Five Questions And Five Answers: Defense 2015

Five Questions And Five Answers: Defense 2015 Comment Count

Brian September 2nd, 2015 at 3:52 PM

Previously: Podcast 7.0. The Story. Quarterback. Running Back. Wide Receiver. Tight End And Friends. Offensive Line. Defensive Tackle. Defensive End. Linebacker. Cornerback. Safety. Special Teams. 5Q5A: Offense.

1. So what is this defense again?

Last year Michigan moved from the 4-3 under they deployed in Mattison's first three seasons in Ann Arbor to a 4-3 over. DJ Durkin seems set to return Michigan to a defense that's going to seem a lot like Mattison's earlier outfits. Whether you call this a 4-3 under or a 3-4 is mostly a semantic issue. However, it's one that's driving me nuts every time a writer for the Wolverine talks about Michigan's forthcoming 3-4 transition.

The disconnect here appears to be based on one spot, the "BUCK". Many, many teams have a fancy name for their weakside end. It often designates a guy who is a LB/DE hybrid:

"Watching film on Dante (Fowler) and experience this position has been a ton of fun," he said. " The BUCK is like the hybrid on the field. You're sometimes standing up and sometimes have your hand in the dirt. Wherever you're at at that position, you're expected to make plays. You gotta get to the quarterback as quickly as you can and make tackles."

fbz3gg1_thumb1[1]Durkin apparently calls his fancy spot the "buck linebacker." Therefore 3-4. Durkin's buck linebacker last year was 6'3", 260 pound Dante Fowler. Fowler almost always rushed the passer from a three-point stance. Sometimes he would drop into coverage or fold back into a run fit.

In this he is exactly—exactly—like what Michigan did with Frank Clark in the under. We even have a mascot for this, Slanty The Gecko. Slanty was inexplicably the first hit in Google Image Search for "line slant football" and has featured in multiple posts that describe Michigan's nominal weakside end going SYKE LINEBACKER MORPH and dropping back as the SAM plunges willy-nilly into the defensive line. Here is an example:

line-shift-2 - Copy

According to Mattison, Michigan did this on maybe 40% of its snaps from a 4-3 in his first year at Michigan. I'd say the BUCK concept is that only more so, but I don't think it can in fact be more so.

To me the real distinction between a 3-4 and a 4-3 is in your interior line. Are your guys planet-shaped gentlemen? Do you have Louis Nix? You're probably running a 3-4. Do you have Ryan Glasgow? You're probably running a 4-3. People will talk about multiple fronts, and Michigan will run multiple fronts. All of those will be efforts to confuse the offense as they inject their DTs into gaps and get penetration.

The upshot: this is not a big change, if it's even a change at all. It is a nomenclature tweak.

[After THE JUMP: additional strategically located Peppers talk.]


H4: Durkin's Defense is Not a 3-4

H4: Durkin's Defense is Not a 3-4 Comment Count

Seth March 24th, 2015 at 1:01 PM


No this isn't a "3-4"; well it is a 3-man front with the nose over the center,
but not a 3-4, let me explain.

Various people reporting back from practice have noticed three (or fewer) guys with their hands down, and said "oh they're going 3-4." Soon enough people pick up on this, figure a new DC means a new defense, and whiteboards across the state get sales points erased in favor of X's and O's with arrows diving between X's.

Mattison was asked about the 3-4 look in his breakout Q&A and had this to say:

"We ran that last year. What we're doing on defense is trying to see what scheme fits the players."

I know we've hashed the 4-3 under a bunch on this site but I could never walk by a boardroom with football drawings on it (this is probably why I lost that job) so here we go again.

Everyone Runs Everything. Calling a defense a "3-4" or "4-3" or any one thing at this level is not ever going to be accurate, because defenses change up gaps and show different looks so offensive linemen won't know exactly who's got what gap every time. In the process of showing that you might be running 3-4, sometimes you actually have guys two-gapping. If you have a really special player you might do that even more. But general rule is everyone runs everything, and the best you can do to describe any single defense is what their base is. Everything else will stem from the base.

Alignment vs. Philosophy

Alignment is where you put your players before the snap; philosophy is what they're being tasked with. The two-gapping philosophy has become synonymous with the 3-4 alignment, and the one-gapping philosophy is thus tied to the 4-3. The major difference between these philosophies is understood better by using the "gap" terms.


…means you have one to three defensive linemen responsible for controlling a blocker instead of a gap between those blockers. His job is to get into that guy and be in a position to tackle if the run goes to either side. He's not left out to dry; the two-gap philosophy gives you a free hitter from the second level who watches the play then reacts. Think of it as man defense for run fits, i.e. the defenders all have a certain offensive player they're responsible for beating, the free hitter's being the ballcarrier.

3-4 two-gap

You can do this if you have a super large nose tackle, the classic example being Wilfork on the Patriots. You can look at the above diagram and see the downside of two-gapping: if that left guard releases and the center holds up, you have a blocker eating your free hitter downfield. Two-gapping is a luxury you can have if the guy you have two-gapping is able to do it effectively.

A two-gapping defensive lineman needs to get that control established early, so lining up directly over the guy he's going to control is rather important. So a base 3-4, two-gapping defense will line up almost always with the nose tackle directly over the center, thus threatening the two-gap assignment, and still in position to change it up.

3-4 two-gap2

Remember that these are not set-in-stone gap assignments, just common ones. You change these up from play to play.


This is your basic "everyone has a gap" defense and the philosophy behind both the 4-3 even/over and 4-3 under. It is zone defense of run fits. Coaches who use this as their base, however, call it the more "aggressive," because football coaches describe the way they eat an ice cream cone "aggressive," yes, but also because the linebackers and linemen aren't diagnosing anything before taking their first steps of the play.

Instructively, one of the terms used often for the 4-3 over is the "Miami 4-3" because Jimmy Johnson used it to great effect when he had access to a lot of very athletic yet not very coachable defensive players. The concept was fast guys hitting their gaps and penetrating upfield to cause disruption.


You'll note that the 4-3 under picture is nearly identical to the 3-4, one-gapping example image above. That's pretty much what a 4-3 under is: a nose tackle and two large DL who set up in a position to take on double-teams so the LBs can attack their gaps. Philosophically everyone has one gap, but guys start taking on different roles: the NT is shaded to strongside so he'll need to be a bit more of a plugger; the SDE is further inside and has to be able to take on doubles like a DT; the other DT is further out and can be a little more end-ish; the WDE has a one-on-one battle with the OT, and can be a little more linebackerish; and the SAM has to be part-DE to compensate for the fact that he's the edge defender instead of the SDE.

