Hello Again, Old 4-3: Linebacker Sorts Comment Count

Brian February 16th, 2011 at 1:43 PM

The 4-3 is back, like it never sort of left and then really really left against Purdue and then came back and then altered into a slightly different version of itself and then mutated into a bizarre thing that was like the thing against Purdue but wasn't really because the person doing the mutating spent all his time watching his "Best of Just For Men Commercials" DVD. It will not suddenly be replaced by things that start with the number 3 and end with razorblades and pain. In the long term, this is delightful.

In the short term… eh… there might be some issues. This series is an attempt to fit Michigan's noses, ends, spurs, bandits, spinners, deathbackers, doombackers, dipbackers and frosting-covered gnomes into their new homes.

The defensive line appeared last week. This post covers linebackers, hybrids, safety-type objects, and, you know, whatever. There will not be a post covering the secondary since it shouldn't change much [Ed-M: he means in their job descriptions -- back away from the ledge...].

What we were forced to watch last year

God, who knows? Let's go back to that Wisconsin screenshot from the last post:


So. You've got Kenny Demens, the MLB, lined up about a yard behind the nose tackle. The nominal SLB, here JB Fitzgerald, is actually lined up to the weak side. The nominal WLB, Jonas Mouton, is lined up to the strong side and gets to line up a little bit deeper. Michigan compensates by drawing cornerback Courtney Avery into the box as a sort of Bieber-backer and half-rolling Kovacs down into the box. You can see Cam Gordon's feet to the top of the screen, covering the slot receiver.

Questions immediately pop to mind: why? what? argh? This was not really a 3-3-5, at least not one as run by Jeff Casteel. This was covered in an extensive picture pages after Penn State obliterated Michigan's defense in the game that was the beginning of the end, but it seemed like Michigan was keeping Demens in the same place in all formations. Here's 4-3 and 3-4 alignments:



Demens spent his year a yard or two back of a nose tackle, shaded to one side. Casteel MLBs lined up 5-7 yards deep and ran like demons to wherever the play is going; Demens got swallowed by unblocked guards through no fault of his own and left Michigan vulnerable to counter after counter.

And then in addition to the 4-3, 4-4, and 3-4 looks above we also got some glimpses of something that actually looked like a 3-3-5, except with two deep safeties and the MLB still too close to the LOS:


So the answer to the strangled yelps of misery was "Michigan ran everything… terribly."

Outside of Demens, Mouton spent the year as the WLB (apparently unless teams were putting twins to one side), where he ran down stuff, plowed fullbacks at the line, crushed blocks to make great individual plays, and lost contain over and over. The SLB was some combination of Craig Roh, JB Fitzgerald, and Obi Ezeh. All were confused, slow, prone to get lost in space, and ill-suited for the spot.

Further outside yet, Carvin Johnson, Thomas Gordon, and Cam Gordon split time at the spur with the larger Gordon seeming to lock down the position after his move from free safety(!). Yes, Michigan's starting free safety ended the year as essentially a strongside linebacker. Jordan Kovacs's role as a tiny weakside linebacker was actually more safety-ish than people thought it would be, but he still rolled down into the box plenty.

What we were forced to watch the year before

Michigan was a 4-3 under similar to the one above. Here's that shot from the 2009 Iowa game again. While the line isn't undershifted it does provide a canonical example of what the linebackers usually do in the system:


Now we're looking at the linebackers so note that Stevie Brown is lined up right outside of SDE Craig Roh, ready to take on a tight end. The other linebackers are at the same depth (five yards) lined up over the guards. Michigan's rolled SS Mike Williams into the box. Iowa ends up running a zone stretch right at Brown; he keeps contain and allows Mouton/Ezeh to flow over the top of Roh, blow up the fullback, and make a TFL.

There wasn't much else as far as the linebackers. Brown hung out around tight ends and slot receivers all year and the two MLBs were pretty much just MLBs. There weren't dudes at different depths, dudes moving all over the place, dudes playing 4-3 on one snap, 3-3-5 on another, 3-4 on another. The LBs lined up five yards deep over the guards, end of story*.

*[of course this is not literally true, but on the vast bulk of snaps this occurred.]

