Spring Practice Tea Leaves

Submitted by Brian on April 6th, 2009 at 12:56 PM

Spring practice continues and there's the usual mix of unwarranted excitement and unwarranted doomsaying; that combined with the incestuous nature of the whole enterprise makes information wobbly. But wobbly is better than nothing.

A rundown of scuttlebutt received in my inbox and published elsewhere:

Tate Forcier

The conflicts start hot and heavy with Forcier, who has articles like this written about him:

"Coach Barwis, he's shown me a whole different life," Forcier said, chuckling. "But I'm getting a lot stronger, and that's a good thing."

On the field, Forcier, who is expected to compete with Nick Sheridan for the starting QB job, said one of the biggest challenges is adjusting to the snap, which he's had some trouble hanging onto during spring practices.

"It's just getting comfortable with how they snap it to you," he said. "In high school, you get these slow shotgun snaps. Here, these come back like rockets."

Yikes. There have been plenty of reports citing the usual harsh transition from college to high school, with balls zinged into linebackers' chests and hilariously arrogant attempts to reverse field resulting in 20-yard sacks.

On the other hand, multiple attendees have noted the positives to Forcier's game, especially in relation to Rodriguez's offense: he's elusive, extremely accurate on the run, and has enough zip to get the ball where it needs to go. Much of the practice time has been devoted to tougher passes—no bubble screens—and things the offense isn't good at yet, which makes them look worse than they might if they were operating with some of the easier stuff to execute.

At least that's the positive way to look at it. The other way to look at it is basically "we're going to die." One viewpoint is in relation to what happened last year—even skeptics have been very clear that the quarterback situation is vastly improved over DEATH. The other is comparing freshman Forcier to quarterbacks who are actually, like, good. The overall impression is that Forcier isn't a 9-3 QB, but neither is he a 3-9 one.

Vincent Smith

cone-smithIn addition to participating in the handoff with the greatest height disparity between participants in Michigan history (right), Smith is building quite a hype train for himself.

Brandon Minor:

"Out of the freshman, they're all doing good, doing what I expect them to do, but Vincent Smith is showing a lot of potential. He's not backing down ... He's got real used to hitting early on. He does that very well."

Forcier:

"Vince, whewwwww. Vince Smith, he can move, he can run. He's out there running like the wind. He makes a lot of guys miss. I think we might be able to use him this year."

(Note the assumption in Forcier's quote there.)

Rodriguez:

"He's really come along," Rodriguez said earlier this week. "He's still confused sometimes, as all the freshmen would be, but he's shown some flashes in (Tuesday's) practice and he's a guy that's probably going to play some as a true freshman. I love his attitude, he loves playing and he's a quick learner on the field and he's got some natural ability, so I'm pretty excited about him."

This isn't wholly surprising. Smith's initially lukewarm reviews gave way to a more positive take after his impressive senior season. Though he didn't scrape his way out of the three-star ghetto, he moved way up on both major sites as they refined their rankings and Smith powered Pahokee to another state title. A couple of Florida correspondents said he was a terrific back whose ratings were held back by his size and a lack of pure white-hot speed, much like Oregon State's Jacquizz Rogers without the Name of the Year potential. (Vote for Mingo!)

Smith's got a number of veterans in front of him and isn't going to be an instant feature back with Minor looking like a beast and Brown (mostly) healthy, but it sounds like he's hopped in front of Cox and Grady and will spend this year vying against Michael Shaw to see who starts next year.

Argh Safeties

brandon-smith

(At right: Brandon Smith tackling… uh… Brandon Smith? Is this like that A-Rod picture? Or one of those mirror universe episodes of any sci-fi show that goes on so long the writers get bored to tears with the characters?

One thing I definitely know: that's not some walk-on. Nope, it's definitely Brandon Smith in some sort of weird temporal vortex.)