Because it looks so much like the 3-4 defense it can threated to do 3-4 things. That gets us to the point of what Durkin does with his defenses, and what Michigan is expected to do this year: threaten two-gapping as a changeup.


Here's a play from Florida-FSU last year and you'll recognize the alignment as 3-4 (or would be 3-4 except weakside OLB is pulled for a nickel):


Nose tackle is right over the center. Ends are right over the tackles. You are thinking all sorts of Wilforky things. But this is still a one-gapping defense and you'll see why off the snap:


Right there is a good shot of the roles of 4-3 under defenders. The NT and 3-tech have double-teams; as long as they don't give up ground and stay engaged with those dudes they're keeping the LBs clean and keeping their holes closed. The five-tech has a guard (he'd be doubled if the run was going the other way), and the two MLB-types (the WLB and MLB) can flow into gaps (the MLB is blitzing his). The SAM has his edge. The difference here is the WDE has been pulled for a nickel, a dramatization of the fact that a 4-3 under WDE is often in coverage.

Here's how it's drawn up:

looks like a 3-4

(orange arrow means player's in zone coverage and watching his gap; black=rushing).

On that play the nickelback (5'10"/206 junior Brian Poole, Florida's hybrid space player) came down inside and got blocked by the slot receiver, giving up the edge and leading to a big run since the free safety was deep in coverage. If not for that, Poole should have been in perfect position to hold this down.

You Sure Durkin is a 4-3 Guy?

Durkin likes to accomplish the base thing from a gazillion different looks; I predict defensive UFRs with regular opening shots of Brian trying to name things. Here are the formations for every play leading up to that one:

FSU plays

What defense is this? It's a philosophically 4-3 (one-gapping) multiple-front thing that likes to have speed on the edges, either from standup WDE/SAMs or putting hybrid space players in there with edge responsibility. IE what Michigan's been since 2011.

What About 3-3-5?

The 3-3-5 stack also uses two-gapping as a base threat, though neither Rocky Long nor Jeff Casteel have often had access to a nose tackle capable of doing it consistently. The point of the 3-3-5 is it gives up starting position for the threat of attacking from anywhere.


Remember how GERG was terrible at this? It's because he was a 4-3 coach teaching 4-3 philosophy, and that took away the unpredictability of this defense.


Practice Bits: Defense

Practice Bits: Defense Comment Count

Brian March 19th, 2015 at 1:13 PM

3-4, 4-3, etc etc

I've said this before and I'll probably say it again several times before the season starts: Michigan is not likely to be moving to a traditional 3-4 system. Nor will they spend a lot of time implementing a traditional 3-4 to mix in with a 4-3. The time commitment to do so is prohibitive at the college level, and the kind of personnel who can effectively do both are too rare.

So what's with all the discussion about moving to a 3-4? It comes from the top, as this Sam Webb interview with Marcus Ray indicates:

Sam Webb: Michigan is telling kids that they are going to be basically 50/50 as far as 3-4, 4-3.  As best you can without having a visual aid or a grease board, explain to people, how that will come to pass and why Michigan is saying that, why that makes sense.

Ray describes the 4-3 under as something that could be looked at as a 5-2…


Brennen Beyer, the stand-up SAM in this picture, bounced between SAM and DE for his career

…and says that a 3-4 can look a lot like the under. Both accurate, and as I've mentioned before you can look at the under as a defense halfway between the traditional Miami-style 4-3 even/over and a 3-4.

But I think the distinction here is a bit of a red herring. I asked Spencer Hall what Florida ran last year and he replied it was a 4-3 with a standup end (Dante Fowler); my observations of the Florida defense rarely encounter a nose tackle lined up directly over the center. He's almost always in a gap.

Could it shade to a 3-4? Sure, I guess. Why would they do that? There are two reasons:

  • To run a 3-4! Obviously.
  • To disguise their 4-3. Gap-sound unpredictability is a major goal of all defenses. Putting a nose tackle over the center gives him an advantage if he's going to slant one way or the other, but the idea is still the same: get in a gap.

Ray explains:

"If you line up in that A gap or that center believes that they know you have this gap then it is easier for them to block you because you‘re more of a standing target, they know what gap you’re responsible for, but in that 30 front, you can slant and angle in either way.  They don’t know which gap you are responsible for and they have to guess and try to figure it out once the ball is snapped, but it gives the D-lineman the flexibility to go either way.  And then let the truth be told, in that same 30 front, if you have a noseguard that is lined up right over the center and he slants to the strong side, then that is technically going back to under.  If that noseguard slants to the weak side, in the weak side A gap, then that technically puts you in an over front, because the entire front has to shift along with him, so now that gives you some 4-3 flexibility from a 30 front if you just slant and angle, it puts you right into a 4-3 defense.”

If you believe that Ryan Glasgow will hold the nose tackle job, a 30 front featuring him is an undeclared 4-3. Michigan doesn't have a Nix or a Gabe Watson to hold down the middle of that defense and two-gap the center unless Ondre Pipkins goes from afterthought to superstar in his final year or Bryan Mone is terrific as a sophomore.

Michigan may run a bunch of different fronts but at its heart the defense is probably a 4-3. And judging from Florida last year it's not going to seem that much different than Mattison's fronts.

Defensive Line


Lawrence Marshall is a name to watch. [Bryan Fuller]

Anyway this is all a lead-in to an assertion that for now I'm still assuming Michigan has a traditional 4-3 look this fall and I won't be changing up the nomenclature yet.

If and when we get enough data to do so it looks like the first change will be at WDE, which Florida folks sometimes call "drop end." Reports hold that Mario Ojemudia and Lawrence Marshall are frequently in a two point stance—something Marshall had never done and was taking some time adjusting to—this fall. Again, this gives the impression of a 3-4. In my mind it's taking the Mattison 4-3 under a half-step towards a 3-4 but whatever.

Marshall is doing well. His athleticism stands out and he's already about as big as Ojemudia. Ojemudia had to put on a bunch of weight and topped out around 250; unfortunately he hasn't displayed the explosiveness he had in high school at the bulkier number. A platoon is certain… unless Marshall wrests the job away and Ojemudia is again called upon to be a guy who plays spot downs to rest the starter. Michigan is trying out the occasional linebacker there as well, with Royce Jenkins-Stone the most prominent.

