So the other day I was daydreaming about Michigan having a mediocre-to-good defense two years from now, after additional years of experience, when I had a troubling thought. I'd appreciate if anyone could disabuse me of this notion.
As much as games are what matter to us, most improvement comes in practice. It is due to the thousands of reps in practice that players learn how to react to a given situation, rather than the far more limited reps they get in a game.
Here's my concern. Michigan doesn't have a very sophisticated passing offense, simply because they don't need to in Rich Rod's system. Not complaining about the offense at all, but does this limit our defense's ability to learn to prepare for a more traditional passing attack? Or even a pass-first spread? Does the offense try to replicate these alternative offensive styles during practice for the defense's benefit, or is most of the defense's experience against other styles of offense coming in limited snaps on game days?
If you look back to the Carr era, our defense was generally great against teams that ran the same style of offense as Michigan -- ground and pound with a pro-style passing attack -- but terrible against the spread, which was certainly not something our offense could replicate in practice. At the time, I assumed it was because we recruited players that were built for a certain style of D, but now I'm wondering if it's more a case that they didn't have adequate experience dealing with a spread, because our offense couldn't/didn't simulate a spread in practice.