Distant Future Defense Fretting Mailbag! Comment Count

Brian September 24th, 2010 at 11:43 AM

This week's enormous concern is something of a surprise, as I got a ton of emails about how terrible defenses from 2011 to 2014 may or may not be. I'm a little more concerned about Indiana, Michigan State, and Iowa, but I just answer 'em:

Here's the problem as I see it for next year.

Proven folks, either this year or the past (at least 70+% of snaps)

1. Roh
2. RVB
3. MM
4. Floyd
5. C.Gordon
6. Woolfolk
7. T. Gordon
8. Kovacs

Possibly semi-proven by end of year - have played meaningful snaps with game still in balance (at least 20-30% of the snaps in a game)

1. J. Black
2. C. Johnson
3. B. Herron

The rest of the lot do not seem to be seeing the field in a meaningful way to be considered remotely ready to play next year at a high level. So by my count we will have 8 EXPERIENCED, 3 SEMI-EXPERIENCED, rest is anyone's guess.

I'm worried that next year will not be better unless some of these backups get much more meaningful game play.


I think you're overrating time on the field as a way to develop when it's 39 hours out of a year. I'm sure it accelerates things to get personal experience with how opposing offenses vary, but when you're not playing games eight months of 12 and even when you are you're spending far more time practicing and working out the bulk of a player's improvement must come from off-field activities. For the best example in the history of the world:

That did not happen because Robinson got on the field last year, it happened because he spent eight months with his eyes taped open, jamming football into them 25 hours a day.

The real question is "how much experience, playing or not, will Michigan have in the two deep?" The answer should be considerably more. In the secondary:

  • Free safety will go from two freshmen to two sophomores(+2)
  • Bandit gets Kovacs and Robinson back(+2)
  • Cornerback will replace Rogers with Woolfolk and get the four other guys another year of experience(+3)

On the line:

  • Martin and Campbell will be the two deep at DT, replacing Martin and Patterson this year (-1)
  • RVB and Black will be back; Sagesse and Banks will be replaced by redshirt freshmen (-6)

At linebacker:

  • Roh, Herron, and Jones return (+3)
  • Spur gets Johnson and Gordon back(+2)
  • Ezeh, Mouton, and Moundros are replaced  by Fitzgerald, Demens, and I guess Leach(-2) but maybe a freshman, redshirt or true.

That's a ton more experience everywhere except DE, where one starter will presumably be a true sophomore and the backups will be redshirt freshmen or senior guys with no profile (Heininger and Watson). That goes double for many spots since the difference between a freshman and a sophomore is usually much greater than the difference between a junior and a senior.

Attrition can blow this all up, of course, and has already cost Michigan a number of guys who would be entering upperclass years in 2011. If Mike Martin goes pro early, it could have the same effect on the D that Donovan Warren's departure did (though I bet a dollar Martin gets drafted).

I thought the D would be considerably better this year than last. It's still got a shot, but the personnel issues are bleeding into the Rodriguez classes and depressing the outlook.

Speaking of…

Would it be fair or unfair to conclude that at this point Coach Rodriguez hasn’t grasped the difference in admissions from WVU to UM or is all this continued attrition in year 3 kind of random and hard to explain?


At this point most of the blame for the excessive number of Clearinghouse issues in the most recent class has to fall on Rodriguez. Four players bombing out in one class with a few more on the borderline (Terry Talbott and IIRC a couple others, though I couldn't find any confirmation in a cursory googling) is too many. Carr had the occasional Quintin Woods or Marques Slocum, but they were, you know, occasional. They weren't 20% of a desperately needed influx of defensive talent. And with Demar Dorsey still not enrolled at Louisville, it's clear that none of the borderline guys were denied admission based on anything other than their ability to get past the Clearinghouse; this is not a communication issue.

I can't blame Rodriguez for taking a swing at Dorsey but he can't be surprised when it doesn't work out. Meanwhile, picking up Davion Rogers when you probably could have gotten a guy with about the same rankings and a better chance of getting in is unwise, as is offering and accepting a commitment from Antonio Kinard when his grades are such an issue. (Conelius Jones is an odd case since when he committed his grade point was supposedly 3.7.)

