You mean the year that shall not be named?
help i've been transported back in time to Jim Tressel's hiring help
Black and Gordon are the only two starters departing. [Eric Upchurch and Bryan Fuller]
Pipkins and Henry are big boys. [Fuller]
A nose tackle! Probably. Also, more size. Michigan's line went from somewhat undersized to massively so when Pipkins went out and Beyer moved from SAM to SDE, giving you a line that often read: Beyer(250 lbs), Black (285), Henry (306), Clark (280). In retrospect, that was asking for it, and Ohio State gave us what we asked for.
Next year Black is out, replaced by some combination of Pipkins, Henry, Maurice Hurst, and maybe Richard Ash. If Henry does get drafted into the nose rotation, Godin and Wormley will probably man the three-tech at 300-ish pounds each. Beyer, meanwhile, will embark on the bacon smoothie diet Craig Roh did as he prepared to play his senior year as an undersized SDE, and while he's still going to be less than ideal at that spot he'll be a lot more plausible at 280.
Jabrill Peppers. Is it too much to hype Jabrill Peppers up as a potential program-changing dude? In year one, probably. But there's an obvious role for him on this defense: boundary corner. Michigan's DBs are generally tiny dudes, and the guys who aren't, like Channing Stribling, are skinny. Michigan could use a 210 pound corner, especially since that pushes Taylor to the nickel package, and that seems like a pretty good nickel package.
Someone next to Wilson. The greatest uncertainty on the defense is who takes over for Thomas Gordon. Josh Furman is an option after getting some playing time late last year; he does not seem like a good one. The other candidates:
It's nice to have four options instead of two, or one, or zero; there is no indicator who's going to get the nod. Something to watch in spring.
Veterans. I've piled the various returning DL into one bullet point and glossed over Channing Stribling and Jourdan Lewis; Michigan loses just two starters and three contributors while returning everyone else. They'll have three year starters at CB (two, in fact), LB (also two), and on the DL (possibly two, depending on how you classify Brennen Beyer).
Depth. Five guys go out the door, and in compensation Michigan gets to age 14 defensive linemen and welcome in Bryan Mone early. Michigan has a solid two deep everywhere on the line save NT, which is still in the air; they return three ILBs with a lot of experience; they may be bumping a senior three year starter to nickel depending on Peppers, and where do Lewis and Stribling go this year, let alone the two corners they redshirted a year ago?
Pass rush. Michigan was 70th in sack percentage (sacks / (passing attempts + sacks)) this year, which is worlds better than it felt like. It is still not good. A half step forward from Frank Clark gets him to 8 or 10, and then a full year of a healthy Jake Ryan adds another 5 or 6, and… actually, you're getting towards pretty good already there. There is the potential for this to move into the 30s, which would be a huge boost to every unit's pass defense.
Getting crushed by spread 'n' shreds. This post was going to be a lot sunnier before the last two games of the year, in which Michigan was bludgeoned. Before that they'd turned in a lot of good performances in which they gave up the ghost late. Their one truly bad performance was getting smoked by Indiana, and that was seemingly more for reasons of unfamiliarity and lack of preparation than out-and-out talent.
Then OSU and KSU laid waste. Now you go back and look at Northwestern clubbing Michigan last year only to lose on a Hail Mary and South Carolina's crew of 5'9" speedsters slicing up M's secondary as South Carolina used their QB to paper over the fact their OL couldn't block for their tailback. Or Ohio State putting up 34 in their lost 6-7 year. There seems to be a developing narrative of Michigan failing to contain spread-to-run offenses more often than not. For every 2013 Minnesota there are two 2011 Ohio States. I would say this is reminiscent of the Carr era, but Michigan would have to be a lot better for that to be true.
Getting crushed generally, up the middle. I want to move Henry to nose tackle in my mind, but then 3-tech becomes this jumble of Wormley/Godin/Strobel/Poggi and I'm not sure how confident I am in that. But then: can you rely on Pipkins, and who is your 0.5 starter at nose? Hurst? Ash? I don't want to move Henry out of the starting lineup, but I don't want him trying to play two positions, and I don't want a questionable Pipkins backed up by a freshman.