The other three spots have seen a ton of rotation, some of it involuntary. Injuries have held out big chunks of the line for a practice or three. When present, Willie Henry has been impressive. Chris Wormley is playing SDE again($), which makes sense given the depth chart (especially with Henry Poggi trying his hand at TE, and double especially if Michigan is moving back to more of an under). 4-3 under SDE is a better fit for him, as he can be that RVB type with a bit more pass rush.


There's as of yet no movement away from the presumed lineup of senior starters: Ross, Morgan, Bolden. With Greg Mattison still around I'm not surprised. 247 does mention a competitor to the presumed starters($):

[Ben] Gedeon has popped out early as a potential contributor in this year's defense. He has potentially the best combination of size, athleticism and intelligence at the position and it might turn into a situation where it's difficult to keep him off the field. For the second straight season, linebacker may be Michigan's deepest position, so if he stays on the field consistently, it will be because he's turned into a good to great player.

Scout also mentioned Gedeon as a potential breakout performer.

True junior Gedeon is a prime member of Team Why U No Redshirt who needs to start making an impact now. Michigan has rotated extensively in the past—not so much last year—and I expect he'll get playing time almost in line with the starters.

That is about all the chatter, with Ross/Bolden/Morgan the presumed starters. They look good when the DL isn't having them catch blocks all day, which has been something of an issue since a lot of guys have been out.


There have been plenty of reports on Jabrill Peppers, who is looking like the Jabrill Peppers everyone dreamed about when he committed. Peppers bounces from safety to nickelback and looks like Jabrill Peppers should. He is taking ownership of his unit even as a sophomore:

"He's a high energy, high motor guy and he's going to talk trash," Countess said last week. "And he's going to get everybody going. He's been one of those guys you want on the field.

"Even if he has a bad play, he's going to let you know. And if he has a good play, he's definitely going to let you know."

Countess loves the energy and the intent. But when asked if there is ever a time when he'd like to have the ability to quiet his younger teammate, he's quick with an answer.

No way.

"I love it," he says with a smile. "He says the stuff that I don't say, but everybody's thinking."

As Michigan State demonstrated last year, one of the most important positions on the field as an aggressive defense going up against spread offenses is the slot-side safety. He often gets tested deep in cover four.

It'll be interesting to see how Michigan aligns. I'm guessing Peppers just gets the field side as they rely on the restricted space to help Jarrod Wilson out. An observer from the coaching clinic did note that Peppers is usually "aligning to pass strength," so that is encouraging in terms of keeping Wilson in a FS-ish role he's comfortable with and maximally utilizing Peppers's skills.

Jourdan Lewis is also drawing consistent praise. He was Michigan's #1 corner by midseason last year, passing both Countess and Taylor; it sounds like he has picked up where he left off plus a little bit of tackling strength. With Blake Countess set to be a four-year starter the top four guys in the secondary are pretty set. The main question is: can Countess bounce back from some rough times last year and play man to man? 247 has heard he is in "lockdown" mode, so there's that. I'm reserving judgment.

Freddy Canteen is getting a few reps at CB, so… that's odd. Harbaugh loves flipping guys around to see what they can do, and Canteen is a guy who could theoretically be a good corner. Doubt it sticks, but whatever.


H4: Forty-Three Shades of Purple

H4: Forty-Three Shades of Purple Comment Count

Seth January 13th, 2015 at 10:39 AM



My biggest takeaway from last night is Michigan will need a very strong and well-coached front seven if Harbaugh is to pull a 1969 next Thanksgiving weekend.

The key to Michigan's dramatic defensive improvement in 2011 was that Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison gave Michigan's defense an identity. They went to a 4-3 under, single-gap run defense that Mattison brought from the Ravens, and over the course of the year found the best fits for the guys on hand.

Durkin knew Mattison from his Charlie Weis pants days. [photo: Joe Raymond|Freep]

You remember, despite the relative success of this transition, that some fits were more or less awkward than others. Jake Ryan was a perfect SAM. Ryan Van Bergen worked as a 3-tech or a 5-tech. Mike Martin played nose because nobody else could, and his disruption was deployed with a lot of stunts, or weird stuff like when they came up in an Okie and Martin dropped back to essentially MLB. Roh at WDE was a solid run defender but wasn't built to take advantage of that WDE-tackle matchup that's supposed to produce natural pressure.

Last year of course they went to a 4-3 over base alignment, making Jake Ryan into an awkward MLB because the alternative was Beyer as a really awkward 5-tech. The kicker: offenses were forcing Michigan to play nickel 50% to 90% of snaps, which made Ryan into either an undersized defensive end, or a guy on the sideline.

JMFR is gone but Mattison will still be around, joined by new defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin. At the Cleveland event last night I suggested Mattison’s role will be as sensei to Durkin, who hasn’t really flown solo yet (Muschamp was very involved with that defense).

It adds up to a belief that Michigan won’t change its defensive style for 2015, but what is that style? Coverages are another matter; just speaking to the front seven: should they be the under that they recruited for, or the over they transitioned to?

Refresher on 4-3 philosophy

Mattison and Durkin both coached (Durkin as a graduate assistant for one year) under Bob Davie at Notre Dame, who with Jackie Sherrill developed the Texas A&M "Wrecking Crew" defense. Jimmy Johnson (another Sherrill acolyte) took it a step further in Miami, and Pete Carroll now runs in Seattle.

You’ll note that they used different alignments. Johnson’s defenses were the genesis of the 4-3 over, and so influential that this is what people usually mean by “4-3” defense, as opposed to Tom Landry’s base version. Carroll’s been coaching the 4-3 under since he learned it directly from Monte Kiffin, who developed it at Nebraska.

The under alignment was not the base concept; the real philosophy in Kiffin's terms was to give his defensive linemen simple assignments so they could play with aggression and disruption. The benefit of one-gapping is no defensive linemen stopping to diagnose the play. Once the ball is snapped, all of these defenses want those brains thinking "go!", "put my hat in a gap," "be a factor," and "attack that block!"

Mattison used a mix in Baltimore because he had Ngata, but at Michigan he’s had an almost exclusively gap-attacking defense. The question has been what alignment to run it out of, and that’s a question of which players fit it best.

(Start at 1:17)

So which alignment is Michigan going with this year? I think again it’s a question of personnel? I make diagram.


Michigan’s short on red dudes

The above is my attempt at showing the spectrum of qualities emphasized by the front seven positions in the 4-3 over versus the 4-3 under. I also gave a small approximation of color fits for guys I know something about (Spur-like objects like Gant and Wangler left out because I ran out of colors to depict DB-ness).

