Michigan's defensive backfield, 1879-2006 RIP – Upper left: Box Safety; Upper right: Free Safety; Upper middle: Dime; Lower left: Shortside CB; Lower Center: Nickel/Spur; Lower Right: Wideside CB.
"Every setback is a setup for bad cornerbacks."
---Anonymous, as amended after watching Michigan for a few years.
Since you all failed so miserably at convincing me not to do a follow-up for the defense, here is Part II of my Predicting the Past series, where we measure optimistic expectations during the summer against cold hard reality, which hates us. With defense it's going to be less useful – if Hoke and Mattison are as blitheringly incompetent defensively as their predecessors then there's no point to anything anymore – so I'll spare some of the detail.
Either way, we are foraying into the defense of 2007-2010, so this is going to get very ugly very quickly. Some of you in the comments thought that last week's tale of offensive destruction and redemption was depressing. Well if that's depressing, this is going to be more like the kind of torture that requires a large white room and lots of sharp-looking instruments. You will be stabbed, axed, shot, cut into a million tiny pieces, and those will be stomped on. Then we'll do the linebackers.
Let's just get the agonizing part over with.
Inevitable, no. But as of June 2007, we were well on our way.
- Cornerback: Morgan Trent (Jr/Sr), Johnny Sears (So/Jr), Donovan Warren (Fr/Fr), Doug Dutch (Jr/Sr), Troy Woolfolk (Fr/Fr), James Rogers (Fr/Fr), Anton Campbell (Sr/5th)
- Nickel: Brandon Harrison (Jr/Jr)
- Safety: Jamar Adams (Sr/Sr), Stevie Brown (So/So), Brandent Englemon (Sr/5th), Charles Stewart (Jr/Sr), Artis Chambers (Fr/Fr), Michael Williams (Fr/Fr)
Incoming: Boubacar Cissoko, Brandon Smith
Expected: I skipped NCAA 2007 and '08, mostly because I loved the cover of '06, so I don't know how they (over-) rated our DBs. I do very much remember trying to keep the rosters of my dynasty kind of accurate as the years progressed, but by '07 feeling really stupid when re-naming and re-sizing a 5-star recruit to Stevie Brown. Yes, Virginia, in June 2007 we knew we were in trouble. Not so much trouble that we freaked about losing Chris Richards to the St. Patrick's Day Nerd Massacre, but such that the need for talent and bodies at these positions was the main theme of MGoBlog recruiting boards in 2006 and 2007.
More after the jump
The previous recruiting year whiffed on several layups (5-star in-staters Dionte Allen and Ronald Johnson) and couldn't get Jerimy Finch to decide what he wants for breakfast, but Carr & Co. did pull out a last-minute rabbit with 5-star Donovan Warren from California. The rest of the all-important '07 haul was a legacy overlooked by his hometown Texas schools (Woolfolk), a guy everyone thought was a receiver (Rogers), a 2-star safety (Chambers), and a 4-star safety from California (Mike Williams) with a 2-star offer sheet. This would have to replace NFL-bound Leon Hall, and graduating Ryan Mundy (who transferred to W.Va. rather than play his redshirt senior year). Trent was a decent No. 2, but Michigan would have to hit a thousand on its CB recruits to have any kind of depth chart in '07-'08. Meanwhile in the entire Lloyd era we had never sent a safety to play safety in the NFL.
Brian was even less optimistic. He maintained throughout 2006 that the safeties (Adams, Mundy, Englemon & Harrison) and Trent were various degrees of liabilities hidden behind a devastatingly effective front 7. This was exposed against Ohio State and USC, the only teams whose O-lines and backfields could go talent-for-talent with Harris/Burgess/Crable/Woodley/Branch.
Nobody but Ron English believed in Sears. Nobody knew why Steve Brown wasn't redshirted, but practice rumors said he'd passed the blameless Englemon so, hey, maybe we had a future NFL safety afterall? I was more sure of that than that Warren would be the next Marlin Jackson.
How Did That Work Out? A script for my DBs .gif:
- The Horror: Adams, Brown, Trent, Harrison, and Sears. Disaster strikes Sears & Brown
- Notre Dame: Englemon in for Brown
- Penn State thru Purdue: Warren for Sears
- Illinois thru MSU: Harrison Gone
- Wisconsin thru Bowl game: Harrison Back
- Utah & Miami (NTM): Stewart, Brown, Trent, Harrison, Warren
- Notre Dame: Trent (becomes Cartman): Screw you guys.