This won't be surprising to anyone even vaguely familiar with Michigan football since Marcus Ray, but, yeah, argh safeties. Stevie Brown has been moved down into a nickel/OLB spot, much to the relief of everyone. This Free Press article says Brown "didn't have the impact many expected," which is a nice way of saying "had exactly the impact everyone feared." Now he's elsewhere:

"He's going to be a multipositional player for us," coach Rich Rodriguez said before practice Thursday. "Obviously, he's playing a lot of nickel back, in kind of a nickel-back situation. It's kind of a hybrid of an outside linebacker/strong safety position, which I think he's perfectly suited for."

Actually, he does seem well suited for that sort of role. Brown only got more frustrating last year when he started making the occasional sweet play to go with his free touchdown per game. Highly rated out of high school, Brown's a capital-a Athlete and seems an excellent fit for this coverage/blitz/tackle hybrid spot. An emailer reports back from the coaches' clinic:

Also there was some promising news on Stevie Brown.  Greg Robinson talking about Stevie Brown said “He’s a hell of an athlete and he’s a hell of a lot better football player where we have him now (strong side LB)."

So hurray for all that.

However, moving him leaves just two returning players at the position: Mike Williams, who saw some playing time a year ago and didn't do anything of note good or bad, and redshirt freshman Brandon Smith. That's a horrifying lack of depth at a position we're all well aware can be an instant 60-yard touchdown for the opposition.

That was ominous enough. Then various reports came back that neither was starting. Longtime Michigan insider Maizeman:

Starting safeties (Thursday) were Woolfolk and Vlad. Yes, Vlad as starter. He looked, on Thursday, to be our best safety -- not even close.

Oy. That's a true freshman and a position switch starter at a position where Yards After Mundy can rack up in a hurry. When I profiled Emilien I noted he was an early enroller, an honor-roll student, and had a serious flirtation with Ohio State (which unearths functional-to-excellent unhyped safeties on a frustratingly regular basis). All of these things point to a sunny future for Emilien and I think sooner or later he'll be a good safety for Michigan. But by "sooner or later" I mean "later".

Woolfolk, meanwhile, was running at corner as of a week ago. With his departure the current two deep there is:

  1. Cissoko and Warren
  2. JT Floyd and Floyd Simmons, redshirt freshman walk-on.

Argh. It's hard to see the position switch as anything other than a condemnation of the projected starters at safety. The chatter now has Smith moving to linebacker eventually due to a lack of speed. You can see a hint of that in this Rodriguez quote:

"He has not played, he's a redshirt freshman, but he's got a lot of ability," Rodriguez said. "He's still got to get in shape to be able to play on the back end, like our safeties have to do sometimes. You've got to be able to run a lot, a whole lot, and they're still adjusting to that. But I think he's going to be able to help us in a lot of spots this year."

With Brown a senior and Smith a little ponderous for safety we might see the latter move to this hybrid spot during the year if Emilien and Woolfolk work out.

About That Defense

I got a number of emails from people smarter than me about football in regards to this 4-3/3-4 distinction; happily, none of them call me an idiot. A coach who attended the clinic a few days ago:

The report that the defense would come to resemble a 3-4 seems a little off base.  After attending the Coaching Clinic and seeing the defense in action it is the same thing that you see at a lot of programs.  First it is considered a 4-3 but it is a multiple 40 defense where you are going to see numerous adjustments (the same as any college program).  They will slide into some 3-4 sets by dropping their Quick (strong side end speed rusher/lb hybrid)  This can be called for coverage or zone blitz scheme. 

The biggest improvement I believe you will see come in the form of tackling and angles.  Greg Robinson has already overhauled the pursuit angles and has really stressed proper body mechanics when tackling.  You could visibly notice the change in tackles and finish.  Jay Hopson also commented that “Greg has really made a huge improvement to how we tackle.  It’s night and day from last year.” 

This sounds much like what was mentioned in What Is It. Michigan is basically going with a 4-3 that has the flexibility to drop into a 3-4 when the situation warrants it or Robinson just wants to throw a curveball. To do this you need a chunky linebacker at the standup end spot, a guy who can hold up (or penetrate) against a tackle on a run to his side, rush the passer, and credibly drop into a short zone. Shawn Crable would be an excellent fit. So would prospective recruit Will Gholston. (HINT HINT, MR. GHOLSTON.)

