.
My difficulty in thinking about bullets for the following two sections. Only got two in each.
WHAT'S THE LAST SEASON OF BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
looks good; was Mattison getting a free rusher at Miller's backside
Getting to the quarterback. Mattison generates lots of free blitzers with his schemes; other than that the only guy to consistently generate pass rush was Ryan. WDE, the glamor spot in a 4-3 under, barely produced. Three guys had three sacks between them last year. All of those guys are back, and Charlton gets added in. The time for someone to step up is now.
Matters should be a bit better on the interior, as whoever replaces Campbell is going to be a leaner, quicker guy who can get more penetration than he did.
A lack of outright stars. You've got Ryan, and I think Ross will get there next year, and then… maybe Countess, but that's asking for a lot after an injury like he had, and… dot dot dot.
WHAT'S INEXPLICABLE JIMI HENDRIX
Will not having Jordan Kovacs doom Michigan to a Yards After Safety kind of life? I don't think so but the parade of incompetents (and Jamar Adams) before him makes me leery.
Can anyone step in right away and be a QB terror? Looking at you, Taco Charlton. He and Ojemudia seem like the best bets for a truly fearsome edge rusher—we've seen a lot of Frank Clark this year and he just hasn't done much.
MANDATORY WILD-ASS GUESS
I was worried about a backslide last year. If there was one, it was exceedingly minor. In 2011 Michigan was 17th in yardage, 6th in scoring defense, 36th in pass efficiency D, and 39th in rushing D. Last year those numbers were 13th/20th/50th/51st, and if you'd added Blake Countess for the whole year, well…
I tend to trust the poorer numbers there since Michigan moves at such a slow pace and their YPC average allowed—3.8—is pretty meh. Pre-Outback Bowl, FEI has them 20th, and that feels about right.
Michigan is probably still a year away from being capital E elite, but you could see how they get there ahead of schedule. It requires three things:
Countess comes back and is a "war daddy," to use super secret football lingo.
Someone emerges as as serious pass rush threat at WDE.
Kovacs, peace be unto him, is adequately replaced by Jarrod Wilson.
#1 is possible. #2 seems doubtful, and #3… I hesitate to predict anything about that because it will blow up all over.
Anyway. Michigan tightens up its run D, moving from around 3.8 YPC allowed to under 3.5. The pass defense looks worse superficially because the Big Ten isn't as terrible at throwing the ball next year (right?) but is actually better since neither starting corner spends the entire year getting balls thrown over his head. The D moves up to around tenth in the advanced stats, stays static in yardage and improves pass D efficiency.
Ok acts had multiple talents that can be replaced from multiple players. His lack of speed is definitely being replaced. Ok acts biggest strength was his leadership of the defense. That doesn't need to be replaced by a young safety. Also the returning players will now be in the third year of Mattison's coaching, which mitigates the quick learning of Kovacs. I'm not saying Kovacs wasn't a wonderful player. What I'm saying is that he's not the only player in the universe. Clearly the coaches can coach, they extract amazing results from average talent (Floyd). It is true the secondary will be the least experienced of the three groups, but holy crap the DL is stacked, and the LB corp is competitive deep and talented, so even if youthful mistakes increase slightly, there is going to be an increase in other wow moments.
But Brian wouldn't be Brian if he didn't hang on to gloom and doubt as long as possible. Plus something has to counteract the euphoria of the basketball season.
You wait until NOW to demonstrate that Kovacs auto-corrects to "Ok acts"??? That could have been a Tloy Woolfork for a new generation...
Personally, I might bump Thomas Gordon up a few notches in terms of important returners for 2013. It might be a case of 'gamer-hot syndrome' (i.e., the way an even semi-attractive woman at a gaming/sci-fi convention starts looking a ton better), but how many compentent, let alone serviceable, safeties at Michigan have *you* watched play in the last several years?
The last two years were the first time in forever that we had two starting safeties who were better than their OSU counterparts, the fact that Gordon is gonna be back is huge. The importance will be somewhat mitigated down the road by (hopefully) the advent of Dymonte Thomas, DeMario Jones and Jarrod Wilson, but if we're strictly talking next season, I'm very very glad we still have one proven safety who's even good for occasional playmaking and - more importantly - consistenly good UFR numbers.
Who is the lady hugging Roh? She can provide great depth.
I think that's his mom. Cue the Simon & Garfunkel, I guess.
That's Roh's MOM? Coo, coo, ca-choo is right.
