OFFENSIVE PLAYER WHO SHOULD KEEP HIS JOB
Brandon Minor, RB. My support for Brandon Minor is well documented, and few could argue at this point that he's Michigan's best offensive player right now. He had 24 carries for 155 yards against Purdue, a 6.2 yard average. He also had three touchdowns, one on a 45 yard touchdown run. Minor has become an excellent all-around player. He has good speed, lowers his shoulder for extra yardage, blocks very well, shows good hands, and - perhaps most impressively - runs with a purpose. The play where he was stopped by Purdue defenders at about the 5-yard line and made second and third efforts to get into the end zone was perhaps the most impressive play I've seen from Minor, even though he was ruled down about six inches from the goal line. His vision also seems to have improved since last season.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER WHO SHOULD LOSE HIS JOB
Stephen Schilling, RT. Despite the loss, the offense scored 35 points. It's hard to pick a particular player - with a viable backup - who performed poorly. Threet's performance was frustrating for many reasons, but largely because he refused to keep the ball on the read option. The backside defensive end was crashing every time and Threet seemed not to care. But since Sheridan is clearly a worse option, my vote goes for Schilling. I don't know if I'm frustrated more by Schilling's play or his seeming underperformance as a former five-star lineman. Either way, with 20 seconds remaining in the game, he made Purdue's defensive end, Ryan Kerrigan, look like Vernon Gholston. Schilling got bull rushed straight back into Threet for a sack at a crucial time - when Purdue was only rushing three defensive linemen. Perhaps Perry Dorrestein and Mark Ortmann should be the starting tackles. I don't know that it would be better, but it would be less frustrating because I expect three-star linemen to get owned.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER WHO SHOULD KEEP HIS JOB
The defensive line. All of it. The 3-3-5 has been ineffective at defending both the run and pass. A three-man line ideally allows linebackers and safeties to flow to the ball and make tackles in the running game. Unfortunately, our linebackers aren't good enough at anticipating and tackling to make it effective. Against the pass, three defensive linemen aren't enough to get to the quarterback, and no Michigan linebacker is good enough at blitzing to be a consistent pass rusher. Brandon Graham, Tim Jamison, Terrance Taylor, and Will Johnson should be on the field on almost every play (obviously, Mike Martin should get plenty of snaps; Sagesse and Van Bergen should rotate in as well). If Shafer wants to stick with the nickel look, he should run a 4-2-5. I like the package with three corners (Warren, Trent, and Cissoko) instead of three safeties, but our defensive line is the best unit and it should stay on the field.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER WHO SHOULD LOSE HIS JOB
Scott Shafer, Defensive Coordinator and/or Tony Gibson, Secondary Coach. Shafer has weakened Michigan's best position group by taking one defensive lineman off the field to run the 3-3-5. Gibson has taken several promising defensive backs and turned them into sieves and/or umbrellas. With a very athletic and fast secondary, Michigan isn't making interceptions. Cissoko came out of high school with coaches and recruiting gurus raving about his technique and his backpedal. A cornerback with a great backpedal is a very dangerous weapon, because he has the ability to break quickly on passes thrown in front of him. It also lengthens the time he can keep his eyes in the backfield before a receiver breaks his cushion and forces the cornerback to open up his hips to turn and run with a deep route. But every time I see Cissoko in anything but press coverage, he immediately opens his hips (as do the other corners). This is a big reason that so many passes are completed in front of Michigan's corners, because as soon as they open their hips and turn to run, opposing wide receivers break off their routes to run outs or hitches. There's no reason a lousy Purdue team should rack up 48 points - more than undefeated Penn State and explosive Illinois did - on Michigan's defense. None. Shawn Crable, Jamar Adams, and Brandent Englemon were solid players, but the defense should not have fallen off this much with seven returning starters. In 2007 Michigan only allowed 35 points to Heisman winner/national champion Florida, 39 to then-Heisman front-runner Dennix Dixon and Oregon, and 14 to national championship game participant Ohio State.