The closest analogue to what Michigan appears to be installing is the defense of the Arizona Cardinals, who run a "4-3 under" most of the time with a weakside DE/LB they call the "predator," thereby soundly defeating Michigan's nomenclature. As hybrids go, it's hybrid-y:

…in the 4-3 “under” front, like the Cardinals use as their base defense, which looks similar to the 3-4 to the naked eye, the biggest difference is in the outside linebackers. The strong-side linebacker is still outside the tight end. But the other outside guy — the Cardinals call this player their “Predator” — is almost always rushing the passer, although the Cards will occasionally drop him into coverage to mix things up. Other differences: The nose tackle shades to the A-gap (in between the center and guard) on the tight end side, and the end on that side moves between the tackle and tight end.


Davis
explained that the 3-4 defense creates the most confusion for the offense in terms of which outside linebacker is doing what, and the standard 4-3 offers the least unpredictability. The Cardinals’ 4-3 “under” scheme is somewhere in between the two in terms of causing the offense to guess who is rushing and who is dropping.

There is one uncovered linebacker—eg, "man who must take on unblocked guard"—in the 4-3 under, which is different from the 4-3 (none) and the 3-4 (two). That's the MLB, meaning Obi Ezeh. Onus, meet third year starter who's been fairly disappointing so far. You'll be good friends all year.

Also, here's Tyler Sellhorn, who's sent in an email or two before and contributed to Doctor Saturday, on what the whole "rush end/linebacker" thing was:

FYI:

The Hermann era defense was better known in its day as a 5-2.  3 DTs and 2 DEs; however, the strongside and weakside specialized by personnel, tactics, or alignment.  The weakside DE was called the "drop end" an excellent deployment of a SS type player (Stevie Brown).  The strongside DE was called the "rush end", think Lawrence Taylor/Derrick Thomas.  Calling it a 3-4 is "sexier" because safeties and speedy big guys would be prefer to be called linebackers than defensive ends.  As an offensive line coach and former lineman, I hated playing "odd" fronts (with a nose guard).  The angles for your usual blocks change significantly and when the defense chooses it is easier to bring up support from the outside and from the safeties.  3-4 is more flexible in the secondary as well because linebackers can be put in coverage much easier.

IMO, I think the (very) early returns are good for GERG.

God Bless,

Tyler Sellhorn

So there you go.

A Brief Summary Of My State Of Mind

Look: we're not going to be good. There is a true freshman quarterback who, while as ready as he can be, is still not ready at all. The line is probably going to be okay, but not dominant. They're installing a new defensive package and holy God is the secondary thin. They'll get some reinforcements in the fall but it's like quarterback: when you've got six highly-rated options for two spots whoever wins that job is likely to be good. When you've got two, you're hoping that both pan out, stay healthy, and stay out of trouble.

Position switch starters—one of MGoBlog's primary "uh oh" heuristics—seem likely at safety (Woolfolk), DE/spinner (Herron), LB/SS (Brown), and LG (Schilling). None of those are huge deals in and of themselves as they don't involve flipping sides of the ball, like Ferrara did last year, and generally see players moving into spots where they are faster than the opposition or just plain better suited; together that's a lot of flux. Digging out of this hole is going to be a multi-year project, and I don't mean we'll only make the Alamo this year. Notre Dame went from 3-9 to 7-6 and though they had a bigger hole to dig out of they weren't starting over at quarterback. A similar improvement seems realistic.

Comments

AdamBurmeister

April 6th, 2009 at 1:18 PM ^

Hopefully they overachieve beyond your expectations like in basketball.

I'm not knocking on your basketball prediction, I'm just hoping for an overachieving football season that shuts up the nay-sayers.

tecknogyk

April 7th, 2009 at 1:41 AM ^

I think that everyone needs to look at it in a different way. I believe that Rodriguez knows what he's doing and I'm comfortable with not having a clue what is going to happen this year. How many seasons before Rodriguez did we have high expectations but deep down expected the worst to happen? I was at the Appy. State game and I honestly wasn't surprised at what happened. It was like my worst fears coming true. I deep down always felt like that game was just waiting to happen. For all the talk about losing to Toledo, it doesn't matter as much to me as losing that game to Appy. State. We were supposed to suck last year.