What can't possibly be quite as bad next year

Again, the assumption here is that Michigan is going to be running a 4-3 under similar to what they did in 2009. This assumption is an easy one to make since the head coach said it point blank. Details on what that means for the line—the "under" bit—can be found in the first post in the series.

As for what that means for the associated linebackers, look above. Against pro-style teams one linebacker will roll down to the TE side of the LOS and the other guys will hang out about five yards off the LOS.

What you need at each spot

To refresh your memory, here's an aerial view of a 4-3 under:


The strongside linebacker needs to be a magical athlete made out of beef and lightning who can take on a TE effectively, contain runs, and move out into the slot to cover little buggers. Oh and if he's an awesome pass rusher that would be cool too. So Lamarr Woodley except faster. Maybe Shawn Crable or Prescott Burgess. Failing that, teams pick one of two paradigms and make do:

  1. Lumbering quasi-DE sort of like Roh who can take pressure off the SDE and do more than just force running plays inside of him when matched up against a TE.
  2. A sort of super strong safety who may not be able to take on TEs except by setting up outside of them but is a fantastic tackler in space and a guy who doesn't have to come off the field when opponents go to spread formations.

When Greg Robinson wasn't denying its existence, the "spinner" was obviously concept #2. Stevie Brown had an excellent senior year doing that. Johnny Thompson was concept #1, and that burned Michigan badly. With passing attacks so effective these days most teams are moving towards #2. If you worried they'll go with #1, don't be: they don't have anyone on the roster who can plausibly be that guy.

The middle linebacker is a middle linebacker. In the under he has to expect more blocks since usually the bubble in the line is the guy lined up directly over him, so he has to be smart about where his help is and funnel guys back inside. Quick decisions and the quickness to get on the side the OL doesn't want you on are at a premium.

The weakside linebacker is a weakside linebacker. He's protected by the three and five tech, usually gets a free run at someone or another, and has to be an athletic tackling machine plus blitzer. Mouton, basically.

Or at least that's the book. In reality it's nowhere near that neat. The Iowa play linked above that shows Ezeh charging downhill at a zone stretch, getting outside of the fullback, and allowing Mouton to tackle is a canonical example of the responsibilities these guys have:

Everyone says the MLB is going to deal with a blocker and the WLB is going to have the play funneled back to him. This is what happens here. But in truth I think the differences between the two guys are overblown. On the losing contain play it's Mouton who needs to deal with a blocker and funnel back to his buddy. Plenty of times throughout the year it was Demens picking through trash to get to ballcarriers or Mouton thundering into a fullback at the LOS.

I think of the 4-3 under as something halfway between a 4-3 and a 3-4. The SLB and WDE are kind of versions of 3-4 OLBs—playmakers who can drop into coverage or blitz. The one-tech DT is sort of a version of a 3-4 NT. He doesn't need to control two gaps, but he's a big guy who needs to eat up two opponents. Etc. In a 3-4 the MLBs are interchangeable. That's not quite the case here but the two MLBs are more alike than different in the under, especially with all the shifting and motion teams employ in an effort to get you off balance and maybe force that WLB to take on a block or that MLB to run. Playing SLB is a different world entirely.

And since it seems silly to break out another post for one position that's changing, the strong safety wants to be Jordan Kovacs running a 4.5 at 220 pounds. What Kovacs did with Michigan last year will be about what the strong safety does next year—the "bandit" thing was overblown. Kovacs played plenty of deep half zones over the course of the season. He also rolled up to the line and blitzed, covered tight ends in man, etc. He was a strong safety on a team that was aggressive with its safeties.

Who goes where


Kenny Demens is the middle linebacker. Attempts to replace him with Obi Ezeh will be thwarted by a pucky band of kids ripping off the Mattison mask, etc.

On the strongside Cam Gordon is the clear leader after finishing the year as the "spur" in Michigan's 3-3-5. That is a very close analogue to the SLB in a 4-3 under. The guy next to you is still a strong, run-defending DE with a little more pop than a 3-4 end. You're still taking on tight ends against run and pass… unless you're getting dragged into the slot. Gordon's got the biggest frame of any Michigan linebacker, ballooning and buried Isaiah Bell aside, and can put on a lot of beef over the offseason to help him in his dual roles as tight end defender and roving punch-the-slot-in-the-face guy. He's got a season's worth of starting experience. He'll have to fight for it but he's got the edge.

