Mailbag: Anticipating Future Problems Comment Count

Brian May 5th, 2011 at 11:58 AM

craig-roh-umasssafety Troy Woolfolk (29) plays during Michigan's 26-20 loss to Michigan State at Spartan Stadium on Saturday October 3, 2009 (ZACHARY MEISNER/Daily)

Roh: forever hybrid. Woolfolk: forever Woorfork

Dear Brian,

Is there any possibility we see Troy Woolfolk playing free safety this season? In 2009, it seemed to me that our most effective defensive games were the ones where Woolfolk was playing deep safety (which we called strong that season I believe). While JT Floyd is by no means good, I imagine that as an upperclassmen with some games started, he has a better shot of being effective or at least not terrible playing cornerback than Carvin Johnson or someone similar has at being effective or not terrible at free safety.

Do you agree with my premise? Is there any possibility of this happening? 


If Woolfolk had been healthy enough to go through spring practice I could see him moving to safety, as the coaches would have had the time reconfigure their defense to account for that. Since they won't have a fully healthy Woolfolk until fall I'm not sure they have that luxury. He hasn't played the position since about the halfway point of the 2009 season. He'll be rusty either way; moving him only increases the risk a good chunk of his final year will be subpar due to his long layoff.

Anyway, the situation at corner isn't much better than safety. Courtney Avery will be decent but the guy starting next to him in the spring game was a walk-on. I'm not sure how much getting Floyd back is going to help. Last year he seemed worse than both Avery and Talbott and his recruiting profile doesn't exactly scream "this guy is going to get a lot better."

If you're moving Woolfolk the guy starting opposite Avery is either Floyd, a freshman, a walk-on, or a guy who seemingly got beat out by a walk-on this spring. That seems like a worse person to put in the starting lineup than Carvin Johnson, and Woolfolk will probably play better at the position he's more familiar with.

Further adventures in getting all these linebackers on the field.

Could Michigan enhance situational packages in the future running a 3-4 on occasion? Having four really talented linebackers may be too much not to use even though its not like Mattison to do so.

Dios mio, let's just do one thing for a while. Once people are complaining that our defense is too predictable we can start thinking about wacky packages.

Even in a hypothetical future where being predictably good or better is Michigan's biggest problem, when Michigan stems to 3-4 it won't get more linebackers on the field. The thing about the 4-3 under is that it's kind of halfway between a 4-3 and a 3-4. Relative to a straight-up 4-3 SAM linebacker and weakside defensive end are heavier and lighter, respectively, and both usually play on or near the LOS outside of the tackles.

This makes them a lot like mismatched 3-4  OLBs*. The reason Michigan kept calling their WDE a "rush linebacker" through the 90s and most of the 00s is that they used to be a 3-4. If Michigan changed to a 3-4 tomorrow Roh would be a starting OLB. Pulling him off the field in favor of a linebacker is actually making Michigan's fit with that defense worse. What's more, in the event Michigan does start running 3-4 fronts they'll use it as a change from their base defense. They'd like to show it as late as possible so the offense is confused. Flipping Roh/Beyer out for a linebacker tips their hand.

That attempt to find a spot for more than three of Michigan's thirteen linebackers next year is as valiant as "this guy can play position X" but no more likely to smooth out what looks like a roster imbalance. But, again, if the only thing we have to complain about is roster imbalance…

*[The way the defense plays differently is on the line, where opportunities to MAKE PLAYS fall almost exclusively to the linebackers; in the 4-3 under there's more opportunity for those guys to get into the backfield.]

Further adventures in anticipating problems.

Does Michigan recruit any offensive guys any more are we headed to the polar opposite of Rodriguez?

Seems like a ton of postings on the defense, I am wondering how much offensive recruiting success we are having.


This is just like complaints about Rodriguez not recruiting any defensive guys lodged in August of two years ago. That class ended up having more defensive players than offensive ones. Looking back on it the problem with it wasn't too many offensive players it was too few offensive linemen. And that people started bolting from it the instant it was signed. And the lack of a true nose tackle. And the inability to retain a quarterback with a Cone-like last name.