The only thing I expect now is for the unexpected to happen. There are no expectations and, for once, I don't have a clue how things will play out but feel deep down that it's going to end up good. This is a good feeling and no matter how bad things may seem to look on whatever front, I feel better now about the future of Michigan football than I ever did under the old staff.

Jay

April 6th, 2009 at 1:22 PM ^

After reading some of the blogs that have covered spring practice, it would be safe to say that this program is in dire need of an influx of top end defensive recruits in the '10 class.

jamiemac

April 6th, 2009 at 1:23 PM ^

I think the greatest height disparity in a handoff ever at UM was when Jamie Morris handed it off the Paul Jokish on a reverse.

And, if Smith ends up giving us Jacquizz Rodgers-type production this year, well, holy awesome, bat man!!

BleedingBlue

April 6th, 2009 at 1:29 PM ^

Spread N Shred

Is there any reason to think the spread n shred will show itself at any point this fall? We saw some glimpses last year, like the Purdue Game, first half against Penn Shhhtate, and Minnesota to a lesser degree.

I think of this as huge chunks of yardage gained by RB's Minor/Shaw/Smith and long runs from Forcier/Robinson/Feagin. Some screen pass action to the slots getting huge chunks would be nice.

Am I wrong in thinking we have a lot of weapons on offense and a serviceable - at least - offensive line that will allow for some serious scoring potential?

octal9

April 6th, 2009 at 1:34 PM ^

By all accounts, the o-line is definitely serviceable this year. We do have numerous weapons, but we need to get the ball to them - Forcier is a freshman and he will make freshman mistakes, much like freshman-Henne. Freshman-Forcier won't have senior-Edwards to throw to though.

Look on the defensive side of the ball - that's where my concerns lie. A lot about it worries me (it is nice to hear they're working fundamentals, though).

los barcos

April 6th, 2009 at 1:29 PM ^

after reading alot of the michigan blogs, esp gbmw, it seems to me the depth at defense is downright scary. i know its still early in the recruiting process, and ive heard all you out there saying "rich knows what hes doing" but i would still like to see more defenseive recruits this year. from a pragmatic stand point, it seems like we are in dire need of them.

Ziff72

April 6th, 2009 at 1:30 PM ^

Ok I need the football nerd police help on this one. I thought I new football pretty well, but apparently we have gone up a few levels on me. Can someone give me the breakdown on "new" ways to tackle and different pursuit angles. What is wrong with head on the ball, get your weight behind you, wrap with both arms and keep driving with your legs(I love when Spielman points it out on Saturdays) and pursuit angles well I don't know if they have invented a new type of geometry in the last I don't know a million years, but the quickest way from a to b is a straight line and if b is a lot faster than you better move your target point. For those with the sarcasm meter down I'm joking...kinda.

PS If this "new" type of tackling has anything to do with with hitting real hard with your shoulder and stoppping and ducking your head while falling to the ground without ever using your arms while the runner gets a critical 1st down(You are killing me Terrance Taylor) than I want none of it.

Magnus

April 7th, 2009 at 12:38 PM ^

Different coaches teach pursuit angles in different ways. For example, I was taught just by doing pursuit drills. But some coaches I've seen have actually set up cones for each defensive player's angle of pursuit (for example, the backside corner on a sweep should aim about 40 yards downfield). I'm not a big fan of the cone example because there are too many variables, but like I said, there are different ways.

Also, if you watch Michigan tackling drills and Penn State tackling drills, they are VERY different. From head placement to arm placement to knee bend, etc....

Don

April 6th, 2009 at 1:31 PM ^

Brian, you're not 100% clear on who this statement is about... I assume these "reports" are about Forcier?

"There have been plenty of reports citing the usual harsh transition from college to high school, with balls zinged into linebackers' chests and hilariously arrogant attempts to reverse field resulting in 20-yard sacks."

I wonder if part of the reason he's having trouble with the snaps is small hands. He ain't the biggest guy around.