This is where the linebacker who wasn't Demens or Mouton probably ends up competing, so seniors Brandon Herron and JB Fitzgerald are tentatively slotted as the competition. Neither has done much so far. Other options here include the other two freshmen spurs, but Thomas Gordon and Carvin Johnson might be needed elsewhere.

Michigan has a surfeit of options on the weakside, where Michigan's attempt to move to the 3-3-5 has left them with a zillion kinda-sorta safeties who can run and maybe, hopefully tackle. Pick any underclassman listed at strong safety on the depth chart by class and there's a 50-50 chance you'll see him competing at WLB in spring. Mike Jones was Mouton's primary backup and seemed to be the leader in the race to replace him, but one season-ending injury later he's just another guy with no experience. He joins Josh Furman and Marvin Robinson in that group. Also, this could be the landing spot for the little Gordon or Johnson.

Some of these guys are ticketed for safety, but we won't know which ones until spring. Robinson and Johnson bounced back and forth as freshmen; Thomas Gordon spent his redshirt year there before getting the call at spur last spring. If you put a gun to my head I'd say Johnson and his tackling win the job, but this could be any of a half-dozen guys.


At strong safety, heroic efforts will be made to dislodge Jordan Kovacs. They will fail. The effort will be provided by some combination of Robinson, Thomas Gordon, and Johnson.

Awkwardness Rating On A One To Rodriguez-Interviews-Hoke Scale

Like the defensive line, operating in a 4-3 makes fine sense for Michigan's personnel. Ironically, it's the exotic wing guys with funny names who fit most neatly in to the new scheme, since they'll be doing pretty much what they were doing before. The biggest adjustment will be from the two middle linebackers, except the two middle linebackers did just fine as 3-4/4-3 guys—Demens, in particular spent two years playing MLB in 4-3 under schemes before last year's experiment.

Really, anything but the 3-3-5, especially the Robinson version, should be better. Michigan had their best day as a rush defense against Iowa when they replaced Ezeh and ran—drumroll—various 4-3s and 3-4s most of the day. Iowa couldn't get anything Jibreel Black being a freshman or Jonas Mouton losing contain didn't give them.

When they went to the bizarre non-stack it allowed Evan Royster to go from massive disappointment to massive disappointment with his usual billion yards against Michigan. In doing so stripped Kenny Demens of the ability he showed in previous games and put a ton of pressure on Mouton to do the contain thing he doesn't do so well. I don't think I'll ever understand it.

After a year of being "multiple" and cratering Michigan needs to establish a baseline defense that might be predictable and medicore but at least gives everyone on the team an idea of what they do, and if Gordon develops they should be fine in the front seven save the scary lack of depth on the DL.



February 16th, 2011 at 1:59 PM ^

I'm about 99% sure that any defense we run next year will be an improvement provided the players know things like where to line up for starters.  I would watch the sets and be absolutely convinced that nobody was quite sure where to go prior to the snap or if they did, they didnt agree that the spot Gerg wanted them to be in was going to be even remotely effective.

Last year it seemed like a giant game of musical chairs absent the chairs played by large drunken men in pads. 


February 16th, 2011 at 2:08 PM ^

and I'm not complaining... but do you have these projected starters graphically anywhere? With the whole

Roh - Martin - BWC(hopefully) - RVB

 Cam Gordon - Demes - Herron

Woolfolk - Kovacs - Hope - Prayer

Or whatever format? Does this look pretty accurate? If this is coming in the future just tell me to hold my horses. I'm just excited that we're running a defense I understand again


February 16th, 2011 at 2:21 PM ^

Almost every post about depth will have someones depth chart listed.  In the useful tab we have the theoretical 3 deep up.  If you don't agree yours has just as much value as Brian's right now.   If you want to score at home I think Brian has his list so far as

Roh, RVB, Martin, Black 

Gordon, Demens, Johnson/Jones

It's fascinating how long people will hang onto hope because 5 stars are next to his name.  Hopefully BWC will prove useful but to list him as a starter right now is silly.