I'm guessing that when Michigan blew up last year pickings got slim as players questioned how long Rodriguez would be around and opposing coaches used that uncertainty like a sledgehammer, and so the staff decided to take a few more longshots. Hopefully that won't happen this year if Michigan rides a wave of Denard hype to a decent bowl and enters 2011 with expectations Rodriguez will be around for the near (and possibly distant, robot-filled) future.

Speaking of a distant, robot filled future…

Hello Mgobloggers,

(1) We've been losing some players early this season to transfers / etc.  How does this play into pre-season predictions about our defense regarding 2011 and onward?  (I think we already have some evidence about this year will go...)  Is it remotely possible or likely to have one of the big ten's best 3 Ds by, say, 2013 or '14?  EVEN IF we can get a couple 5-star corner and defensive backs for next year, would that make much of a difference given the learning curve for all freshmen?
(2) I note Michigan's conspicuous absence over the last couple recruiting class rankings at ESPN.  I am not the "sky is falling!" type, but is this a case of "WAAAAAAY to early to tell"—ie, fear not, RichRod will deliver in due time—or can we assume a worse-than-michigan-average recruiting class this cycle?  Does it depend more than we'd like to admit on the # of wins this year?  Or, the timing of those wins?  It would be bad to start 5 or 6-0, only to finish 6-6, where the losses are more recent in recruits' minds on Feb 1 signing day...

1) This was mostly answered above. About a top three D in the conference: 2013 is a long way off—this year's freshmen will be seniors. Anything's possible that far in the future. I doubt Michigan will have an outstanding D that year if only because there aren't many guys in that row of the depth chart by class who seem like obvious stars, and Michigan already lost a lot of guys who would be towards the top of the depth chart.

2) The contrast between Rodriguez's first recruiting class and a half—the whole one was ranked in the top ten by most services, the half mostly four-star guys—and his most recent one is obvious. This makes me believe the 2010 class, which was decently ranked but lost too many guys to be top 15, is an effect of a 3-9 season and the never ending torrent of negative media attention that Michigan fans know and loathe; that would also explain a chunk of Michigan's merely okay start to the 2011 class. If RR establishes himself long-term we should expect Michigan's recruiting to jump back up to the Carr level.

But not in 2011. At this point in the year a lot of recruitments are already wrapped up or moving towards it, so success this year will have more of an impact on 2012. If Michigan secures RR's job they will pick up kids like Zettel and Hart who would have already committed if this was a normal year, but it will be tough to go from where they are now to the usual array of four-stars.

In sum: defense not great for a while, but you knew that. Have I told you about the Denard?



September 24th, 2010 at 12:00 PM ^

Reading the Daily article on Mike Martin today, my favorite tidbit:

"Now, people are already questioning whether Mike will stay all four years at Michigan. They speculate that he’ll leave early for the NFL Draft — but they don’t know Mighty Mike Martin very well.

“No, he’s going to get that education,” Barry tells them."


Edit: Barry is Mike's Dad.


September 24th, 2010 at 12:02 PM ^

I expect the defense to improve significantly because - if nothing else - we would not be starting true or redshirt freshmen anymore.

Apart from a few mental breakdowns, out RFr starting FS C. Gordon has been decent and will be good next year. CB situation will be quite comfortable with Floyd and Woolfolk. Experienced talent will return at SS positions. We will lose our starting LBs - but its not as if they were doing too great to start with - so lets hope that there will not be significant drop-off from Ezeh level performance. Last thing - the line - there I am quite happy with players options including MM, Big Will, RVB, Black and Roh (sometimes) - along with developing talents - Ash, Talbott, Paskorz, Wilkins.

So - all in all - I am quite hopeful about 2011 defense.


September 24th, 2010 at 1:11 PM ^

-app state 2007
-oregon 2007

you can't just toss those debacles into the ether

+every decent spread team we ever played outside of Oregon and Appy State
-Syracuse/Mcnabb '98

-Ball State
-Notre Dame 2006

Countless other conference games where the defense was less than stellar

My goal is not to indict Carr as a coach, love/loved him, but to illustrate that every program, every year has some form of deficiency/liability to deal with. this year it is the defense and is particularly painful due to personnel issues.


September 24th, 2010 at 1:53 PM ^

it would be nice if we could deal in absolutes, but unfortunately that isn't the case.