All of this leaves me still convinced that 6-6 is far, far more likely than 9-3. Considering the situation at QB and the lack of talented depth on defense, among other things, even eking out 7 wins will be an achievement.

wolverine1987

April 6th, 2009 at 2:47 PM ^

We knew the defensive situation was as it is, but somehow seeing the depth chart references really drives home what seems like a huge problem. While I knew we couldn't expect 10-2 this year, I had secret hopes that 8-4 was quite realistic. I don't think that now

Route66

April 6th, 2009 at 1:39 PM ^

After reading that I felt like a 10 year old boy who's dog just got ran over and survived. Only to hear the Vet say that he will lose 2 legs, walk with one of those goofy dog pull cart thingies and die within 6 months. The truth hurts sometimes.

But I will continue to pray that the dog gets better through miracles. Those doggie wheel chairs aren't that bad are they?

Ziff72

April 6th, 2009 at 1:42 PM ^

I've read a lot of the same reports, but I think they are slighly overblown. The talent on defense is young not nonexistent. Campbell, Roh, Lalota, Turner, Emilien, Hawthorne etc.... We lose exactly 2 players from the defense next year, I agree we need some impact guys on d next year, but this is not the Lions where we need to draft 20 guys. The d looks worse right now because we are young and learning a new system. I still have high hopes for this d next year. as for not getting highly rated recruits on D, I submit solely on memory...
DT-Martin 4/5 star
DT-Campbell 5 star
DE-Roh 4 star
DE Lalota 4 star
LB Mouton 4 star
LB Fitzgerald 4 star
LB Ok we need some help at LB
CB Warren 5 star
CB Cissoko 4 star
CB Turner 4 star
S Williams 4 star
S Vlad 4 star

We have some talent a lot of it young and inexperienced being thrown out on the field when all they have been learning is terchnique not scheme, give it time.

Jay

April 6th, 2009 at 1:46 PM ^

Well, if last year taught us anything, it would be that stars and recruiting rankings don't mean all that much once the ball is kicked off on Saturday afternoon. Returning all but two starters from last year's awful defense isn't necessarily a good thing, either.

brown

April 6th, 2009 at 1:55 PM ^

I'm going to have to cosign this... That was probably the most negative mgoblog article I have ever read and then he ends up predicting 6-7 wins... That is great! After a 3-9 season with a true freshman quarterback if someone sold me a 6-6 or 7-5 season I would take it.

I mean we are playing WMU, Eastern, Indiana, Purdue and Delaware State ALL AT HOME! That makes 5 wins. Then you have to figure we could find at least one win from the MSU, Iowa, Illinois and Wisc group.

As for the dearth of talent on defense - We have enough there to still get by against many inferior teams on the schedule.

No, we will not light the world on fire, but jeez - 6 or 7 wins would be great. We went 7-5 in 2005 with Mike Hart, chad henne and braylon edwards. Be more excited.

sheepman

April 6th, 2009 at 2:26 PM ^

I am not sure saying that WMU, Purdue, and Delaware St. = automatic wins is a very smart move. Eastern and Indiana I am more comfortable doing that - but still not completely.

But stranger things have happened. WMU upset an Illinois team that wiped the field with us last year. We lost to a Toledo team (my alma mater sad to say) that was downright bad - even on a Toledo standard. We lost to Appy in what was supposed to be one of the best years UM for a long time.

I hope you're right, but I think the past couple years should be enough to say - don't count things as "auto-wins". It just leads to groundless arrogance - and then embarrassment.

jfox

April 6th, 2009 at 3:59 PM ^

Braylon was a rookie in the NFL. Mike Hart was hurt in the ND game at the beginning of the year and was not the same player he was the other three years. Jason Avant was the go to receiver that year, with Steve Breaston not being able to catch anything more than a WR screen or short slant.

brown

April 6th, 2009 at 8:30 PM ^

My bad - still had Henne, Hart, Avant, Breaston - all NFL players. My ultimate point is that if Brian is predicting 7-5, and there really isn't a lot of talent on the team that is very good and I will take it, considering that a bunch of future NFLers could only muster 7-5 one year.

wile_e8

April 6th, 2009 at 2:14 PM ^

I don't necessarily think the problem is lack of talent, it's a lack of talented depth. If all of the highly ranked recruits play up to their rankings and don't get injured, which never happens, everything should be ok. However, once they start getting injured or fail to meet their projections, the replacements are either guy who haven't seen the field for a reason or nothing.

