Mailbag: Anticipating Future Problems

Submitted by Brian on 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 1:55 PM ^

Denard is simply amazing.  He seems to do everything you could ask of him on and off the field.  He deserves every positive that comes his way.


May 5th, 2011 at 2:01 PM ^

Jeez.  He took the time to take a picture holding the kid's letter.  I'd say something nice about Denard's selflessness and niceness and whatnot but it'd be inadequate.


May 5th, 2011 at 2:35 PM ^

Thank you for your e-mail asking me about how to be a cheater.

First of all, you need to believe only in yourself and never just trust people. Always do what you think is right no matter what the cost to anyone else. 

Don’t forget to ask booster's for help in any form other then e-mail and pay off those booster's that help you. Don’t be afraid to go too far, follow directions and delete the hard-drive, and follow your instincts!

Good Luck and I will get right on this!

Jim Tressel


May 5th, 2011 at 2:19 PM ^

Am I the only one here who hates Denard? 

"Oo, look at me, I wrote to a little kid!  Now I'm going to be on the front page of MGoBlog!  It's the off-season and I'm not getting enough attention.  I guess I better go be someone's hero!"

This is bulls***.

Terrelle Pryor says everybody murders people, kills people, steals from you, steals from me.


Stop being such a genuine, smiling, hell of a nice guy . . . and put a cap in someone's ass already.


May 5th, 2011 at 2:20 PM ^

Now I just hope that the kid who wrote to Denard ends up being an All-World football player, we would definitely have the inside track on him.


May 5th, 2011 at 3:36 PM ^

I thought I asked a good question a lot of people might be asking about situational 3 -4 defense. apparently I feel like an idiot now because that was not thought to well. thanks brian!


May 5th, 2011 at 3:57 PM ^

Will this kid ever wear the maize and blue, what's his status?  Is the goal still to qualify for Michigan, does he still have an offer if he does qualify?

Promote RichRod

May 5th, 2011 at 4:36 PM ^

It really is hard to comprehend that a person like Denard Robinson exists.  I've never seen anything like it before with respect to a public figure.

You hear the stories of him being nice to random fans and kids in Ann Arbor, you see his huge smile on every interview, there's a picture of him signing some kid's forehead because hey, that's what the kid asked for...and you can't help but wonder if it's too good to be true (I got some heat from the board once for suggesting that Tebow was at least motivated in part by personal gain in all his do-gooder rhetoric).

...then you hear about something like this.  It's amazing.  Maybe my standards are set too low but this story is simply incredible.  To me, it's all about what the public figure does when the cameras aren't rolling.  Denard didn't cc ESPN when he did this.  He had no idea MGoBlog would pick this up.  He just wanted to respond to a kid that wrote him a letter for school.  He even sent a picture.  He is my favorite Wolverine of all time and I doubt anyone will be able to top him as a great player and role model.


May 5th, 2011 at 7:47 PM ^

That young man, #16, makes me proud to be alum. I can guarantee you at his I wasn't writing letters to kids. More like trying to figure out ways how to get in to Mitch's and Scorekeepers.