February 16th, 2011 at 2:13 PM ^

I don't think Cam is a SLB. I see him on the weakside competing with Mike Jones, with Herron and Fitz at SLB. Also think MRob will be a safety for sure.


February 16th, 2011 at 2:49 PM ^

Herron and Fitz wouldn't be able to cover a slot or tight end when the situations present themselves. The WLB should be a bigger guy who can take down running backs around the line and I don't think Cam has proven himself as a tackler to justify speculating him as a WLB. Herron and Fitz haven't done much more, mind you, but they have bulk.


February 16th, 2011 at 3:32 PM ^

You got the SDSU game as a toss up? Sure we could lose, but I'm not going to worry about them for 7 months.  We're going to be ok,  cheer up brother.


You need to start looking for a glass of water and just keep saying half full, half full, half full.   I've given exactly 7,864 examples of teams making dramatic improvements from year to year and almost everyone of those examples did not included teams with heisman hopefuls, 20 returning starters, an injured starter returning etc.   Will we be great next year?  I can't predict the future, but there is some pretty good evidence supporting improvement so I'm going to spend the next 7 months over on the side of the maize colored butter, if it turns out we suck I haven't lost anything.

 Don't give me you're a realist either.  If you want to be depressed go over and look at Iowa's depth chart.   Better yet go look at our 2012 schedule and offensive depth and then picture Taylor Lewan and P. Omameh turning pro next year.  Next year is a good year to look forward to.  You may never in your life see a Mich team that returns 20 starters playing in a wide open division with no real favorite. 


February 16th, 2011 at 2:24 PM ^

I think, but am not sure, that Brian's analysis is cause for optimism.  The take away:  holy mother of all things unholy we were unbelievably bad last year, and regardless of what we do this year, short of playing actual kittens at LB, we will be better this year by virtue of the fact that we will not be doing what we did last year.  And, as added bonus, the one time we played in the formation that we will be going to - Iowa - we sort of did OKish. 

My analysis:  we return every single D player but Mouton and Rogers.  T-Wolf replaces Rogers, so HUGE upgrade at that position.  Mouton was a great athlete, but was also a huge liability at times, so whomever replaces him should be at least equal, on a net basis.  As for the rest of the team, we will be fielding an older, more experienced, and hopefully better coached group of the same guys, so this has to make them better.  And, we will be running a better formation, so this should be better. 

Blue in Seattle

February 16th, 2011 at 2:40 PM ^

From this comment,

< "Everyone says the MLB is going to deal with a blocker and the WLB is going to have the play funneled back to him. This is what happens here. But in truth I think the differences between the two guys are overblown." >

I've always understood this as the MLB should have more mass than the WLB.  Because the blockers that the MLB is going to have to shed are guards, centers, and fullbacks.  Maintaining contain is a technique that all LB's must understand and execute.  IN general, everyone but the DT's needs to think about where their help is and how to attack the running back/guy with ball.  Mouton just fundamentally did not know his right from his left, or just did not make the mental effort to know how to attack the guy with the ball.  Maybe he never gave up the bad habit from high school of just being the quickest guy on the field.

I do agree that both the MLB and WLB need to attach a running play on their side of the field.  AND they need to attack such that the play is funneled to the middle of the field where, statistically, you always have help.  This is what Obi does in the Iowa play, he takes ont eh Fullback by attacking his outside shoulder.  Obi is out of the play, but he has forced the ball carrier back to the middle, where the filling LB (Mouton coming from his "non play" side of the field) can wrap up the guy with the ball.

Since the MLB is more massive, he should not end up as someone with a coverage responsibility on a passing play, this is his weakest match up.  Hopefully Demens stays quick enough to run down mobile QB's though.  That to me is the achilles heel of the traditional Michigan Defense starting with Donovan McNabb in 1998.  Yes, a woeful time even with the likes of Ian Gold and Dhani Jones on the team.  I was hopeful that the 3-3-5 resource allocation was going to solve that.  But in looking at what is needed in the 4-3 under, I can understand this scheme won't make that limitation, it will be talent that makes that a limitation.

