Piles Of Position Moves

Submitted by Brian on February 25th, 2014 at 7:15 PM


ROTATE [Bryan Fuller]

Per first spring presser:

James Ross and Royce Jenkins-Stone to SAM. Probably inevitable once Ryan move was announced. Obviously Michigan thinking more along the lines of the Stevie Brown style LB/S hybrid there, as Allen Gant is your other SAM at the moment.

And with this shift comes another:

That means the line shifts towards the tight end and the linebackers away. Instead of this:


Last year 5 was Clark, 3 Black, 1 Washington/Pipkins, 5 Heitzman/Beyer, LB Ryan, W Ross, M Morgan.

Michigan will run more of this:


Upshot is the MLB gets significantly more protection, the WLB has to be able to take on more blocks (everyone has to take on blocks) and the SAM can be a lighter player as long as the three-tech and SDE create trouble when single-teamed.

This is a significant change, as you can see by everyone flopping about on the depth charts. While it's not switching to a 3-3-5 and back six times in three years, it does signal uncertainty.

A move to the over does make the Ryan move make a bit more sense but either DE spot is probably a better location for him unless he's suddenly a savant.

Heitzman to TE. With Henry seemingly locking down three-tech that potentially bounces out one of Strobel/Wormley/Godin to SDE, where Brennen Beyer is probably your starter anyway. Heitzman gives Michigan a shot at blocking someone, anyone, and won't be missed.

This would be a good time to remind you that Hoke told the gathered folks at the Detroit Athletic Club that Jake Butt would be back by game three; even if that's a weirdly specific prediction this far out given Jake Ryan's recovery timeine that would be about right.

Shallman to H-back. He wasn't already at H-back?

Ross Douglas to RB. Supposedly had been running there on the scout team and impressing. Michigan does need another bullet there with the loss of Rawls and Toussaint and no recruits filling in the gaps, and meanwhile Ross was at best sixth on the CB depth chart. Kind of doubt he makes much impact this year with Hayes presumably a lot like him and more experienced.

David Dawson to (left) tackle. I'd been telling people Dawson was likely to be the G/T tweener thrust outside by a lack of depth, but even I thought he'd be assigned right tackle duties since he's 6'4". Nope. According to Hoke, the current and incredibly nominal first team line reads Dawson-Bosch-Glasgow-Kalis-Braden.

Erik Magnuson is all but certain to side into that LT spot when he returns, leaving Bosch and Dawson to duke it out on the right. You can read Dawson on the left as an endorsement since that's the most important spot, or you can read Braden on the right as an endorsement since they may expect him to start and want to get him settled in at the position he'll play.

The other guy to watch out for is Patrick Kugler, who could bounce Glasgow out to one of the guard spots and give Michigan some depth.

Logan Tuley-Tillman is out right now, FWIW.


Mr. Yost

February 26th, 2014 at 8:09 AM ^

Some changes will stick, some won't.

I just wonder why so many changes on defense, I think two of our biggest struggles last year were that we subbed too much in the back 7 and we didn't have Kovacs.

But the OL seems obvious.

Mags - Bosch - Glasgow - Kalis - Braden
Dawson - Burzynski - Kugler - Bars - Fox
LLT - Cole - Miller - Samuelson - JBB

Obviously this is on paper, because I think Braden actually goes to LT if we had a game today (with Mags hurt) and Dawson plays RT.


February 25th, 2014 at 7:34 PM ^

On the one hand change can be good if what you've been doing hasn't been super successful.  On the other hand change can also mean uncertainty, may take away from the players knowledge of the system (they have to learn a new system versus reinforce the same one), and guys may be now asked to play roles they weren't recruited for and/or don't have the body type for.  So, is this change in our defensive strategy a good thing or a bad thing?  I can't help but wish we had a system in place that was already highly successful and kids understood and executed well (ala MSU), but if changes are needed, then I guess they're needed. 


February 25th, 2014 at 8:00 PM ^

If something is bad, and it doesn't work as well as you want it to...well, change it. The Nuss hire can be viewed very much as a "reactionary" change. Obviously time will tell if it was a good change or not, but right now it certainly seems so. Beilein did a lot of reactionary changes to his staff, and obviously that worked out. (In a more literal sense, Beilein had to make some reactionary changes to this year's team once McGary went out with injury. Obviously he was forced to. But that has somehow worked out better than anyone could have imagined so far) 

By that same token, innovative change isn't always a good thing either. RR brought a lot of innovative change to Michigan, and for a multitude of reasons it just did not work out. It could have, probably should have, but it didn't.

I'm all for simple explanations for things...but in this case it's really just not that simple. 

Mr Miggle

February 25th, 2014 at 8:50 PM ^

Those are just empty buzzwords.

Innovative change is usually bad. It's very, very difficult to come up with good innovations. Reactionary change is often necessary. Each case should be judged on its own merit. I, for one, am very interested to see how they will play out. I do like the idea of having our best LB in the middle. 



February 25th, 2014 at 7:52 PM ^

It's not like they're putting players they didn't recruit into new roles.  If the players didn't fit the new roles, do you think they'd be doing this?  They were recruited by this staff so the staff obviously knows what they're capable of.  Additionally, Hoke and Mattison said all last year that the LBs practiced every LB position in case they needed to fill in somewhere else to do limited depth, so they all should know what they're doing somewhat in the new spots.  And what is so different anyway?  As others have said, I'd like to see a post detailing exactly what each role is in the old vs the new scheme.  In my mind, the basic roles are the same: read your keys, fill the gaps and find the runner on a run play, find your WR or find the QB on a pass play.  These are all very experienced and very good players.  I'm not at all worried, especially not about Ryan.  I don't really get Brian's apparent concern about Ryan's ability to play SAM.  He's been our best player on defense for two years when healthy and while we haven't seen him play the middle, we haven't seen anything to suggest he can't.  I tend to give our best player the benefit of the doubt.


