Decimated Defense Meme Has Expired

Submitted by Steve in PA on November 1st, 2010 at 1:28 PM


No longer believing in the decimated defense theory.

*This is my first diary and is not in any way meant to disparage the excellent work done by Misopogon and others on this board. It's more of a way to examine my own sanity and perceptions while doing anything but work on a Monday morning.  It's also not proofread for the Grammar Nazis.


We all have believed that our defensive woes can be blamed on an empty cupboard in varying degrees. Some entirely Lloyd leaving nothing  and others just considered that a small factor for what has become an awful defense. I was in the camp that said Michigan just doesn't have the players and it is a function of depth or lack of it. That all changed this past weekend when I saw first hand how bad this defense is playing.

Saturday night I had officially fallen off the RR bus and no longer believed in him as a head coach. Instead I now thought of him as a great offensive coordinator, but completely out of his league as a head coach in the Big Ten. To me he was the college equivalent of Norv Turner or the Run & Shoot.

Yesterday, while still fuming, I thought about ways I could identify if this was my raw emotions or if there is some statistical basis for my change of heart. As a fan of Peter Drucker I have always thought that one must be able to document any outcomes so I set about looking at the recent history of the Michigan Wolverine defense. What statistics would be relavant to show that I am either being a completely irrational fan or thinking logically.

I settled on 5 defensive statistics that are readily available in a boxscore that I don't think would be affected by a quick scoring offense such as ours. They are: 3rd down efficiency, Pass Completion Percentage, Yards/Completion, Yards/Rush, and turnovers. After settling on them I pulled stats from 2008 to present. What I found tells me that this defense right now is WORSE than last year's unit with those statistics. In some ways it is even worse than the “decimated defense” of 2008. Right now the stats are even weighted more to the cupcake portion of our schedule and we haven't even gotten to Wisconsin or Ohio State.

And now the stats...

3rd down efficiency tells us how often, if ever we are able to get our opponent to punt, try for a field goal, or go for it on 4th down.  Essentially this is the “win” down. Win and the offense gets on the field for Denard and Co. to work their magic.


Two years ago on 3rd down our opponents only converted a bit over 1/3 of their opportunities (39%) this year that is up to a 44% rate and I strongly suspect after we finish the Big Ten schedule it will be almost 50%.

Some aspect of this defense would have to improve, right? I mean Lloyd left RR an empty cupboard and he's had time to bring in his recruits and a coordinator that fits his scheme. How are they gashing this defense? Is it run or is it pass?




Looks the correct answer to that question is...both. The Chappell-bombing wasn't a fluke. We've only held one opponent under 60% completion percentage all year and that was the Medivac unit known as Notre Dame. 

It is in the above 3 graphs that we see the only improvement over last year's bad defense. We're back to allowing under 4 yards per carry for our opponents. Still higher than the "decimated defense" that Lloyd left which allowed a whopping 3.5 yards per carry (sarcasm).

If all else fails, get the ball more than your opponent. Cause some turnovers and Denard can score us points. That's what I understand GERG teaches instead of tackling.  

Well, that's not working out so good either.



Now that I have actually looked at the numbers since RR arrived in Ann Arbor, I can be confident that I'm not being a complete Emo in thinking this just isn't working. I wasn't excited by the hiring of GERG and have been on record with that even before his first game.

Am I calling for RR to be But I'm also not defending him anymore. We've become the college equivalent of a Norv Turner coached football team.  I have complete faith that Dave Brandon will do the right thing to restore this program, whether it includes RR or not remains to be seen. 



November 1st, 2010 at 1:33 PM ^

The simple fact is that defense has continues to be decimated under Rodriguez. The inability to motivate Turner or Cissoko, find a place for Smith or Emilien or Chambers, or gain faith from Donovan Warren - THAT's the attrition that's killing us.


November 1st, 2010 at 1:42 PM ^

Transfers, injuries, people leaving for the NFL, bad coaches.  All those things happen.  Yet they seem to constantly happen to RR.  Not one or two but a steady stream of everything that could go wrong, going wrong on defense.  There has to be some cause beyond Angry Michigan Hating God being hyperactive this season.  


November 1st, 2010 at 3:39 PM ^

I agree with this, but seriously, failing to motivate Cissoko Chitown?  Guy is headed to prison because of about 15 bad decisions I can think of - hard to blame a football coach for that flameout.


November 1st, 2010 at 6:46 PM ^

offering borderline academic kids at crucial positions that can't get in. I'm a believer in the offensive scheme working in the Big 10, especially with a Barwised-out Hopkins or Dee Hart, but Rodriguez should come in for some blame at this point and be pressured to change the defensive coordinator and possibly more. I am going to tell my "Bo generation" old man the Gary Moeller-as-DC rumor just to get him off my case after I've spent three years of preaching spread offense dreams.


November 1st, 2010 at 1:45 PM ^

find a place for Smith or Emilien or Chambers

Where is a good place for a slow safety? A LB that doesn't want to play anythign but safety? A LB that doesn't want to play anything but safety for a team very close to a girlfriend?