My next thin thread of hope is that the bumper crop of young Safety like objects have some lightning like LB's burst into bloom.



February 16th, 2011 at 4:03 PM ^

So the MLB should be so massive that he cannot have coverage responsibilities, but you want him to be able to run down the likes of McNabb?  Good luck.

First, lets assume that we are going to be running cover 2, which is a very likely.  By taking your MLB out of coverage that leaves the middle of the field wide open.  Which I think most would agree is not a good idea, considering that bad idea turned into the tampa two, which drops the MLB even deeper into the hole.  In this case you have to get guys who can run and stuff the middle.  Think of guys Brian Urlacher, Derek Brooks, and some guy named Ray Lewis who one of our coaches may or may not have coached. 

If we play mostly man he would maybe do alright until we start blitzing and they start throwing to the guys out of the backfield. 

I hate to break it to you but there is only two places in today's game for a MLB who is massive and cannot perform pass coverage and they are bench and DE (Brandon Graham).



February 16th, 2011 at 4:40 PM ^

By "lets assume that we are going to be running cover 2, which is a very likely", I'm assuming that you mean that one of our many coverages will be the cover 2. 

I'm not sure our safeties are fast enough yet for us to run a cover 2 as a base coverage.  Also, if Woolfolk stays at CB, we may want to utilize his speed more by giving him deep responsibilities.  Also, the other CBs (Floyd, Avery, Talbott, Christian) weren't exactly the best tacklers either; not sure asking them to support the run as cover 2 CBs caters to their strengths. 

Obviously the cover 2 has a lot of advantages and thus we need to run it on occasion, but I think our secondary would get abused if we ran it as our base coverage. 

It sounds like we are going to be running a lot of man.  I would imagine that we are also going to be rotating our coverage a lot out of a 2 deep safety look where Woolfolk as a weakside CB takes his deep outside 1/3, the weakside safety takes the deep middle 1/3, the strongside safety takes the strongside outside 1/3 and the strongside CB takes his flat and supports the run.


February 16th, 2011 at 5:09 PM ^

Yes, it will be one of many coverages.

A lot of this depends on where Woolfolk play and Mattison likes to mix up his coverages.  Running cover 2 on the boundary side and cover 4 on the field side which is kind of what you described and is called cover 6.  I would expect to see more of that type of coverage than anything because I know he really liked running them with the Ravens.

As far as the tackling of our corners, really?  All but one of them was a freshmen and we never practiced tackling, which is kind of a big deal when you are talking about coming straight from high school and playing big ten football.  If you want to reduce their chances of making a tackle then you might as well take the LB's and safeties out too because no one on last years team could tackle.  How about we give them at least a spring with good coaching before we say what these guys are capable of. 

Also, if our safeties aren't fast enough to play a deep 1/2 how are they going to cover a slot in man? 


February 16th, 2011 at 6:13 PM ^

Thanks for the explanation of the cover-6.  Always just called it "rotating safeties", good to put a real name on it.

I agree with you about the true freshman CBs not necessarily being ready to play and that we should cut them some slack.  I agree that they can become better tacklers with more experience/coaching/size/strength/etc.  I still think that they are going to have some problems going into their sophomore years.

I'm not understanding the analogy to LBs.  One of a LB's major responsibility is to stop the run; that is not necessarily the case with a CB based on the scheme.  If your LB is a poor tackler, there is not much you can do to hide it; you can, however, hide or scheme around a CB who has problems tackling by giving them deep zone responsibilities.  That was all I was saying.  I was just stating an opinion about the best coverage given what I perceive to be our personnel's relative strengths and weaknesses.

Also, if our safeties aren't fast enough to cover slots in man, then we need to substitute them out and bring in somebody (maybe a CB) who is.  If our secondary can't stay with every receiver that lines up on a particular play, then we can't play man on that play (e.g. if we only have two guys who are able to cover, then we can't play man on plays where the offense comes out with 3+ receivers).  All I'm saying is that none of our safeties (assuming Woolfolk isn't a safety) are known for being burners, so I don't see how running a base coverage that requires each of them cover half the field is putting them in a position to succeed.