- Wisconsin: Stewart, Brown, Trent, Harrison, Warren
- Illinois (DIME): Stewart, Williams, Brown, Trent, Harrison, Warren. Mike Williams discovers Juice Williams is a 500-foot robot and runs away, into Warren, who gets hurt.
- Toledo: (DIME) Cissoko in, everyone says "Ow!"
- Penn State: Stewart, Harrison, Trent, Williams, Warren
- MSU: Stewart, Harrison, Trent, Brown, Warren, Brown goes nuclear
- Purdue: Warren at FS for Stewart. All yell "3-3-5!" Trent and Cissoko go nuclear.
- Minnesota thru OSU: Stewart, Brown, Trent, Harrison, Warren
- GERG in at D.C., Brown turns into a unicorn and discovers he's actually a Spur.
- WMich: M.Williams, Woolfolk, Cissoko/Floyd, Brown, Warren
- ND: Kovacs for M.Williams, left side is so weak Warren's side is ignored and he starts reading Infinite Jest. Meanwhile Cissoko/Floyd go nuclear.
- Indiana thru Iowa: M.Williams at box, Kovacs deep, Woolfolk at CB, Kovacs revealed to be suicidal kitten at deep safety.
- INTERMISSION sponsored by Delaware St. and Baby Seals: SEEK COUNSELING.
- Penn State & Illinois: Williams/Kovacs swap back. M.Williams encounters 500 foot robot Juice again, runs away.
- Purdue thru OSU: Woolfolk at deep, Floyd at short CB.
- Warren finishes I.J., believes David Foster Wallace is telling him to go pro.
- Kovacs, C.Gordon, Floyd, T.Gordon, Woolfolk. All: "Let's go 3-3-5!"
- Angry Michigan BLANK Hating God smites Woolfolk
- UConn: Rogers in for Woolfolk
- Notre Dame: C.Gordon goes nuclear
- UMass: Kovacs, C.Gordon, Floyd, T.Gordon, Rogers
- BG: Carvin J in for T.Gordon
- Indiana-MSU: Carvin J/T.Gordon splitting
- Iowa: Avery/Rogers splitting, Angry Michigan BLANK Hating God smites Carvin J, then smites Rogers, leaving Kovacs, C.Gordon, Avery, T.Gordon, Floyd.
- Penn State: C.Gordon realizes he's a Spur (does not become unicorn). Vinopal at deep safety.
- Illinois: Angry Michigan BLANK Hating God smites Floyd, Talbott in.
- Purdue: Rogers returns (for Talbott).
- Wisconsin thru Bowl: Everyone goes nuclear
- Kovacs, C.Johnson, T.Gordon, Avery, Woolfolk
Sears was kicked off the team – for team violations, not as a fall-guy for losing to a I-AA team, in September. Warren seized the job and was immediately heralded as the next Law/Woodson/Marlin/Hall. Other than when he played hurt, was asked by his coaches to play a kind of deep safety from the cornerback position to cover his teammates' deficiencies, or left early for the NFL, he kind of lived up to that, though with a sophomore slump in '08. Mike Williams was an absolute bust who never saw a playfake he didn't bite on. Steve Brown was mostly a disaster – he lost his job back to Englemon after being the other culprit in the Horror, and later was personally responsible for losing to Michigan State in 2008. As a senior he moved to Spur and was fantastic at it. Cissoko imploded off the field after being completely miscast as a play-off zone-type young CB – he's now in jail. Brandon Smith was a linebackerish safety recruit (lawd knows we've had some of those) who gave up on RR's staff after being used basically as a 4th linebacker against Wisconsin in '09.
- The low-rated guys were exactly as advertised: Stewart was almost a stereotype of a 1990s MSU safety (slow, stiff, argumentative, uninspiring, from Farmington Hills Harrison). James Rogers should have been a receiver, and was, but came back to defense to be a stiff starting CB. He was never good but was an almost serviceable body when we were desperate for anything that looked serviceable, or like a body. Give the guy credit for playing out of position when Michigan needed him.Artis Chambers played a few downs as a freshman, but a recordkeeping error negated his eligibility (and almost wiped some M wins off the books in the process) and he transferred after Rodriguez's first fall to end up buried on the depth chart at Ball State. Only Troy Woolfolk, whose 40-time was FAKE the other way, performed at or above his billing.This is a very long way of saying the future at DB was expected to be Warren plus whatever the new guy could recruit. It's important to note, however, that the grumbling in 2007 about Carr's sub-par recruiting at defensive back was because we saw the backfield slipping to – god forbid – as low as bottom half of the conference. As it turned out it was Warren plus walk-ons, freshmen du jour, and nobody because the guys the new guy recruited were basically busts, transfers and linebackers too. When Warren left for the NFL and the only Big Ten-ish DB got hurt before last year, Michigan bottomed out to what would be a mediocre to bad FCS backfield.