It's meant to show what we mean when we talk about the why nothing's a perfect fit for the talent on hand. Suggestions for improved shading are welcome. Takeaway from this experiment: Michigan's front the next few years may be better at throwing out different looks than it will be at rotating through shark teeth.

If you trust my judgment on the shading above, the over appears to remain the best fit for the guys we have, provided they can find some backup ends (the glut of DE/DT tweeners remains). As Mattison mentioned in the video above, the half of the time you’re in nickel to counter a 3- or more-wide look, you’re in an over anyway. D.J. Durkin used a lot of smaller players and changed things up a ton at Florida, and I expect the future will be a truly multiple defense with versatile front seven players. I expect when they can’t run Ojemudia and Charlton out there at the ends, Durkin will experiment with linebacker-ish dudes out there.


Dear Diary Desires More Tacos for Effing Wall

Dear Diary Desires More Tacos for Effing Wall Comment Count

Seth January 9th, 2015 at 4:50 PM


Those Van Bergenian thighs. That Clarkian pass rush. That responsible chin…[Fuller]

Final reminder to settlers along Lake Erie: We're coming to your Cleveland on Monday to talk about…I dunno…basketball or kickers or something. We've now added "Big Ed" Muransky to the lineup. Here's some footage of Muransky (#72 right, sometimes left tackle) as a sophomore against MSU, courtesy of WH. The rest of "we" are Brian, John U. Bacon, [huge gap in how much you care] and myself.

We've got the area reserved behind the bar through 11, and there's about 100-120 people coming, which means when the Ohio State fans show up later to watch the national championship game there'll be this wall of Michigan fans to greet them. And a bearded blogger guy rooting loudly for Oregon…while  standing behind Big Ed Muransky.

Huge thanks to this lemon-eater for setting it up.

OT don't care SVG is boss: The Pistons cut their best player then ripped off a seven-game win streak. To win #6 they had to preserve a 1-point lead from the defending champions on the road, so Van Gundy used the last rasps of his weakening voice to demand the stones "Just form a [bleep]-ing wall." So I formed an effin' t-shirt.


If you hate this one you're all fired. My "IT'S H4PPENING" shirt is gone now but we've got several other new offerings if you haven't been on the store lately:


Not this again! New coaches mean new schemes to learn and WMUKirk did an amazing job in two diaries of showing how Durkin likes to play chess. Part 1 got into the base stuff and Part 2 was about how he mixed those to stay one step ahead of Jameis Winston's reads. There's this from Part 1:

What I've noticed is he doesn't deviate from 4 basic coverages. Quarters, Cover 3 Press, Cover 1, and his favorite blitz is the Fire Blitz from the QB's blind side. He hardly ever runs Man Under, Tampa 2, or Cover 0. He values speed and isn't against running a 3-4 with 3-3-5 personnel.

Florida's 3-3-5 was lifting one of the middle linebackers for a safety/spur/hybrid space player dude, and looked thusly:


The WDE is a pass rusher type and is standing up. On 1st and 15 this is Xtreme speed.

That's a 3-3-5 but not a Casteel stack; it's more like one of Mattison's okies except the MLB is a LB, not Mike Martin.

[Cont. after the jump]


Hokepoints Goes Over

Hokepoints Goes Over Comment Count

Seth June 3rd, 2014 at 10:35 AM

In honor of our annual right there -----> which I expect will get Kickstarted a third year in a row today, I thought I'd share a little sneak peak from it. Brian asked me to create these for the linebackers page:

4-3 Overunder

Click to big. Right-click to open in a separate window so you can reference it as you go.

That's a side by side comparison of Michigan's prohibitive starters this year before and after the "shift" to a 4-3 over and accompanying position changes were announced. Seeing it you can start to appreciate how all of those announcements make sense.

For the lay, what you're looking at are alignments of the front seven. The "under" shifts the defensive line away from the strength of the defense and the linebackers swing the opposite way to compensate. The result is very much like a 3-4 (picture the WDE in the photo above as yellow) and plays like it. In this alignment the strong side is the left because there's a TE there. Michigan would often align this to the hash rather than the offense, shifting the DL toward the sideline.

The "over" shifts the line the opposite way, but not to such an extreme. The linebackers wind up centered over the ball, and the DL spread across the formation. There is nothing 3-4 about it except the nose tackle.

Let's run through the positions to appreciate what's changed and what will be expected of them.

Weakside Defensive End (Frank Clark/Mario Ojemudia)


Ojemudia lined up as a 7-tech in the under [Fuller]

In the Under: The WDE is the leading pass rusher. He lines up so far outside of the backside offensive tackle that he'll wind up getting a 1-on-1 battle with that guy all day. The tradeoff was being further from the point of a attack in the run game. The WDE is further from the run game but in position to drop into coverage, a thing he was tasked to do quite often as the DE-like linebacker opposite him charged into the backfield. Much of the good done by the over shift is it creates double teams elsewhere to preserve the WDE's ability to attack upfield.

In the Over: The weakside end is still outside the offensive tackle, but shaded in a "5 technique," i.e. over the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle.


If you remember your 5-techs from 4-3 under school, you'll get the difference, though unlike your Ryan Van Bergens the weakside end usually doesn't have a tight end lined up to his side (ace even, H-backs and the like do happen) so he needn't be a double-team-eating anchor. The new WDE's biggest change is he's not dropping into coverage all the time. He has to control that OT in the run game, and often he has to cover the B gap. The linebackerity of the position has been removed; this man is a defensive lineman, and not necessarily a flashy one—Michigan State's been plugging their workhorse DE Marcus Rush in this spot for four years while various SDEs make the highlight reels.

The fit: Clark showed signs of being a pretty good player by the latter half of last season and now up near 260 he is large enough to not get kicked by OTs. As a pass rusher he's only like fifth or sixth in the conference, partly because the interior DL couldn't push the pocket very often, and partly because he wasn't great at closing when he beat his guy.  Ojemudia and true freshman Lawrence Marshall aren't large men in your memory, but both claim to be up to 250 now. They're all better full-time defensive ends than 3-4 OLBs.

[Jump for the rest of the DL—LBs coming up in Part II]


Unverified Voracity Outperforms Expectations

Unverified Voracity Outperforms Expectations Comment Count

Brian January 17th, 2014 at 12:31 PM

The best guy. When it comes to outperforming seed expectations, John Beilein is it.


He was eighth before last season's run, so this is a list that can change quickly even for a veteran. Beilein also has the relative advantage of having a low average seed compared to guys like Krzyzewski and Calipari, who are impressively high on the list for teams that get such high seeds.