By position:

  • QB: seemed to be in the lead for Zeke Pike until his Auburn visit and is pursuing all manner of pro-style QB in the Midwest; will get one, then will load up the charm wagon for instater Shane Morris in 2013.
  • RB: Plenty of numbers; eight will be on the roster this fall with only Michael Shaw a senior. Will probably swing for the fences this year, taking only a high-profile guy. OSU commit Brionte Dunn will be on campus tomorrow
  • WR: Obviously no need for slots; outside is an issue. No one seems particularly likely to commit but Aaron Burbridge buzz now has him in play.
  • TE: Set unless there's still mutual interest for Ron Thompson.
  • OL: No need for centers. Two guards already in the class and Michigan is considered the leader for highly-touted IL OT Jordan Diamond. Should add another two tackles, but with OL it often pays to wait and see who the Lewans and Omamehs are.

My only concern is at WR. Michigan can afford another Bellomy type this year if they're confident in Morris and while a blue-chip back would be great Michigan has plenty of guys there, including double-Jackson approved Thomas Rawls. At WR the four guys entering year two seem to be largely disappointing and there isn't much else on the roster that isn't short. Being concerned about one or two WRs nine months out from signing day is a manageable issue.

Further adventures in Denard's awesomeness.

Brian -- my friend works for a Charter school in NYC.  the students were all assigned to write to someone they consider a leader.  not all of the leaders responded to the kids, but #16 did.

check out the attached:  a nice break from our passing game concerns ... and also, at long last, a story about Leaders that doesn't involve Legends

Go Blue,


The attached:

(Name removed),

Thank you for your letter and for asking me about how to be a leader. First of all, you need to believe in yourself and never just follow people. Always do what you think is right no matter what anyone else does or thinks.

Don’t forget to ask people for help and thank those who help you. Don’t be afraid to work hard, follow directions, and follow your dreams!

Good Luck and Go Blue!






May 5th, 2011 at 12:16 PM ^

Denard is 100% Pure Columbian Awesome.

Taking the time to write back to the student is something that kid will have with him for the rest of his life and could very well be a turning point in his life.  It is too bad the other "leaders" that were written to did not take the time to respond. 


May 5th, 2011 at 12:20 PM ^

It's understandable that some "leaders" that children would pick wouldn't have the time to respond personally (or possibly even ever be aware of receiving the letter, if they're in the 'so famous I pay a guy to read my mail' category). Yes, it's too bad the others didn't write, but I'm glad it makes Denard stand out even more.

Every few years I think I might have a new Favorite Michigan Athlete Ever (CWood, Braylon (whoops), Mike Hart, BG), but Denard is really making a strong push for the top of that list.


May 5th, 2011 at 12:16 PM ^

Made my day. THAT is what we should all want out of our student-athletes (though obviously, Shoelace sets quite the standard).

El Jeffe

May 5th, 2011 at 12:19 PM ^

Denard is rapidly approaching pantheon-level awesomeness. His combination of rootability and athletic explosiveness might be unparalleled in relatively recent M history. Even Chuck Woodson was a bit of a preener on the field, though he's the only other player that I might say Denard is looking up at currently.


May 5th, 2011 at 12:25 PM ^

If I were a chick, I'd say that Denard's response to that child was unbelievably sweet.  Actually, I'd probably say that no matter what.


May 5th, 2011 at 12:33 PM ^

Wouldn't it be awesome if in 20 years Denard comes back to coach and is as inspirational and awesome as Bo? 

Maybe there's some kind of connection between the two...


May 5th, 2011 at 12:52 PM ^

piecing through the rubble of the recruiting of the prior regime: a roster loaded with wide receivers, and Brian states that the position is still a concern.  Plus not enough bodies on the lines to have a Maize and Blue game a couple weeks ago.   

This rebirth could take a while. I kind of don't envy Hoke taking over and putting his head under the blade about winning the Big Ten as the objective.  On the positive, the roster is experienced at a lot of positions.