Didn't know you were on mgoblog.
But it's starting to look an awfully lot like Michigan and Ohio State may have the best teams in the Big Ten next year, particularly on defense.
loses a lot on defense next year - not sure they will have an elite defense
Interesting that our top person leaving (Kovacs) was a walk-on and the top returner was I believe a 3 star who was added late to his class (Ryan). Sometimes the star rankings are more hype than reality. You never know what happens to a kid over 4 or 5 years. We just need to trust our coaches and their recruiting instincts.
Sometimes. But if you have a roster with nothing but 4 and 5-stars in your two-deep you can embarrass Notre Dame on national television.
Yeah...and that team makeup led to an 8-5 season.
I'm not really sure what your point is.
What it says is we're still not overflowing with raw talent. And most of that we have is very young. If our defense can be this good as is, it'd be fun to see what happens when they're working with top athletes.
That talent was also on an 11-2 team as well. Chillax Bro. At least we can look at the roster and see progress. And the defense hasn't fallen apart after the first 5 games like it did the few years before Hoke. Think about the progression: most important loss is a 1*/NR, biggest return is 3*. At that rate in the next year it will be a 5*. The future looks bright, and we can start counting down the days until spring football.
Chillax Bro? Really?
Sometimes it's fun to break out a Goldy-Oldy. Maybe instead of a "Hello" post we can get a "Wazzupppp." That was one of my favorite Budweiser campaigns ever. The alien one was hilarious.
success has been more about Mattisons schemes than sheer talent. Once the talent elevates (which is occuring) then watch out. .....and you are really going with Chillax bro? WOW
that though Ryan was a last minute pickup for Michigan, the current coach at Michigan used his recruiting instincts while at SDSU to pass on Ryan.
Point being that the current coaching staff is still based upon the Human Being genome.
Very good write-up. For the D to take the next step to elite per Matty's coaching clinic presentations and his prior teams, I offer a slightly revised top 3 needs for 2013:
1. Pass rushing WDE. TFLs and TOs were lacking this year and it hinges on pressure from the front 4. WDE pressure also forces alignment and protection changes to make the O more predictable.
2. Ball hawking FS. As a complement to WDE pressure - must force the QB to hesitate from downfield risk and use time to locate the FS during drop backs. Matty even stated a need for Gordon to be "reckless" in 2012 to create TOs. Even worse, long completions have frequently occurred between the hashes (OSU, SC) with no FS help.
3. Thumping machine at MIKE. It's #3 because the run D is aleady solid. Giving Matty this warm blanket opens the pandora box of 4-3 stunts and blitzes as the MIKE protects against draws, screens, check downs, etc.
Jabreel/Mario/Frank have shown glimpses of #1 and Desmond/Joe could be #3 with 9 months of development. Gordon is OK at FS with limited range and ball-skills; we must find a real playmaker for #2.
Net, I think we have the pieces other than 1-2 playmakers from an elite D.
Ah, the secondary that was. Or wasn't. #NeverForget
Savior of the defense
Is there such a thing as an Assistant Coaches Mount Rushmore? If so, then Greg Mattison is on it.
In my opinion, the #1 of what is left should be Mattison running year three of his defense.
I love that we are arguing over which starting-caliber LB will win the job. These are definitely Hoke Problems.
I happen to believe that Desmond Morgan is a very solid player who could be a great fit at MLB. Bolden and Ross are undoubtedly more athletic, but speed does not equal success (ie Brandon Spikes). I do believe there is a chance Morgan moves down the depth chart, but I also believe he is a very good player who could be a 2nd team all-conference LB that gets drafted in the middle rounds. What this means is that we have FOUR very, very good LBs, and the beginning of a dominant depth chart on defense. LB appears to be the first position to be loaded, especially when you consider that Mike McCray and Ben Gedeon join the squad next fall.
Kovacs and Denard are two of my favorite players in Michigan history. That said, it's time for us to move on, and that's not a bad thing. Just as I expect the offense will be more efficient with DG at the helm than it was with Denard, I do believe that Kovacs' replacement at safety will (eventually) be a better player. Jordan's intangibles won't be replaced, but for our program to continue its upward swing we need to have better athleticism on the field. While the 2013 secondary will be young and make the occasional bone-headed play, keep in mind that we're adding four solid 4* DB recruits in Jourdan Lewis, Dymonte Thomas, Ross Douglas, Delano Hill, and a sleeper 3* in Channig Stribling...and we may be adding one more. Within a couple of years, we'll have a loaded depth chart in the defensive backfield as well.