Are the corners actually good? Now we get to extend this argument about Taylor to a larger stage. PRO: between them the two starting CBs had ten interceptions, virtually all of them the impressive sort where the corner makes a play. No batted balls here. CON: Michigan was 49th in YPA allowed at 6.9. PRO: with a crappy pass rush and safety issues. CON: what safety issues?
I'll take 10 INTs and slightly above average pass defense with that pass rush and those huge chunks of yards Stribling and Lewis gave up because of phasing/gypsy issues. Yes, Tyler Lockett annihilated them. Tyler Lockett does that to everybody. Every-damn-body. Against mortals, I would expect Taylor/Countess to be a high quality pairing. But, you know… Lockett.
What about James Ross? He was supposed to be the bees' knees according to someone. Oh, right, me. He was kind of eh, his year bookended by passing spread after passing spread in which he was mostly dropping into zones effectively and injury. More than anyone else he was hurt by having Black and Henry as DTs, as those guys tended to dart into the backfield to do something and get all the credit or get blown up. In the first case there was a guy releasing into him free; in the second he had to try to pick around three guys moving the wrong way to make his read worth anything.
I think Ross will be good if Michigan can keep him clean.
Oh good another new safety. I hate new safeties.
Despite the alarming trend at the end of the year, the arrow does point up for this outfit, which loses very few contributors and has a ton of guys competing to break through into the starting lineup. There are something like five cornerbacks I'd be relatively confident to see on the field, which is 3-5 more than usual. The linebackers return almost entirely intact; the line does as well. They should be better—possibly a lot better.
The major looming issue is defensive tackle. The Pipkins injury was the worst possible one for the defense to suffer, as they have scant options right now a position on the field where you need at least 1.5 starters.
I don't think I can predict this is a top 10-ish defense without one elite DL, and I don't think I see that happening. Clark and Henry both have potential; I don't think either is going to truly blow up. But plenty of depth and experience everywhere should provide Michigan an opportunity to cut down on the mistakes significantly and ramp it up against everyone who can't just maul them on the line. How many teams will be able to do that… let's say two? Two.
I still think this is a unit that takes a leap forward next year. It's a leap forward from ten spots further back now, but a legit top 20 outfit is my median expectation.
You mean the year that shall not be named?
I was also thinking of going with "Worst Year Ever" or "Oh my God, is it over yet?"
The defense and the offense are connected. A theroretically good defense can be beaten down and worn out if our offense can't stay on the field long. This is what is destroying us- the lack of a complete team. I don't see the offense improving that much next year. I am also a little worried about the regression on D from two years ago. The longer players stay with Hoke the softer they seem to get. I apologize if this seems pessimistic, I truly want to believe that next year will be better but, right now, I am not seeing this. Recruiting is starting to deteriorate also. I have never felt this goomy about UM football in a long time. I really hope that I am wrong.
It's not that guys are getting softer, it's that we haven't replaced guys like Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen adequately. A lot of that is due to - you guessed it - lack of depth in the trenches.
EDIT: I see that you're talkingostly about offense, but the same thing applies there. If we had a guy like Molk the last two years, I really believe the run game is not a problem. The number one problem on this team is lack experienced talent in the trenches. Fix that, you fix the running game, you fix the team. This is why I'm not ready to say goodbye to Borges - it's hard (read: damn near impossible) to call a competent offense when you can't run the ball.
I agree. The loss of both Van Bergen and Martin cannot be understated.
Friendly correction: "overstated."
on the roster in 2013 didn't play up to your expectations was because they'd played too many years for Hoke.
As to recruiting falling off, at least it's a more balanced than 2010 & 2011 and has been filling in the gaping holes in the roster.
I'm one of the most naturally pessimistic people here, but even I think you're being way too gloomy. Losing Hand and Campbell was disappointing, but if you look at the totality of our recruiting, Hoke & Co are still doing damn good.