Welllughhh

April 6th, 2009 at 4:21 PM ^

Vlad is a promising safety. If he didn't get hurt before his senior year I don't think we would have him on our roster right now, but instead he would on Ohio States roster. To have an injury like he did and recover to be placed on the first team squad in practice is amazing. Especially coming in as a freshman.

Erik_in_Dayton

April 6th, 2009 at 1:45 PM ^

Jay Hopson also commented that “Greg has really made a huge improvement to how we tackle. It’s night and day from last year.”

-- If that is true then I heart Greg Robinson. It's one thing to lose b/c a team is young or not that talented. It's another to lose b/c you can't execute basic football skills.

Erik_in_Dayton

April 6th, 2009 at 2:25 PM ^

In Ghana there is a tribe that honors their old way of life every year by sending its young men out into the forest to kill a deer. What's unique about this is that they only bring a knife with them. They surround it, wrestle it to the ground, and kill it with the knife...Maybe we can get some of those guys.

Magnus

April 7th, 2009 at 12:44 PM ^

Some DCs say "Do your thing" and let their position coaches teach however they want. Some DCs say "Here's how we're going to teach tackling, and here's how we're going to teach pursuit angles."

I don't know what kind of DC Shafer was, so it's hard to say whose "fault" it is. I'm guessing it was a joint effort between Shafer, the position coaches, the players - and Rodriguez, since he hired Shafer and has the final say on those things.

maizenbluedevil

April 8th, 2009 at 12:29 AM ^

I thought the *exact* same thing when I read the Hopson quote!

As for division of responsibilities, and the notion that it might not have been Hopson's responsibility to cover that... That's bullshit. As a coach on the defensive side of the ball, if the players couldn't tackle, Hopson should have taken some initiative, stepped up, and made that happen. "It's not in the job description" is a piss poor excuse.

Magnus

April 8th, 2009 at 10:33 PM ^

I'm going to guess you've never coached football.

If you're a position coach and the defensive coordinator (aka your boss) tells you what to work on or how to teach tackling, you do what they say. You can bring it up to the DC or the HC, but that doesn't mean it's going to change.

Trust me. I've been through it.

contra mundum

April 6th, 2009 at 1:50 PM ^

He actually played safety in H.S. Might not be that big a transition for him really.

I much prefer this infusion of speed in our secondary over what we've seen in the past.

sharkhunter

April 6th, 2009 at 2:57 PM ^

I applaud the much needed dose of “keepin’ it real” thoughts at the end.

I am not a naysayer but I see/read too many yeah fever-stricken fans. While I continue to hope for 9-3 season, 6-6 is realistic and at least better than last year.

Everything, as in 99.9% of the scoring game is in the hands of the QB. It was last year, and it will be again this year. Simple things like handing off to a RB were unbelievably not simple. It was a bad news bears type season without a tatum oneal and punk teen smoker home run hitter come back at the end. I have tons of hope (i.e. maybe this time I will actually win the $50 million lottery this time) for the team and the season. Tate and DRob will be good, but don’t expect them to be great their freshman yr.

The only solution I see is more running, lots and lots of running. B Minor is the solution. He showed a lot last year in his abbreviated season. With his senior year, he has the growth, maturity, power and he should have the skill to take over a game. I hate to borrow from the playbook from the Spartans but B Minor needs to have Javon Ringer type attempts - 390 carries, 1600 yrds, 22 TDs. Hoyer hardly did anything, 9 TDs & 9 INTs, almost a nonfactor. But sometimes a nonfactor can be good as long as they don’t be come a “factor” in the opposing teams win.