- When things got really really dire there was in inflood of various types of 3-stars for two years – the hope is that good coaching can mold them into something that resembles serviceable.
- 5 Point Scale of Expectation vs. Outcome: 2. If Carr, English, and Bedford left some smoldering coals on dry hay, it was Rich Rod, Gibson, and bad luck which let the whole
Figure this is depressing enough for now. Next week probably no post since out of town through the 4th. After that, linebackers, d-line.
If you managed to make it this far, you probably are ready to hear some good news about the 2011 defense. One that says our troubles will go away. Like, for example, if someone came by this week and told you Michigan's defenders learned how to tackle. Say that red is tackling last year, and blue is tackling this year, and bigger bars are better.
That's from maizedandconfused, a revisiting of his painstaking work last year in going through every tackle made and grading it. This is not as useful as it's just from the Spring Game, and thus suffers from way too small sample size to be at all meaningful. If Avery is our best tackler this year we are probably in trouble. If Kovacs is worse that Fitz I'll eat my shorts. If all of these new guys can tackle that would be nice.
It's still easily Diarist of the Week.
In other analysis wolverine1987 tried to figure out if this year's recruiting class is that much better than a typical Lloyd Carr class. It was promoted from the board and Brian made a whole post discussing it. If you missed, the basic gist is we're not bringing in a USC or Alabama class for 2012, but saying % of 4-stars (there's no 5-stars…yet) at this juncture is underrating it.
I'll make my own comparison. In 2007 Michigan was just as desperate (actually more so) for linebackers and offensive linemen (for the '08 class). By June 18, ____, committed linebackers:
Marcus Witherspoon, 4-star (5.8) #219 overall to Rivals. Offers from FL, TN, Clemson, Pitt, BC, others.
Royce Jenkins-Stone is a 4-star and #87 overall, offers from Bama, Oklahoma, Florida, and lots more. James Ross is a 5.8 (#143) with USC, OSU, and Penn State offers, and is Rivals' No. 4 inside linebacker. Joe Bolden a 5.8 4-star (#167) with an offer sheet like Spoon's. Kaleb Ringer's a high 3-star with moderate Midwest offers (Iowa on top).
…and offensive line:
Elliott Mealer, a 4-star (5.8) to Rivals but MSU was his next best offer. And Kurt Wermers, a low 3-star whom ND passed on. To be fair, Khoury (a high 3-star) committed on 6/25. His other offers were MSU and the three directionals.
Erik Magnuson is Rival's No. 8 OT, a 5.9 4-star and #34 overall. Offers were the entire Pac 12 except USC, plus Oklahoma and ND. Ben Braden is a 5.7 3-star but had a Wisconsin offer. Caleb Stacey's a guard with Illinois, WVU, Indiana, BC, and most of the MAC. If you count Khoury for '07 I reserve the right to add any other O-line commits this month to my tally.*
My point: this isn't just your big brother's Lloyd class. It's short on the blue chips but
Brooks' front-paged diary introduces you to recruiting for our new varsity sport. Because the above isn't bad enough.
Michigantrumpet82 wrote down some notes from the UM Coaches Meet & Greet. I highly recommend you read them because there's a lot of interesting tidbits, but this stuck out:
DB doesn't read blogs, says they don't influence him. Underwear wearing basement dwellers. He says mostly they don't have all of the facts, he is in position to have all of the facts.
When it comes to my preferred blogging loc and lower body wear, you should not trust ADs speaking at private events. They don't have all the facts. I'm in position to have all the facts. Full disclosure: I am in my living room at a huge antique desk that spent 80 years in the DIA. In my underwear.
Finally, THE_KNOWLEDGE returned to predict OSU and MSU will face NCAA sanctions, while M goes 11-2. Dude, I predicted that in 2003.
* Note: I am not MGoBlog's recruiting guy. I don't have a Scout or Rivals subscription. I get my recruiting information from the same blogs, tweets, and "$ info in header"-s you do. If Sam Webb has a gut feeling, trust it; if I have a gut feeling, it's probably Thai food.