It's weird to read that Michigan's defensive unit for 2014 will have some decent depth. And not the scary kind of depth. Really weird.
I think one way to get better is to stop rotating guys so ridiculously much. There really didn't seem to be any appreciable benefit to rotating every single position. The starters are your starters for a reason: because they're better than the guys behind them. Rotate the defensive line just enough that they don't get tired and play three inside linebackers, but other than that, I think this defense will perform at its best with only token subbing.
i guess you didn't read the part where 3 out of our 4 starters on the Dline were under 300 lbs.. or the fact that 3 were DE's.. You can't keep 3 DE in the game the whole time. It's no wonder they got steam rolled towards the end of the year after pipkins went out
"An Enormous Pile Of Returning, Undifferentiated Defensive Linemen"
This is true. It's hard to see a homerun defensive lineman on this roster. Potentialy, yes, but a sure thing, no. The team is missing "that guy". A pass rush is sorely needed in 2014.
McCray at OLB
Poggi and Hurst in middle of line, especially if Pipkins isn't back 100%
p.s. The chick in the Countess photo with the big M on her chest ought to be in the starting line-up somewhere. Can't waste that kind of talent!
What about McCray ?? Not a single mention of him? He is already NFL sized
Do we know who backs up JMFR next year? Gant? Gedeon? McCray?
Hoke (whom I support) often states that we need to be 'tough and physical." Michigan's apparent defensive philosophy of 'bend don't break' doesn't sound very tough or physical to me.A defense either dictates what the offense can or can't do or it 'reads & reacts.' A defense should attempt to put the offense,especially the QB, off balance and out of rhythm.How many opposing QB's looked uncomfortable against us this year? The freaking Akron QB was as comfortable as my ex-wife spending my hard earned cash.If I see another 3 man rush on 3rd & long my head is going to explode!!! I saw Raymon Taylor isolated on Lockhart inside the 10 and he gave him a 7 yard cushion!Show me a good defense and I'll show you an aggressive defense.I appreciate all of Brians excellent coverage of who we have coming back and Space Coyote's analysis of 3 tech this and wide side that etc. but it all boils down to this: GROW A PAIR & BE AGGRESSIVE !!!!!
This is why I'm not as bullish on the defense as most of the people replying seem to be.
The 'bend but don't break' broke a lot in 2013. And as you point out, UM's defense made just about every QB we played look really good and that was going against some guys like Cook and Hackenberg who had only started a handful of games. If you're only going to rush 3 or 4 guys they better be able to consistently put pressure on the QB or most QB's will eventually find an open receiver.
I expect this unit to improve at least a little. Big questions are on the D line, can they get a pass rush w/o blitzing and do they have someone to plug the middle w/o a healthy Pipkins?
If the answer is yes, we may be smiling every time the defense comes onto the field.
Also Ben Gedeon? Played a bit, showed some flashes of awesome.
I'm a little worried about our senior leadership on defense next season. Next year it's Ryan, Morgan, Clark, Taylor, Beyer, Ash, Hollowell, and Furman. The only entrenched, accomplished starter is Ryan, and kind of Clark. Morgan seems like a leader type, but he's always in danger of losing his job to Bolden (and Gedeon now). Clark did some things on the field last year, but I'm not so sure about his character or leadership capacity. We need some seniors with great leadership this next season, and that includes credibility in the eyes of the younger guys from having proven results on the field.
This was a major missing ingredient this season, in my opinion. With the exception of Black, every other senior on D seemed to be in the coaches' doghouse in one way or another. Not the formula for success.
I think the biggest issue this year was that Mattison had ZERO playmakers on defense and almost no one that could win a 1-on-1 match-up. One example was one of the TDs in the bowl game - he dialed up an A-gap blitz and got a guy right in the QB's face. If that guy gets there a half second earlier or the corner could cover for a half second longer it is a FG attempt. Neither could, despite a perfect play-call.
In 2011 the playmakers were Martin and RVB with solid guys around them. Kovacs was a playmaker too.