Draft bits. Large chunks of the basketball team are playing or not playing their way into the Interesting Decision section of NBA draft hopefuls. Certainly-gone Mitch McGary's back injury now sees him slip off many first round boards and Nik Stauskas turning into Darius Morris + 45% three point shooting has put him on many radars.

UMHoops runs down the opinions out there at the moment:

  • GLENN ROBINSON III has seen his stock drop into the fringe of the first round, as he no longer has Trey Burke feeding him regularly. A lot of the evaluations seem to have some lag in them, as they complain about his inability to shoot. Chad Ford: "can’t hit a shot right now and is stuck in tweener land until he develops a reliable jumper." Okay, but I'm kind of expecting him to hit at least one 18-foot pullup per game these days.
  • MITCH MCGARY is old, turning 22 in June, and will have a difficult decision. Some guys say he should absolutely return, others go with the tough decision song and dance. McGary either not on first round boards or hanging on at the very end at 29 or 30.
  • NIK STAUSKAS comes up when people get detailed enough to list second-rounders. He's not in anyone's first round right now, though he's on the fringe of it at Draft Express and moving up into the mid-40s on Chad Ford's board. That, too, may be lag as Stauskas's offensive arsenal continues to expand. (Will the NBA care about his defense? I don't actually know.)

If Robinson continues playing like he has been the last couple weeks he'll bounce back into the late lottery range he was in last year and be gone; if the other two want to be first round picks it sounds like they would both lean to a return. Early yet, obviously.

It may have been brutally disappointing and eventually soul-crushing, but at least it was fun for neutrals? Michigan makes the top ten in Bill Connolly's top 100 games of the season, in a loss, naturally. They also check in at 24 (a win!), 17 (a win… against Akron), 42 and 43 (OT affairs against PSU and Northwestern), and 92 (the inexplicably included Iowa loss that was brutally unwatchable all the way through). That's six games, which seems like a lot for a totally nondescript 7-6 outfit.

Gallon continuing on. Always difficult to make a living in the NFL as a 5'7" guy, but Jeremy Gallon just might do that. He's at the Shrine Bowl this week, trying to make a name for himself. He is doing so:

One of the shortest players on the field, Gallon has probably been told he's “too small” his entire life, but he certainly doesn't play like it, displaying a competitive chip on his shoulder in every drill and each snap. Despite his shorter stature (5-foot-7), he has good-sized mitts and is a natural hands-catcher. Gallon has excellent controlled momentum in his routes to catch-and-go in the same motion to be a threat after the reception. As one scout put it on Tuesday: “I know he's small, but look at the production. The kid's just a football player.”

This opinion is not a solitary one:

-The best receiver today was Michigan’s Jeremy Gallon, who consistently got the type of separation I was optimistic we’d see this week. The smallest receiver here, Gallon needed to prove he can get free route-wise other than on underneath drag routes and deep comebacks. So far, he’s done it this week. Much of it is thanks to his quickness at the top of his routes. He snaps his head around so quickly, transitioning from a smooth, appearing-to-be slow start into a quick burst away from his defender.

Gallon's not going to go early at his height but I bet he goes in the mid rounds and hangs around forever as a slot receiver.

Yeah, sure Wake Forest, go for it. Even if ESPN was trying to get the ACC to poach Big Ten schools, that was probably some mid-level exec humoring the dude he was talking to at that moment. "Yeah, Wake Forest dude," said the incredibly bored man, "you should totally turn the tables on those jerks, and it will totally work. A-C-C."

We have the money. You have the numbers. Fight. They're having some sort of NCAA jamboree in San Diego this week, and the primary topic is schools with buckets of money no longer putting up with the idea that the Indiana States of the world should be able to rein them in.

At the annual NCAA convention, a sub-committee of the Division I board of directors proposed a rough governance model that would give more autonomy to the five power conferences -- the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, ACC -- and give a stronger voice to athletic directors with respect to how student-athletes are supported.

IE, we want to give some more money to these guys and if you can't afford it pound sand. This in particular is a good idea:

The ongoing education element would allow student-athletes to leave school for an extended time, but retain their scholarship so they could graduate. For example, a player drafted could go on to have a career, but not give up the academic portion of their scholarship and they could return to finish their education at a later date. A player leaving early would still give up their athletic eligibility, but not their academic eligibility.

Regretful and broke now that you're 25 and your pro career didn't work out? Come back to school and get serious, on the NCAA's dime. Jam that through as fast as possible and make it retroactive.

Meanwhile in Emmert complaining. The jamboree is derided as "all for show" by industry insiders in a Stewart Mandel article, with various athletic directors upset. Which ones makes all the difference:

"A lot of us are concerned about where this is headed," College of Charleston AD Joe Hull said after the first seminar broke up. "We're concerned about where this thing will end up."

These are the right people to be upset. UConn AD, Michigan alum, and potential future Michigan AD Warde Manuel got in a zinger that Lloyd Carr would approve of:

And Connecticut AD Warde Manuel cynically suggested the word "revenue" should probably be included among those core values. So at least some people that work in college athletics are just as jaded about the state of college athletics as you are.

Other issues on the table include redefining agent rules (please) and changing coaching personnel rules to limit the increasing use of gray-area guys.

Chris Brown on Pete Carroll. Carroll is a 4-3 under specialist who has huge corners that he plays press coverage with in a cover-3, which seems like a direction Michigan might be headed what with Mattison's under adherence, Michigan's tendency towards cover 3 this year, their obvious desire to grab jumbo corners (Stribling and Conley Dawson), and Jabrill Peppers coming in next year.

Sherman’s skills allow Carroll to put his spin on old, conservative Cover Three: While this is zone coverage, Seattle’s cornerbacks play tight press coverage on the outside wide receivers as long as a receiver’s initial steps are straight downfield. Notice the coverage drops from the underneath defenders in the GIF below: This is a zone defense all the way, except for those press corners.


They are not likely to be as good, of course, but Mattison does want to be aggressive—remember the ND touchdown in 2011 where all eleven Michigan players were within five yards of the LOS?—and if he acquires confidence in his secondary, they might end up with something not entirely unlike what Seattle does.

Just try not to play Tyler Lockett next year.

Etc.: Women's hoops pop up from out of the tourney to a nine seed on The S-Factor after beating Purdue. Long live the Nussmeter. Explaining things. What's bad about Michigan's defense.