Some defenses under Carr were great against some teams, others were not.

This defense will be passable, possibly even good, against some teams and against others it will not. This was a well-known fact going into the season, so I'm not sure why so many people are surprised by it. Certainly this defense has more issues than most and I don't think I need to underscore or reiterate the personnel issues involved.

My point isn't that this defense is any kind of upgrade. My point is that you can't make the case that our defenses in the past are all good and that this one is all bad and that we have taken some quantum leap backwards into uncharted territory. Surely in terms of production this defense will rank at the very low end of the spectrum, but it is being rebuilt from the ground up....your expectations should in some way reflect the reality of that.

skunk bear

September 24th, 2010 at 12:34 PM ^

I have a question for the grammer nazis.

"Michigan secures RR's job they will pick up kids like Zettel and Hart who would have already committed if this was  a normal year, but it will be tough to go from where they are now to the usual array of four-stars".

Should Brian have said "if this were a normal year?"


September 24th, 2010 at 1:04 PM ^

Actually, since this is a condition contrary to fact (this isn't a normal year), perhaps were would be the more correct word to use. I don't know, the subjunctive rules are complex.


September 24th, 2010 at 12:55 PM ^

While I'm sure that taping Denard's eyes open and jamming football into them 25 hours a day for the last year Clockwork Rodriguez-style has had a great influence on how well he's playing now, I think it's a bit unrealistic to dismiss out of hand the simple experience of getting out onto the field in pressure situations, regardless of what the outcome was. I doubt very much that we'd be seeing Denard performing at a Heisman-hype level now if he had not seen the field at all last year.


September 24th, 2010 at 2:05 PM ^

Since can't afford to go live all the time in practice with defensive players due to the risk of injury. A wideout/QB can simulate the route/pass timing without needing to get hit and the can have good results from just running patterns. You want the defense playing to work on your live speed shedding tacklers, hitting and wrapping. Not the same as hitting a stationary dummy so the comparison is not really fair to what Denard has been able to do.


September 24th, 2010 at 1:02 PM ^

Wouldn't it be great to have the NCAA agree to UM's self-sanctions, an 8-4 season, and for RichRod to get a new 5 year contract?

THAT would really help recruiting!


September 24th, 2010 at 1:18 PM ^

have a good-enough D to contend for a B10 title next year? The O can handle 60% of the load, but. . . 

The rationale for keeping RichRod this year (don't change horses in the middle of the stream) may become the rationale for keeping GERG through next year (don't change D philosophies for a 5th time in 5 years). But I'm not convinced GERG is RichRod's equal as coach.  


September 24th, 2010 at 2:16 PM ^

until he has a full complement of defensive players and a decent number of upperclassmen. True, the most recent outing was not pleasant, and its scary to think what MSU, Iowa and Penn St might be able to do after watching that tape, but I liked the immediate reaction of the defense to the game. Their return to "we've got something to prove" is a sign of encouragement.


September 24th, 2010 at 1:56 PM ^

to say that the defense has 8+ starters returning for next year, which in most cases is pretty good. That would look to be the case for the year after that with possibly 9+ returning starters with 2-3 (or in some cases 4) years of starting and in-game experience.

I would concede that it will not be exactly equal to 8/9/10? returning starters in a normal year due to the current gap in the level of talent between this defense and a 'normal' one that is filled out with higher ranked recruits and juniors/seniors that have developed along a more normal timeline/progression before seeing the field. Either way, 2-3 years in the future you will have mostly upperclassmen with arguably more extensive game experience than a so-called normal defense and that has to count for something, especially since any freshman/sophomore that is seeing the field at that point will be doing so not because of a depleted two-deep, but because they are winning the job over the incumbent player.

My glass is half-full.

[covers ears, clicks ruby slippers together and repeats, 'there's no place like home' over and over]


September 24th, 2010 at 1:24 PM ^

I've supported RR from the beginning but this to me has been RR's biggest failing.  Its hard to say exactly who we might have picked up had RR not pursued these kids with borderline academics, but I think its clear that we could have had other solid defensive players in this class who did not have grade problems.  The DD recruitment was even more non-sensical given his legal troubles and the MAJOR academic red flags in his background.