February 25th, 2014 at 9:23 PM ^

are upset are generally those that are predisposed to being upset.  If Hoke does nothing they're upset because he can't see that something needs to be done.  If Hoke does something they're upset because A) He didn't consult with them and B) Because anything Hoke does without consulting with them first has to be of at least questionable intelligence if not simply wrong.


February 25th, 2014 at 7:44 PM ^

Dawson to LEFT tackle? QB CONTROVERSY!

Signed, Terry Foster

Anyway with the change in defensive alignment, that should help to explain some of the odd linebacker positions in the recruiting class this year (Furbush/Winovich).


February 25th, 2014 at 7:56 PM ^

I see the Ryan move to MLB as a test run to see if he can be a disruptive force in the middle of the defense.  If it doesn't work out, they move him back.  Even if it doesn't work, they can play Ryan at MLB here and there to throw teams off if he's spent some time playing there.  Fortunately, we have a bunch of LBs with 2 years of playing time so we can try some different things and go back to what they know if it doesn't work.

Another amazing observation.  We can move a player who started at SDE some of last year to tight end with no concerns about that lack of depth on the DL.  This is a little less exciting since we have a bunch of solid players, but not much WOW at SDE other than Taco.

I'm assuming Dawson is at LT because Braden will likley start at RT.  I seem to remember seeing somewhere that LTT was the nominal LT with Magnuson out and before he had surgery.


February 25th, 2014 at 7:58 PM ^

Eh, not too concerned about the offense.  Dawson is only at LT because Mags is hurt. 


And not really worried about the changes on defense either other than the coaching shakeup.  Hoke did say he would still work with the DL, though.  Just not as much.  Like everyone else, Roy Manning is what scares me the most.  Everyone else has experience coaching those positions.  I think Mallory will most likely help Manning with the CBs, but this is a move to help lessen his work load.


February 25th, 2014 at 8:14 PM ^

When I saw that RJS was moved to SAM, I was thinking is he actually going to make an impact this season? He was one of the best LB recruits in the country and his only claim to fame so far is getting in the scrap with Dontre Wilson and getting kicked out've the OHIO game. It's now or never for this kid! Is Allen Gant really going to get some run at LB? 

gustave ferbert

February 25th, 2014 at 8:16 PM ^

between Brian's normally very prescient analysis and the abilities of Greg Mattison.  From what I'm reading it would seem like Mattison is making adjustments to the offenses of today.  Especially after Nussmeier came on.  You wonder if Nuss pulls aside Mattison and says "this is where the offensive strategies are going" and Mattison is adjusting to that.  Another part of me believes that JMFR is so good that he could be the quarterback of the defense. . .I remember that first spring game where he had the interception, he just has such a great sense of the game, and he needs to run the show on the field.  

But then again, Brian is Brian and is usually pretty spot on.  Which of course is probably why this blog is so popular. . . . uggh.  Torn.


February 25th, 2014 at 8:21 PM ^

This to me seems to be matching the defense to the available capabilities instead of the other way around. Personally, if the coaching is able to handle that then it seems like a good move to me. Take what your opponent gives you, and take what your personnel gives you


February 25th, 2014 at 8:22 PM ^

So does this say anything about Peppers and Nickle? I mean, if Gant has the body type for this, then Peppers can compete for a lot of playing time, I would think. What's the difference between a 6-2, 220lb SAM and a 6-1, 210lb Nickle, after all.


February 25th, 2014 at 8:29 PM ^

The defense slipped a bit last year; if they make changes, it'll get worried about as "reactionary", if they don't make changes, it'll be "why aren't they changing anything?"

I'm inclined to wait to see it in action before making judgments.


February 25th, 2014 at 9:29 PM ^

Coaches are putting players in position to benefit the team long term. Ross to SAM isn't a big deal if he'll be out in space more because of the defensive switch. In this day and age of spread it's better to have the LB/S type hybrid and I'm anxious to see it implemented.

I don't they would move Ryan to the middle unless they felt he would be a force which I agree. I can't wait to see him go sideline to sideline and attack the run.


February 25th, 2014 at 9:57 PM ^

That last year by playing "under", our defense was not set when playing up tempo teams, because the line had to switch sides. Playing "under", alleviates this problem. Is this the reason for the switch? I have a hard time believing that the change is based on personnel.


February 25th, 2014 at 10:02 PM ^

So the question in the end on defense is why the switch to the 4-3 over and subsequent position switches? What will the switch allow them to do that the 4-3 over with the previous personnel didn't? If being aggressive is their concern, one can certainly be aggressive in an under. One can be modern in an under; Pete Carroll has shown that. And will there be changes in secondary scheme as well?


February 26th, 2014 at 1:59 PM ^

Did anyone even watch the bowl game...Hayes was the #1 back and

That said, it remains to be seen how Nuss wants to use any of the backs or receivers.

I think Hayes would have the inside track on the 3rd down back role though.

I haven't seen anything out of any of our tailbacks to look at any of them as difference makers yet.


February 26th, 2014 at 12:13 AM ^

So, is it BASICALLY Ryan is our most talented guy on D, and Matteson is setting JMFR to be the high-profile poster child Brian Urlacher stud of the D, with other players absorbing blocks and freeing J to kick ass?