Mailbag: Run Denard, Don't Run Denard, Carbon Dating, Funchess and Black Moves, Fakez

Mailbag: Run Denard, Don't Run Denard, Carbon Dating, Funchess and Black Moves, Fakez Comment Count

Brian October 30th, 2012 at 1:15 PM




Dear Brian,

I know you've touched on this before, but why isn't Denard scrambling on at least 25 percent of our called pass plays? I mean, can't Borges just tell him, "If your first and second reads aren't immediately open, run"? It seems like a win-win situation. If guys are wide open, great. If not, the holes are likely to be bigger than on our usual designed QB keepers. I know Denard seems to have problems with this, but has Borges ever actually said this is a problem that they're actively working to remedy? I don't get it.



Nobody knows why, but it's just never happening. I'm sure they've attempted to remedy this in multiple ways, like:

  • screaming RUNNNNN at him in practice when he should scramble
  • screaming RUNNNNNN at him in games when he should scramble
  • calling him at 3 AM and screaming RUNNNNNN at him
  • popping out of oversized birthday cakes screaming RUNNNNNN [note: works on children]
  • plopping down with despair and saying "I give up and welcome the sweet oblivion soon to follow"

Ain't happening. E-fact.

Student section celebration thing: can we carbon date this?


Regarding the whole rushing the field debate I have a question about the reverse: when the team runs over to party with the student section.  You gave a list of when people rushed the field, but when was the first time the players ran over to the student section?  I was in the band at the turn of the century (Boom.  Old-timed.) and I don't remember that ever occurring.  The first time I remember it happening was the Manningham TD against Penn State.  Was that the first?  When else can you remember it happening?


I do not actually know. 2005 Penn State sounds pretty good as a plausible start for that but I have this feeling it was more something that started in the RR era. I throw it open to readers: when did Michigan going over to the student section after home wins become a thing?

Funchess at WR?

Hey Brian,
My cousin brought up a scenario during the MSU game that I haven't seen discussed much: could Funchess move to WR next year if no one proves to be an adequate replacement for Gardner? He has proven that he has great hands, leaping and size. Along with this, if the idea is to give matchup issues for the defense, I see no bigger matchup problem than a 5'10" CB covering him. If he has blocking trouble, I don't see the sense in Ricardo Miller-ing him, but obviously I'm no coach. What say you?

Josh Q

For a guy like Funchess that's kind of a distinction without a difference. He's already lining up at WR in a lot of sets, and I imagine he'll continue to do so throughout his career. He is a flex tight end.

But Michigan shouldn't and almost certainly won't try to keep pounds off of him so that he's more of a downfield threat/WR guy instead of a tight end. He's already too big to be a guy who threatens CBs and safeties over the top, and he'll still be too fast for linebacker sorts to reliably cover. Bulking him up to NFL flex TE size—250, 260—makes him a more credible blocker and gets him more open when he does go out to catch passes.

Besides, Michigan's got a slightly smaller Funchess coming in. His name is Jaron Dukes. If there's a role for that on the outside he or Jehu Chesson can fill it.

[AFTER THE JUMP! MORE THINGS! ABOUT STUFF! /bradyhokeinjuryreport'd]


Michigan Museday If the Dudes Get Dinged: D-Line

Michigan Museday If the Dudes Get Dinged: D-Line Comment Count

Seth July 18th, 2012 at 7:46 AM

BWCNebraska-Heiko2  BarnumRoundtreeRohSpringGame-Heiko

♪ Well a whole season played with the first string guy is usually quite lucky.
And a squad who plays with the second team out can be anything but fussy.
But a team whose seen an important guy down—head concussed, knee on the ground!
If they ain't got depth around, then
all goes to poopie.
To poopie, to poopie, to poopie, but depth is hard to get!
To poopie, to poopie, to poopie, but we can get there yet! /♫


This is a continuation from last week when I went through the expected offensive depth chart and tried to predict what would happen—what's the dropoff? how do we react?—if each starter is injured for an extended time. Now, I'm not here trying to roll into town and stir up trouble, see? I'm a purveyor of portents and hedger of predictions only. What I seek to do is prepare us for any one of these dings, so that if one occurs we can say something intelligent like "it hurts to lose Roh but Black is probably the less replaceable!"

Why not all defense? Things slow down from here because the defense has a lot of intermeshing parts, and because there actually is depth in places to speak of. Mattison's er Michigan's defense has been characterized by interchangeable positions but really each spot is more of a sliding scale from NT to field corner where each one overlaps the things on either side of it. The listed spring/recruiting weights play this out (click e-bigitates):

Roster for HTTV

saturn-puntingzoltanQuickly again. Photos are all by Upchurch unless otherwise noted. Ratings are given in Saturn-punting Zoltans. Think of them like stars except more heavenly. Five is an all-conference-type player (Denard to Kovacs); four is a guy you'd call "solid" (RVB to Demens); three is an average B1G player (Morgan to Hawthorne); two is a guy with a big hole in his game (freshman Kovacs); one is trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for Poole.

Nose Tackle (Avengers)

Geeks / O. Ryan Hussain|TheWolverine / 247 Sports

Starter: Will Campbell 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5 ???

Backups: Ondre Pipkins 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o ???, Richard Ash 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5 ???

In case of emergency: I'll be honest; this one is impossible to call straight. The 4-3 under is like the 3-4 in that it leans on the nose to suck up double teams and create mismatches elsewhere. The ideal is a superhero, and for the last few years we've had one of the best (by Ghost of Bo).


Hulk is gone but the franchise must go on, and for now that means we are 100% committed to making Thor work.


If the old 5-star takes up the hammer he's the pivot point of a great defense. If he doesn't then one of two mystery men could be anything from serviceable to disasters, and most things in between.

The upside on all three of Michigan's nose tackles is mighty. Weirdly, we think we know more about the true freshman, Ondre Pipkins, than the redshirt sophomore. Pipkins was a 4 or 5 star whose huge, squat, Tongan frame and jovial, Hoke-impersonating character made him and Michigan's need for nose tackle a cosmic destiny. If he's got the goods we'll see Pipkins early in spells of Campbell. True freshmen (Martin, Gabe Watson) of his caliber have fared well enough in rotational duty. The later this season goes, the more comfortable you can feel about Pipkins when he's called upon. Caveat: until he's called upon you have no idea if he can hack it, and for every huge dude you can name who could play right away (Marcus Thomas, Suh, Ngata, [sigh] Johnathan Hankins, DeQuinta Jones) there's 30 who need to spend a year as Ben Grimm before being The Thing. /metaphor used up.