I do think we're going to run some cover-2 but I would assume that we will see a lot more cover 6, cover 4, cover 3 and cover 1 based on our personnel.


February 16th, 2011 at 8:24 PM ^

I agree that when a team brings in three wide you would sub out the slower safeties, but there are other factors that need to be considered, such as when a team can put a speedy running back into the slot, when you play against those tweener TE's that can split out wide and then put the wideout into the slot, or how do you defend a twins set with a TE on the back side?  There are a number of correct answers to each of those questiongs, as long as you have the players to run the one you select and the coaches that know how to teach it.

Let me give you an example using some of the guys that we have on offense.  We have the five linemen and Denard, lets say the other five guys are Hopkins, Hayes, Koger, Roundtree, and Hemingway.  There are a number of different lineup possiblities with those guys, we could go with a regular pro set with Hopkins playing FB, Hayes could split out into the slot on either side, each of which presents different problems, or Koger and Hayes could move out into the slots leaving Hopkins and Denard in the backfield, Hemingway being a big man could also line up as a H-back/Wing leaving just Roy to be split out.  With that group there are a number of possibilities and the defensive is then kept on their heels.  Add motions and shifting to that and you just added another element to confuse the defense. 

I'm not saying I know which coverage would be the best for us or that one is better than the other, but there is a little more to it than when they have X player in the game we have to put in Y.  Remember the other team pays their coaches to look at this stuff too. 

I hope you don't feel as though I am calling you out or saying you are wrong.  I simply aim to add as much knowledge as a I can to this blog and help give people an a little understanding of the thought process a coach has to go through. 


February 17th, 2011 at 12:22 PM ^

I didn't take it as you calling me out, and I respect that you obviously know what you're talking about.

I think we should be under the assumption that our safeties are fast enough to cover TEs.  There are occasional fast TEs, but the TEs are generally not the burners that are going to be beating you deep or making quick cuts that create seperation.  If it's the case that our safeties can't cover TEs, then we can't play man.

Likewise using your example of the personnel package of Hopkins, Hayes, Koger, Hemmingway, Roundtree, we need to switch out of man if Hayes motions to the slot and we don't have a safety that can cover him.  If they go big (with Hemmingway as the H-back), we can very much play man, assuming that a safety can cover Koger.

I agree that the offensive coaches are looking for ways to gain an advantage on the offense through formation, motion, personnel groupings, but the defense doesn't have to just sit there and take it.  Shouldn't a defense change their scheme/calls/coverages based on what the offense shows (e.g. example of Hayes coming out of the backfield so you check out of man)? 


February 16th, 2011 at 2:43 PM ^

I am personally most intrigued by what we'll do at FS. Since Cam made is exit midway through the season due to his complete lack of speed, Vinopal did a decent job, especially for a frosh, and I was impressed, especially in run support. But honestly, I also feel his ceiling is a little low. Is there any way that Furman could be a FS? I know everyone had him tagged as an LB if he added bulk, but he has the size and speed to be a good FS. I personally would like to see that.


February 17th, 2011 at 9:53 AM ^

Troy Woolfolk could be all big ten at free safety in my opinion, assuming he is fully recovered from injury and has his top speed back. Who knows what position he will play though, because, if healthy, he is also our best cornerback.

And I don't think Brian is doing free safety or cornerback in this current format.


February 17th, 2011 at 8:50 AM ^

Look for Carvin to make a move at FS.  He should be over 200 lbs. by Spring and has great instincts plus strong tackling. Vinopal is a solid backup and could be a terror on special teams with his legendary grit.  Furman is a question mark depending on how much he can bulk up.  His body type seems more suitable to the Stevie Brown SAM position where he can use his speed to cover TE's and short slot routes.  He could be strong competition for Cam who fits in well at SAM.   M-Rob is the prototypical SS with strength and attitude so I think he will give Kovacs a battle there, as will the under-the-radar Tom Gordon.  

Spring practice will be even more fun than usual..... can't wait.