In 2012 the playmaker was Jake Ryan with the DL eating blocks to free him and the other LB up. In fact, Kovacs had to do little at all since the DL ate blocks, the LB made tackles, Ryan made big plays, Kovacs just cleaned up anything else.
In 2013 it was.....it was.....no one. I actually think some of the explanation for Black and Henry playing so much more than Washington was the search for a playmaker. I think they futzed with the safeties for the same reason - looking for a big play.
As for 2014, here are my thoughts:
I still think this is a good enough D to keep us in games all season - but can it win any for us? It all comes down to that DL.
I still feel like that whole 'Mattison doesn't trust them (the corners)' is shit. Honestly, both Taylor and Countess are twice the athlete JT Floyd was but Mattison Pressed Michael Floyd and Lived with Floyd AND Avery, who again probably isn't as good an athlete as Taylor or Countess. That notion is just something I can't agree with. I don't know why the defense has gotten less aggressive over the years but nobody will convince me it's the corners' fault.
(Not having a go at anyone in particular)
I think it's also an issue of Mattison not trusting the safeties. Kovacs did great work back there in 2011 and '12.
Could be. As you said, Kovacs was terrific. But with Gordon being a senior and having 2-ish full seasons starting and Wilson who had comparable experience to Gordon in '11 back there, it's still a stretch, in my eyes.
the last two games crushed my maize colored glasses. i think that part of the DL's weakness was the loss of jerry montgomery. since he's not walking through the door, i'm less optimistic about the 2014 defense. improvement from the LBs doesn't matter if the pass rush isn't appreciably better and the middle of the DL isn't getting routinely crushed by mauling OGs.
That is until I watched Oklahoma's defense olay. They did alright. 27th nationally vs the run, but only 53rd nationally in sacks.
OU was only marginally better than Michigan in both categories, so I stopped thinking "OMFG I can't believe we lost that coach!"
Montgomery is a good coach, but to some degree also a beneficiary by association of the Roh+MMartin combo.
perhaps. but we don't have roh or martin coming in. so i still don't see good reason to be excited about next year's D.
I think Pipkins could be ready by fall, conditioning could be an issue, if he's not ready Hurst or Poggi may get chances, although both are well below 300lbs. If all else fails Mone could see the field. Ideally Ash will blow up in fall camp, which would give Pipkins time to heal fully and allow Mone to RS, while Hurst and Poggi get some playing time against the lower tier teams on our schedule.
If someone like Taco blew up in fall camp would it make sense to consider putting him in at WDE and moving Frank Clark to SDE? How different are those skill sets? Am I an idiot for even suggesting this?
The good news is that D-Line is the position where you most often see a guy seemingly come out of nowhere to have a huge season. IMO, that guy could be:
The bad news is that if that doesn't happen, 2014 will be rough.
The LBs and DBs will both be pretty good or better; for this defense to be very good or great, the D-Line needs to take a massive step forward. I'd say it's 50-50.
I just want to know when we can finally stop lining the corners 10-15 yards off the l.o.s. every play. Also, more occasional blitzing would be nice.
Our defense was good, and at times was the only thing keeping us in games, but it felt like our defense could've been significantly better in 2013 if it wasn't so busy playing it safe.
I liked the last season of Battlestar Galactca.
So say we all.
Sunny outlook to cover up this gloomy winter. Looking forward to 2014.
JABRILL PEPPERS JABRILL PEPPERS JABRILL PEPPERS JABRILL PEPPERS JABRILL PEPPERS
Finally, a reason for some optimism. I think the 2014 defense could be good enough to carry the team, a bit, and take some pressure off of the offense. Then, a senior Devin could make enough plays to make some of the close losses from this year into wins.
I am not sure if I completely believe it, but I am going to grasp on to this theory as my hope for 2014.
Any coming or going? These guys have an significant impact on how well the defense is, but there is never anything about them.
It seems to me that, assuming the overal D scheme is good, these guys are key to developing the 3-4 star guys into quality players.
Anyone have any thoughts on these guys?