In case of dire emergency: …break glass on Richard Ash. Nobody knows on this guy, who was recruited by Rodriguez as the last Pahokeeian project for Barwis to tear down and rebuild. The tear-down went unnoticed through 2010 and '11 and we caught a glimpse of possible rebuild when, 20 lbs. svelter, he made a few plays nice in the backfield. Ash could be anything from ahead of Pipkins to Adam Patterson. If that's where we are I could see Quinton Washington sliding down.

Rush Tackle (3-Tech)

6932489716_dcc6100ca6_oIMG_5048 - CopyKenny Wilkins
Right: Dell Callihan|

Starter: Jibreel Black 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5

Backups: Quinton Washington 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, Ken Wilkins 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Matt Godin ???, Willie Henry ???, plus nose tackles

In case of emergency: The coaches have made it clear that Jibreel Black can play, and moving him two slots down the size/speed slide chart of defensive positions means they want him on the field, and that they want 5-tech-ish skills at the 3-tech. This being a swing position means the backups could be different things.

Quinton Washington is a big dude who was an offensive guard until he and Will Campbell were swapped for each other in that experiment. He still looks like a guard, and has yet show much at tackle besides easily dismissible coach hokum right after the move in 2010 so it wouldn't look like Rodriguez was throwing substances at surfaces to see what sticks.

Q stuck although the OL he left is now about as leaky as the DL he came to save. That the coaches moved Roh and Black down the line tells you something about their faith that Washington is ready, and going into his redshirt junior year that might mean he'll never be. He's seen time on goal line situations and is likely to again. Early in the year I wouldn't be surprised if he or Ash—whichever wins—is backing up both interior line spots, and that later on we see some Pipkins and Campbell together time.

In case of dire emergency: Ken Wilkins has been absent enough from chatter that people email me asking if he's still on team. Yes he is on the damn team, and he's still just a RS sophomore, but yeah, there's room for true freshmen on the three deep. Those two seem to be Godin and Henry, the lesser heralded of the heralded class, both of whom would benefit from redshirts. Henry is the larger. Chris Wormley, whom I rate at 5-tech, seems a more likely backup.

Strongside End (5-Tech)

IMG_0886-- Chris Wormley

Starter: Craig Roh 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o

Backups: Nate Brink 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Keith Heitzman 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Chris Wormley ???, Tom Strobel ???, plus 3-techs.

In case of emergency: Craig Roh has to be the hardest four-year starter to project in history, thanks to many different careers as too-small WDE in a 4-3, a miscast OLB in the 3-3-5, then as the edge rushing WDE in Mattison's 4-3 under. Now he moves to RVB's old spot.

The backup here is almost assuredly Nate Brink, whom the coaches love but the fans hardly know because he's been hurt (he missed Spring because of it). When the coaches talk about the one-time walk-on they make sure to hit all of the Ecksteinian points: "coachable", "hard worker", "toughness", "great technique", "great motor." To that I might add he's 6'5 and 263, which is normal for the position. He's not Heininger (who as a sophomore backed up Brandon Graham), except in that he's some of the things you wrongly thought about Heininger. Then again I remember Brady Hoke making all sorts of guys into effect tech linemen.

If you'd rather see stars, Keith Heitzman is your guy. The beneficiary of the spring time Brink missed, the redshirt fresham was rated higher at tight end out of high school yet apparently good enough at SDE that the coaches moved Jordan Paskorz instead of him. Either this was a promise made at the time of his last-minute recruitment—likely since Tim reacted strongly when I say him and the TE depth chart together—or an endorsement by Hoke that he can play, or both. Best guess is it's both.

In case of dire emergency: Any of the freshmen linemen but Pipkins and Ojemudia are ready built for 5-tech. Of these Chris Wormley was a longtime high school star, which tells me he is probably physically ahead of the other guys right now. Tom Strobel is the other proto-RVB here. One day I expect we'll see the two of them playing next to each other at 3- and 5- respectively.

Weakside End


Starter: Brennan Beyer 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, or Frank Clark 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5

Backups: Mario Ojemudia ???, plus 5-techs

In case of emergency: Well if one goes down the other starts. Following a trend, both Clark and Beyer were OLBs last season, while this spot was rotated between Black and Roh. Though technically a unit change, the job they did last year—outside rusher—and what they'll be called on to do this year are not all that dissimilar. It speaks well to both that they played as true freshmen ahead of once-touted Cam Gordon. Read less into that, since Gordon was hurt to give them the opening and their skillsets are different from his.

They're also different from each other. Beyer was the more highly regarded and will get called "solid" more often because he's less eventful than Clark. Clark has the greater athleticism (see: interception in Sugar Bowl) though has been convicted of multiple accounts of giving up the edge, a freshman mistake repeated in spring. The rest of the D-line by design is meant to free these guys up for sacks, thus I see both rotating. If one goes down we lose the rotation.

The only other designated WDE is freshman Ojemudia, who is about 200 lbs. right now and would be 2009 Craig Roh'ed by most of the OTs and TEs on our schedule. Far more likely, in the event we lose one of the sophomores, we'll see one of the 5-techs or SLBs move in before the shirt is lifted from Mario. Craig Roh has played WDE more than any other spot, and Brink has the coaches' trust to fill in at 5-tech.

In case of dire emergency: Packaging still covers but there's Ojemudia if you need him. Packaging means in pass situations you just put Jake Ryan here and have Cam Gordon or Brandin Hawthorne or a nickel corner come in; otherwise go "big" (for a certain definition of such) with Roh back to wide and whichever backup DT/SDE in the game instead.


Mailbag: Schedule Motivation, Money Edge, 3-4 vs 4-3 Again

Mailbag: Schedule Motivation, Money Edge, 3-4 vs 4-3 Again Comment Count

Brian July 2nd, 2012 at 12:45 PM


a place Michigan won't be going

Scheduling motivation.

Do you think the recent schedule announcements that have us playing more quality non conference opponents are in anticipation of the selection committee favoring teams with a quality strength of schedule?


To me it seems more like an economic thing than an attempt to gain a competitive advantage. One of the benefits of being squeezed hard—or at least having a subsection of the fanbase that is now dumping millions of dollars into club seats and suites—is those fans are now expecting more for their money. As the price you're asked to pay for tickets approaches its value to you, improvements in the product matter. Eight years ago it didn't matter who Michigan scheduled as long as it was a home game. That's no longer the case, or at least it's close enough that the AD doesn't want to take chances.

Combine that with rising rates for tomato cans and the importance of television and college football's economics are moving back towards having more real games.