May 5th, 2011 at 12:56 PM ^

I love Denard.  I think it's fantastic that he wrote back to that little kid.  He didn't do it for press or publicity, he did it because he's truly a nice guy and a humble person.  I think he's seriously my favorite Michigan player ever.  I wish him every kind of success because he truly deserves it.


May 5th, 2011 at 12:58 PM ^

At work so don't have time to track it down, but I find it fantastic (yet not in the least unbelievable) how different our respective starting QBs are in every way possible.


May 5th, 2011 at 1:00 PM ^

The CB situation will have to play itself out, especially with the coaches adament that each player earns his spot. We still have to many medium sized hybrid DB/Linebacker types on the roster so adding Woolfork to too much depth by taking away another CB proly wont happen. It might come down to further player attrition in the backfield determining where the need is. Carvin Johnson is getting all the praise at FS and Marvin Robinson and Floyd Simmons have been seen as hi most likely backups, while Kovacks will play SS with Josh Furman and Thomas Gordon have been used as SS backups so far. Considering Jared Van Slyke and (maybe) Brendin Hawthorn are left over bumping Woolfork to Safety wouldn't make sense this year. The other DB's left for Pitt (I believe) to get playing time under their old coach. Mattison wants the Safeties to be able to play both positions too, Woolfork at SS as a senior I'm just not seeing.

Situational 3-4 is highly likely from Greg Mattison but not on account of recruiting 4 linebackers this year. We may very well end up with 3 DE's and 3 DT's in this class as well. Coach Mattison loves to cycle different players in in waves to wear out the offense and use players in different roles to confuse the offense. He has Martin at NT, outside pass rushing, and dropping back into coverage. He uses Corner and Safety blitz packages often as well and will likely use a 3 man front every once and a while. He converted Baltimore from a 3-4 to a 4-3 when made DC, and he's still in the process of making the switch at 2A so he'll preferr 4 hands in the dirt as a rule.

Breaking down the number of offers at each position Hoke offered for at least 1 recruit at every position. He will likely end up with 3 TE's but one could be an OT in time and the other might pull to WR. He always preferrs the bigger athletes like TE's RB's or LB's because they're versatile and can move if you need them too instead of recruiting a CB to play starting Sam Linebacker as a senior.

Denard Robinson is a genuinely sweet human being. He's so nice that you feel like a good person by being around him. He'll be a great team captain.


May 5th, 2011 at 1:32 PM ^

This is one of my highest interests - how can we get an in-depth interview with Denard's parents to provide insight and guidance to those of us who are endeavoring to raise children of their own?  Denard is becoming the gold standard for some of us and I would welcome some tips on how to build my own parenting skills to better provide my own children with a decent upbringing.


Picktown GoBlue

May 5th, 2011 at 10:56 PM ^

would be great.  Was able to be on the road from Cbus to AA Monday morning so I was able to tune in and hear James Ross' parents on WTKA.  Enjoyed hearing their perspective into their son's decision making and also how they helped guide with some persuasion/direction.  Would love to hear similar insight from DRob's folks. 

Nice touch, Denard, and way to pay it forward!


May 5th, 2011 at 1:19 PM ^

Every M fan should thank the almighty Vest (*COUGH COUGH*) for making sure we didn't get TP a year before Denard came to bless us with his presence.  Could Terrelle even spell all the words in Denard's response?  Let alone have the sense to say those things?

Seriously, I mean, if you put it to a vote between UM and tSIO fans -- that, the teams would switch QBs for next season, sans suspensions -- I bet a piece of tSIO fans would think hard about that one.  I also bet not a single true Blue fan would go for that.  TP is an embarrassment for tSIO, a brooding, self-centered, poorly-educated, brainless-shoots-off-his-mouth, "everyone commits murder" idiot.  And he's overrated.  Whereas Denard is probably the perfect front-man for a college football program, on and off the field.

Yes, I'm swooning too...


May 5th, 2011 at 1:37 PM ^

Take it from someone who is not in the tank for Michigan, but is for #16: Denard is one special dude. I don't need any love for the wings to draw me in.