February 17th, 2011 at 9:56 AM ^

If he was the best option he would have started at free safety last year. He may get bigger but obviously size isn't the biggest prerequisite for a free safety, speed is. That player needs to cover as much ground as possible to make up for other's mistakes. The only two players I see really competing for the starting free safety spot are Vinopal and Woolfolk.

Fresh Meat

February 16th, 2011 at 2:53 PM ^

I think I am more excited to see in the spring game what all the position changes will be with all the tweeners than I am to see what happens with Denard.  Probably because I am tired of the D being horrible and I want to see what they do to address it.


February 16th, 2011 at 3:05 PM ^

I saw no mention of Jake in the LB section. I remember reading an article saying that he was coming on strong during bowl practices and is a hell of a tackler. He is a tall kid at 6-3 and was 220-something pounds coming in from HS. He probably could have packed on a solid 5-10 pounds since he got here and maybe another 10 on the way this offseason. At 235-245 pounds I could see him  playing this year at one of the LB spots. Any thoughts?


February 16th, 2011 at 3:13 PM ^

I was wondering that too. I was super excited when he signed, and I think he is gonna be real good. Wasn't the dude like all-state in OH or something his senior year after is awesome growth spurt? The only thing he's battling is that he is a frosh, but I do expect him to see the field this year.


February 16th, 2011 at 3:25 PM ^

He was All-Ohio his senior year. Yeah he grew like 2 inches and added 20 pounds before his senior year. I coach LB's for a local high school where I'm at and looking at the film for this kid left me impressed. I had the pleasure of meeting and hearing his HS coach Chuck Kyle speak at a coaches clinic and the guy runs a hell of a program. Jake, being a product of that program, should turn out a pretty good career based on his background playing at such a high caliber football school.

MI Expat NY

February 16th, 2011 at 3:33 PM ^

He's still going to be a RS-Freshman.  Ideally, you'd like to have him doing spot duty as a backup.  But of course, if he's the best man at the job, he's going to play.  If he does make his way into the starting line-up, I would hope he could take-over Mouton's spot at WLB, and have Gordon slide down into SLB.  

On another note, I'm not as convinced as Brian is that Kovacs is such a sure thing at SS.  I've loved his play as much as anyone, but his upside isn't high.  I think the defensive coaching staff is going to approach the depth chart as a clean slate and any one of the gazillion strong safety prospects might flash something that impresses the coaching staff.  Maybe Carvin Johnson, who went from nondescript 3-star recruit to opening game starter as a freshman?


February 16th, 2011 at 3:45 PM ^

We need to get faster in the secondary and more physical play from the front 7....With that being said I hope every spot is open for competition ... No seniority or favorites if Freshmen come to camps and put in the work they should be on the field ..Only people who may have a spot are Roh and Martin everyone else should be on the look out


February 16th, 2011 at 5:13 PM ^

"I think of the 4-3 under as something halfway between a 4-3 and a 3-4"

The 4-3 under is actually a 5-2 defense where the line is shaded to the strong side and the "5-2 strong side DE" is a "4-3 under SLB" with pass coverage responsibilities. 

The defense is designed to be very stout against the run and also create a lot of pressure from the line on pass plays for the reasons that Brian discussed (3-tech and weakside 5-tech being one-on-one with their OL counterparts).

The 3-4 is very closely related to the 5-2, however, so I guess Brian's view still holds.


February 17th, 2011 at 1:10 PM ^

Know this is OT and a moot point, but it would have been interesting to see what would have transpired on the defense if Jeff Casteel had coached at UM for RRod instead of the DC carousel we ended up with.


February 17th, 2011 at 1:31 PM ^

I, for one, think the starting players on defense will be much different that what Brian thinks. Note we are:

1.  Going from a 3-3-5 to a 4-3

2. Generally speaking as a whole, the defense personnel was suited well for the Big East, not the Big Ten.

3. Mattison after being in the NFL so long and with a few HOF players on his defenses, may be alot harder to predict, the type of player he wants, and where.

For instance, on point 3,  I've said many times that I think Heitzman is coming in to be a LB and not a DE...and then later I saw the person recruited him other than Mattison was Mark Smith the LB coach.

This also includes a few true freshmen, like Antonio Poole.