That said, I do think a schedule like the 2015 slate is a good one if you're good enough to be in the playoff discussion. If that's the case you should be beating the two Pac-12 teams you've signed up, and that may give you the edge over a team from another conference that played East Nowhere. Brandon is due credit for the way he's set up the next few years of nonconference games. Hopefully he secures a home and home worth interrupting the Notre Dame series for in the near future.

Money gap == performance?


I’ve seen several of your entries over the months talk about the growing financial disparity between the B1G and the rest of the BCS conferences.  By all accounts the BTN has been a success and helped put the B1G on very sound financial footing, and has kept the other BCS conferences scrambling to find a way to match revenue (realignment, renegotiated TV contracts, etc.)

I don’t have any numbers, but I’m guessing that the B1G is about to enter a brief period where their revenues will outshine everyone in the BCS conferences and that gap will grow.  Do you think this financial advantage will ever lead to a competitive advantage in football?  Could more revenues, funneled down to the league members, create some national championships?

FWIW, I spoke with my brother (U-M grad and fan) about this and his opinion is that this might show up more in the middle and bottom of the league than at the top.  Basically he says that seedy coaches, even seedier alumni boosters, regional talent bases and an obsessive focus on football can trump the money advantage.

What’s your take?


If we're talking about the will to power here, don't you think we would have already seen some of that impact? Minnesota and Illinois aren't reaching deep into their pockets to hire a Mahlzahn or similar, they're making the same hires they always have when they're not hiring patently unqualified nutcases: guys who've done well in the MAC. Northwestern's married to Fitzgerald for a long time, Iowa's going with Ferentz, Bill O'Brien was not exactly a power move by Penn State (though he is recruiting well out of the gate in trying circumstances)… the easiest and most legal way to flex your dollars is by hiring big time coaches, and the middle and bottom of the Big Ten aren't doing that.

It's actually at the top where we're seeing that money spent in buckets. Michigan hired a did-well-at-lower-level type coach but paid him handsomely, and now they're giving both coordinators SEC-type money. Ohio State paid Urban Meyer a ton of money to rescue them from tatgate. The only middle-of-the-road program that is using money to its benefit is Michigan State, which is managing to hold onto its DC for another year or two by paying him mad money. And even the Spartans have seen big chunks of their coaching staff leave—it's one reason MSU hasn't been able to get a high profile instate guy without huge grade question marks since Hoke arrived.

Part of this is just the attractiveness of the job. Is Sexy Coach X confident he can make waves at Minnesota? Probably not. He's worried that his front teeth will start growing… and that he'll end up like Glen Mason in the best case scenario. There's only so much dollars can buy you when the alternative is almost as many dollars and a better shot at long term-dollars (and success).

I don't think the Big Ten's lead in money is going to make for a noticeable competitive advantage. The margins aren't that high. The SEC dumped $18.3 million on its member schools last year, the Big Ten $22.6. That gap narrows once third-tier rights—which Big Ten schools have signed over to the BTN and SEC schools do get some money out of—are considered, and narrows even further when you spread that bounty over two dozen sports that are all clamoring for something. The money advantage is washed away by having more local talent and more dudes willing to ply that local talent with other local talent.

My long term Big Ten dominance hope: global warming.

But seriously folks, the Big Ten is going to be better in the future. Penn State no longer has the Paterno millstone around their neck, OSU isn't going anywhere, and Michigan will in short order be This Is Michigan again. A large part of the conference's reduced standing in recent years has been because the big powers weren't pulling their weight, and it looks like that's coming to a close. Add in Nebraska and more equal footing is coming. Perfectly equal? Probably not.

Yes, I'm going to keep answering this until people stop asking me about it.

I was wondering if you could explain the advantages to using the 4-3 over the 3-4 this year. Although I understand the theory behind the different systems, it seems like Michigan's depth and more proven talent is at linebacker. Instead of having two unproven guys up the middle in Black/Washington and Campbell/Ash/Pipkins, why not line up with the best space-filler of the DT's, and then have Morgan, Demens, Bolden/Hawthorne/Gordon (the best of the three), and Ryan all lining up at LB. This would give us an option with fewer question marks and would allow Mattison to have some more fun with his blitz packages, which can generally be far more varied in 3-4 systems than in 4-3.


There are three main reasons Michigan's going with the 4-3 under this year.

ONE: IT IS GREG MATTISON'S DEAL, MAN. When I checked out Mattison's presentation at a Glazier Clinic earlier this year, he briefly paused at one point and said something along the lines of "if you think you can defend with three linemen, God bless you, but at Michigan we're using four. We'll be here for hours if you want to debate with me." Mattison's a 4-3 guy, especially on the college level. Asking him to run a 3-4 is not playing to his strengths. See: GERG 3-3-5.

TWO: IT IS THE SAME THING AS LAST YEAR. The last time Michigan went into a season with the same defensive coordinator running the same defense he ran the year before was 2007. That was forever ago, and we have felt the pain since. With most of the defense returning it makes sense to tell them to do the same things they were doing last year. Remember how much better Jake Ryan got at not screwing up as the year progressed? You're tossing some of that away by changing defenses.

THREE: IT DOESN'T ACTUALLY SOLVE ANY PERSONNEL PROBLEMS. The most obvious difference between the two systems is in what they ask the linemen to do. Michigan's one-gap 4-3 under generally asks defensive linemen to pick one spot between two linemen and attack it. Traditional 3-4s want all three defensive linemen to control the blocker opposite them and be able to come off on either side of the guy when the ballcarrier gets to them.

If that latter task sounds like it requires a big strong guy, yeah. The best example is Alabama's Jesse Williams, the Australian swamp beast who is moving to nose this year. This guy played DE for Alabama:


That is the kind of guy who occupies all three line slots in a 3-4.

Craig Roh is not a swamp beast. Nor is Jibreel Black. In a 3-4, those guys are either moving to outside linebacker or wandering Europe like a stateless refugee in WWII. They don't really have a role. Meanwhile, the WDEs all get drafted at OLB, leaving you with three spots to fill with tanks instead of one and a half.

The 3-4 is kind of an all or nothing setup, with 300+ pound guys who can squat dump trucks on the DL, Lamarr Woodley sorts at OLB, and traditional ILBs. In contrast the 4-3 under has a smooth size gradation from nose to three-tech to SDE to WDE to SLB to MLB to WLB. In a year when Michigan's not even sure if they've got one nose tackle, a 3-4 essentially asks them to have three.