Its not really RR’s spread, but it gives a freshman QB less pressure, more time to get used to playing on the CFB level. With that being said, it is indeed unlikely if not an impossible choice for RR, but again, I can always hope.

sonofasonofadomer

April 6th, 2009 at 3:24 PM ^

I tracked down this blog from the BGS blog in ND-Land, so you can of course take my comments as seen through blue/gold lenses...but I can't help but get the same feeling I got when reading the comments of overly hopeful Domers going into 2007 - it ain't gonna be pretty, again, particularly in UM's case...

I think it is important to realize that you are breaking in a freshmen quarterback in an offense that relies on their multi-level decision-making on every single snap. And no offense to Mr. Forcier, but he is not T. Pryor from last year. If I were any team I would keep all eyes on Minor, because the thought of Forcier, especially early in the season, doing any damage through the air in the absence of a developed Braylon Edwards or Manningham-type would not scare me at all, and I'd take my chances on a scared freshman scamper causing much harm. If your D has one more year of being thin, and being behind early, this will further hamper the UM offense as it needs to play catch-up. I just think the optimism is a bit rosy, although I do think Rod is a great coach. It will just take another 2 seasons to really see it. I see 5 wins, with some ugly losses next year. You can flame me for being an ND homer, but trust me when I say I would really like to see both programs playing each other as top ten teams on a consistent basis again (and please God get rid of Purdue, Stanford, etc, from the ND schedule once and for all...)

Great blog.

Crime Reporter

April 6th, 2009 at 4:06 PM ^

While I have lowered expectations for this season, I don't feel our team will look like the three and out kings of FBS, or whatever the hell they call it now. The defense concerns me more than the offense this year, even though we are starting over at OB. The OL will be better than you think, and we have some good depth at the skill positions, assuming everyone stays healthy and qualifies (Gallon).

The defense, on the other hand, scares the hell out of me. If any of the presumed starters go down, especially in the secondary, we could be in trouble. Of course, after last year, I've curbed my optimism significantly, but I still can't help but watch these Spring practice videos over and over. I'm eager to see the Spring game, and hopefully, someone will make a nice Youtube video of it, since I live in Florida, and have to be subjected to all the Gator lore and Tim Tebow manlove.

One last thing, I'm disappointed about the bit on B. Smith. He just looks like a badass safety type, and I really hope he can stay at the position and get a shot.

markusr2007

April 6th, 2009 at 4:16 PM ^

Teaching proper pursuit angles is important in football regardless. Tackling technique? Sure, why not.

I guess I'd just like to see Michigan's defensive players attacking oncoming blockers, shedding them quickly and otherwise "exploding offensive plays" before they ever get any momentum. You know, spending a lovely autumn day in the opponent's backfield, sacking the quarterback until he's numb, and then "retiring" to the sideline for a lovely sip of Earl Grey tea and some sugar cookies.

Don

April 6th, 2009 at 4:41 PM ^

The problem is that Campbell, Roh, Lalota, Turner, Emilien, Hawthorne etc —regardless of how high they were ranked in high school—haven't had a chance to prove anything out on the field yet. We won't know anything until they've gotten in some meaningful game time.

If RR is any good at recruiting at all, you've got to be optimistic looking at the depth chart on defense. There are so many freshmen and sophomores who will have accumulated substantial PT by the end of this year that 2010 and 2011 could be great seasons.

a2bluefan

April 6th, 2009 at 4:56 PM ^

Ok, first a big dumping of April snow (after March lulled us into thinking we were done for the year), and now this depressing spring report. Ugggh...

So, I don't know what to think. I was cautious about last year, and continue to be so this year. But geez... after a year of RR et al, plus at least some amount of new talent (some of which came in early to get a jump on things), a schedule which at least on first glance looks to be a little easier, am I now supposed to believe that the best we can do out of all of this is to win only 1,2 MAYBE 3 more games?

My biggest beef about how last season transpired was that there was zero improvement as the year progressed. Some would say we even got worse as the year went along. And I guess if they're right, then that's why we are where we are.... which, from Brian's report, sounds like we are starting over AGAIN.

After having very low expectations for 2008, I now officially have NO expectations for the 2009 season. HOPE is a four-letter word.