The D-Line is another story. I believe it's a bigger question mark than the secondary, largely because we MUST find a way to produce a pass rush, and I'm not sure we will. Pipkins and Washington form a solid NT nucleus, but we still lack a great DT none of our DEs strike me as game-breakers. I actually favor Ojemudia as the pass rush surprise, with Taco behind him. I just don't see Beyer or Clark ever becoming elite in that regard. Black looked like a pass rush terror at times, but I really hope he develops as a DT, because right now I think our best front four is: QWash, Black, Ojemudia, Heitzman, with Beyer in at WDE on running downs. The good news is that we will have a glut of D-Line talent after adding Taco, Poggi, and Hurst this year, and still have Wormley, Godin, and Henry wearing redshirts.
Bottom line: I expect a very strong back seven, and more Hoke-Mattison-Montgomery magic on the D-Line, but for us to win the B1G, we need a star to emerge on the defensive front.
Not so fast on the DL (quoting Corso). There are two clear upsides to note:
1. Frosh-to-soph maturity: PeeWee, Mario, Willie and Wormley will be much healthier & stronger. All had enough raw talent to earn time or public praise on their potential.
2. Intra-competition: Depth will be sufficient (especially with Poggi & Hurst as wild cards) to create the real fear of zero playing time. Plus, coaches can run more practice reps so the on-field product is more refined.
I'm just not sure having a lot of bodies equals having a game-changer. I hope you're right, and there certainly is potential there, but there is little to no evidence that we are going to have a player at any position on the D-Line that can get consisent pass-rush pressure or TFLs. We need that player to emerge. I don't think it's an impossibility, but I just don't know whom it would be. Again, my best guess is Ojemudia.
I saw Brian's reasoning for our D-Line being NOT in bad shape next year because we have a "horde". While it is a logically sounds argument, I was wondering if there was any experience/data to support the rationale of Incoming Horde ~= Outoging Experienced Linemen. I was originally thinking our line play will degrade with the outgoing talent(?)/experience.
When can we expect to get some tall, rangy DBs like Alabama has? Itll be a great day when Mattison can trust his pass coverage enough to freely rush 5-6 like Bama was able to.
1. Win recruiting battles for 5 star DBs (Bama has 2 starting, 1 on 2nd team and 1 left early last year). LM3 would have been a rangy ball hawk.
2. Take academic risks - Belue is Juco and Lester "partial" qualifier (ie, Demar Dorsey).
Yes, they're valuable because they're rare ...
Stribling is 6'2" and Jeremy Clark is 6'4". If they pan out we may have the tallest secondary around.
First, what the heck is the difference between a 3-tech and a NT? I've seen them defined and to be honest I don't get it. They are both DTs, no? If for arguments sake, our two best DTs are Washington & Pipkins, why wouldn't we get them on the field together? Do Poggi and Hurst play the same position also, and do either see more time in 2013 than Pipkins did this year?
What true freshman defenders do we expect to see playing time and redshirt? I'm guessing Charlton and Poggi are the only ones that see any time and not sure who redshirts.
We really need a pass rush. It seems like Charlton and Ojemudia are the only cabale ones, Charlton is a true freshman. So, how much weight can Ojemudia legitimately put on in one offseason? And, even if he puts on 20 pounds, will 250 be enough to keep him on the field enough to generate more than a few sacks?
Will Marvin Robinson play and is he actually any good? Or do we expect Wilson to play or even possibly Thomas as a true freshman?
Correct me if I'm wrong, but a NT usually lines up over Center or in either gap between the Center / Guard and is responsible for penetrating and causing havoc in the backfield while a 3-tech or (DT) is responsible for taking on double teams and holding their ground to give ILBs a chance to flow to the play and make tackles as opposed to eating blocks as soon as the ball is snapped (see Demens, Kenny 2010)
It's actually the exact opposite: the NT is responsible for taking on double teams while the 3-tech (DT) is the one tasked with creating inside penetration (have fun with that one!) and disrupting plays in the backfield (TFL and sacks).
Question: Is there a mysterious "lost" 5th season of Battlestar Galactica floating around somewhere? I thought BG only had 4 seasons. Is Brian counting Caprica as a 5th season of BG?