September 24th, 2010 at 1:38 PM ^

but I'm not sure RR has the luxury at this point of culling the recruit list of players who are marginal in terms of getting past the clearinghouse. Dorsey is the only player I can think of that would be an obvious risk to not pass, but looking at his talent I can see rolling the dice on him big time. As for the other players, most were obviously close to qualifying except for minor issues, one actually made it onto campus before getting the boot and the other is only a few test points away from joining the team (Conelius). I'm sure the coaches look at the GPA/core GPA and current test scores and make some assessment as to whether or not a player is likely to pass, but the bottom line is you really don't know until they go through the actual process and by that time the player has committed.


September 24th, 2010 at 1:32 PM ^

In terms of recruitment in 2011, it does seem like guys move around more than they used to when signing day rolls around, so precluding a couple of steals might be a little too preemptive.  Sure, the class won't be ranked in the top-10/15 air it usually occupies, but I also have a sense that RR has thrown out a rather wide net and that a couple of guys might reconsider their commitments if it looks like RR is going to stick around. 

As for the academic issues, I agree with Brian that RR was probably reaching on some of these guys because he wanted to fill the class and saw the pickings shrivel up after 3-9.  RR needs to stop considering kids who might need a year at JC, since they also tend to be the types of kids who struggle with the Clearinghouse.  I'm sure he figured most of these kids would qualify (my guess is that it is common at schools for kids on the border to qualify in the end), so maybe this is just a string of bad luck.  But UM should be able to recruit the types of kids who can at least pass the Clearinghouse hurdle, and so far RR certainly has shown an inability to maintain a healthy distance from this line.


September 24th, 2010 at 1:38 PM ^

I guess I don't understand the concern regarding the defense next season. We don't even know what we've got on defense this season. They've had 2 OK games and one bad one. Michigan doesn't appear to lose much next season and stand to gain a lot. Are people really willing to right off freshmen and sophomores that they've never seen play?

Trying to predict anything about the defense in 2013 is pretty loltastic.


September 24th, 2010 at 2:18 PM ^


"If RR establishes himself long-term we should expect Michigan's recruiting to jump back up to the Carr level.

But not in 2011. At this point in the year a lot of recruitments are already wrapped up or moving towards it, so success this year will have more of an impact on 2012."


Sorry Brian, but I gotta disagree here. Rodriguez' 2011 recruiting would already be on par with Carr's if not for all these top recruits waiting on the sidelines for the success. Assuming continued success,  we will see a slew de-committments from ALOT top recruits, like a Karlos Williams, and come to us, come February..  And alot more than you perceive.  I'll go on record to say that the 2011 recruiting class will even surpass the Carr level.


Guys to committ/defect to M  at the end.... I say  7 of 9 of the following


Karlos Williams  (FSU)

Hasean Clinton-Dix (Ala)

Kris Frost

Dee Hart

Anthony Zettel

Ray Drew

Justice Hayes (ND)

Avery Walls

Tim Jernigan


plus a player nobody has discussed yet that Rodriguez has under his sleeve for signing day.


September 24th, 2010 at 9:50 PM ^

take a deep breath.  We have recruited some depth in th past few years.  I know there have been some players that have left due to attrition, but the players that have stayed are solid growth players for our defense.  Let's see them play out and in the next couple of years we can evaluate them.  We still have a long way to go for the end of this recruiting year.  We have put a lot of stock into our freshman this year (C. Johnson, M. Robinson, Gardner) so who knows who will be atop our next recruiting class.  Stay positive.



September 25th, 2010 at 3:00 AM ^

We may have a serviceable defense during the next two to three years to keep up with NE for the division crown, and beat those Buckeyes at home in 2011( though, I hope we can upset them in the horseshoe this season)!  The better our record, the better chance we have to finish off this season's recruiting on a good note...may be near a top 15 class.  I don't think we'll have an BCS national championship defense for at least 3 or 4 years.  However, the defensive depth and talent should increase each year to keep us in contention within our own division and possibly making it to the b10 championship game and a BCS bowl game.  Here's hoping the offense can carry us this season and the defense improves just enough through the season for 8 or more wins. I hope so, and that RR will have job security and recruits are convinced he is staying and UM and our program is  on track to be an elite program!   I'm still very optimistic about the future of this team!!!  DROB rules!!!!