Thanks, that makes sense. So, that makes me believe it would make sense to put them on the field together though, no? I'm not breaking down film or anything here, but my impression of watching both play this season is that Washington is more of a space eater and Pipkins is more of a penatrator. So, why have them at the same NT position when they excel at different things? I know Pipkins is explosive and can get into the backfield. I recall him chasing down a QB from the Under Armour game last year, so he can move.
weighs 250 - that is around what Mingo was at LSU
i am nervous about our defense next year but we have to remember one thing, our defensive coordinater is greg mattison! we should be ok.
Interesting. I am extremely confident that UM's defense will actually improve next season (and I am usually one of the more pessimistic posters on MGo) for all of the reasons Brian has spelled out. It's the offense that could be a real problem if the OL is the glaring weaknesss that it has the potential to be.
Agreed. I think our defense will be better next year. I do believe that a pass-rushing D-Lineman is still a big question mark (as it was this year) but I expect that we'll see substantial improvement over last year's squad.
I also agree that the offense is much more of a cause for concern with our super-young O-line. That, and we don't seem to have a starting RB on the roster.
I like this better than the 27 tickets piece because that largely ignored the fact that Mattison rotates a lot on defense. You're looking at 8-9 DL, 5-6 LBs, and 5-6 DBs getting meaningful (meaning not garbage time) snaps throughout the year. Best guesses...
NT - Washington / Pipkins
DT - Godin / Poggi
SDE - Black / Heitzman
WDE - Beyer / Clark / Ojemudia
SLB - Ryan / C. Gordon
MLB - Morgan / Bolden
WLB - Ross / Gedeon
CB - Countess / Taylor / Avery / Richardson
SS - T. Gordon
FS - J. Wilson / D. Thomas
Not sure how well Countess and Wormley recover from knee surgery and it seems Hoke doesn't mind playing true freshmen if there isn't depth behind the starter (Pipkins, Bolden, Ross, Richardson this year). Poggi, Gedeon, and Thomas seem like they'll be the most ready to play right away.
I doubt Poggi plays this year. DT is one of our more deep positions (even if young). With Willie Henry, Matt Godin, Kenny Wilkins (who will probably not contribute much since he hasn't really yet) and possibly Chris Wormley and Tom Strobel there, we will be in good position to have Poggi redshirt.
I also don't see Gedeon playing this year. I could be wrong, but I think Joe Bolden steps in a bit at WLB (since supposedly WLB and MLB seem to be pretty interchangeable). Also, hopefully Royce Jenkins-Stone adds some much needed weight in the offseason and is able to contribute on defense next year.
Richard Ash is in the mix, too, and has played more than Henry, Godin, Wormley, or Wilkins (who have a combined 0 snaps).
I don't think there is much of a chance we burn Gedeon's redshirt. These are our LBs going into next year:
- Antonio Poole
- Dan Liesman
- James Ross
- Mark Lawson
- Mike Jones
- Royce Jenkins-Stone
- Jake Ryan
- Desmond Morgan
- Joe Bolden
- Kaleb Ringer
- Cam Gordon
The ONLY guy on our current two-deep that departed is Demens; I believe that Poole, Ringer, RJS, or even Mike Jones could take his spot. IF a freshman LB plays, I expect it's on special teams.
I disagree with the assessment of BS:G. It went post Jim and Pam hookup The Office shortly after the start of season three.
"Michigan gets Matt Godin, Willie Henry, Chris Wormley, and Tom Strobel off redshirts."
Can someone give me the skinny on these guys? If not no biggie; I'm just lazily trying to avoid some Google-fu homework.
Gonna miss Kovacs. It was like watching an NFL-caliber brain at work in a high schooler's body. Replacing him with better physical talent (over the long haul) will be fun in its own way, but I'll have fond memories of a top-20 team captained by a walk-on nobody wanted.
That'll give you Brian's info on every 2012 recruit.
After looking at the way too early 2013 rankings it seems that ESPN has us at #23. To me next year's teams isn't significnatly better or worse than this years team. I know our needs, concerns, question marks, and strengths, etc. are different, but overall we still appear to be a decent but not great team somewhere around 9 wins. I'm not sure how they ranked us #10 to open the season last year and #23 this year. Personally I think we are somewhere inbetween in the mid-to-late teens. These rankings seem to base too much off your last game versus looking at the big picture. To me health, getting Countess back (assuming he's 100%), and landing Green are really big pieces to our success or lack thereof.
Can we call Jake Ryan "Thorpedo"?