Ask Rutgers what they would do with such a player?  Or SWMSU or wherever Chambers ended up.  Some guys are just not cut out to do in life what there talent would suggest that they do.  It is very unfortunate that we ended up with lots of these all at the end/beginning of a coaching stint.

The Meme is really over when the guys recruited by RR and coached by his staff are worthless past the point where they would be counted on to contribute under normal circumstances. That would be in their RSsoph / Jr year.


November 1st, 2010 at 2:29 PM ^

There's something to this. Having the ability to coddle (for lack of a better word) 4-5 star talent comes with the territory when you coach at a place like Michigan. RichRod has failed miserabley at this so far (Warren, Cissoko, Campbell, Turner, Vlad). I mean, honestly, I'd venture to guess that most players in the Rivals 100 have a bit of an ego, and many of them show up to campus not working as hard as their teammates because they think they're the man. It's kind of hard not to when you're 17 years old and guys like Sam Webb and Allen Trieu are sniffing your jock on a day to day basis. Yeah, you want players who "play like their hair is on fire", but you can't do that at the expense of scaring away talented players.


November 1st, 2010 at 3:30 PM ^

There might be a tiny bit of something to your idea.  But ...

Are you seriously suggesting that BooBoo went off the deep end because of Rodriguez?  That seems possible based on my first reading.

How much of Campbell's lack of impact do you think can be attributing to a lack of "coddling" by Rodriguez?

Did you see Roundtree run away from Vlad in the spring game?

What evidence do you have to suggest that Warren left because Rodriguez "handled him poorly?"  Seems to me he split because he saw potential NFL riches ...

Turner is the only vaguely interesting case in there.  I think you're seriously off-base.


November 1st, 2010 at 3:39 PM ^

would never have had a problem with attrition, no sir!  He was awesome!



Oh, wait.  "Those Who Stay Will Be Champions" came from all the players quitting in 1969 because Bo worked them too hard.  Obviously he was a terrible coach who was far too mean to his players.


November 1st, 2010 at 1:36 PM ^

Its obvious that the defense is worst than last year.  We don't need stats to prove it.  We need only look at personnel:

Gone:  Warren, Woolfolk, Graham, Brown.  Probably the 4 best defenders from 2009.

Injured:  Martin.  Make that 5.

Your point seems to be that the "decimated defense meme" should have run its course, but it applies to 2010 more than ever.  The defense is where the offense was in 2008.


November 1st, 2010 at 3:29 PM ^

The defense is where the offense was in 2008.

You could have made this analogy in September, but not now.  Our 2008 offense made strides, at least in the running game.  At the beginning of the season we couldn't run on anyone; by season's end we had become competent enough on the ground that our season YPC was about the same as it was in 2007.  Where is the defensive improvement this year?  If anything, we're seeing regression.


November 1st, 2010 at 5:38 PM ^

I'm not talking about the development over the duration of the season. I'm talking about the youth ('08 OL was like our '10 secondary), I'm talking about walk-on's starting, I'm talking about an embarrasing and historically unheard of ineptitude.  You can talk about YPC if you want, but Sheridan and Threet were a comedy of errors and the OL was the worst in modern Michigan history. YPA was a joke.  We'll always have Minnesota to remember fondly, but there was 14 points at Northwestern and 7 at Ohio State to end the season...

If we want to talk regression, 17-46 and 10-35 were the scores against Penn State the last two seasons.  I won't pretend like 41-31 against a down PSU squad is progress, but if its a regression, its not that big of one.

The difference, IMO, is that RR had a clear vision for the offense.  Not sure the same can be said for the defense right now.


November 1st, 2010 at 1:38 PM ^

Norv Turner's defenses relative to NFL defenses are way more competitive than our defense compared to other college defenses. The chargers went 13-3 last year after starting 2-3. They're 3-5 now but can easily finish 9-7 or so if they pick it up like they did last year.


November 1st, 2010 at 1:42 PM ^

"I mean Lloyd left RR an empty cupboard and he's had time to bring in his recruits and a coordinator that fits his scheme."

Yes, he's had time to find a competent coordinator.  No, his recruits from his first full class are 2nd-year guys (redshirt freshmen in an ideal world, true sophomores in this one).


November 1st, 2010 at 1:48 PM ^

What negative could come of it?  At the very least he's going to be fired at the end of the season and if whoever fills in at interim can somehow manage to figure out WTF is going on we might be able to get a win or two.  If not, well, it's not like it could be worse and it's not like GERG is that big a recruiter anyway so why are we wasting our time keeping him around for the next 4 weeks?  Can him and give someone else a shot...  Sh!t, that might even force RR to actually care about the D and see if he's got any ideas rather than pulling that hands-off BS he's been practicing for 3 years (or more if you go back to WVU).


1) Fire GERG - get better - RR saves his job

2) Keep GERG - GERG gets fired, RR possibly/probably fired

3) Fire GERG - just as bad on D, RR possibly/probably fired


There's no advantage to keeping him on staff at this point...

Six Zero

November 1st, 2010 at 2:01 PM ^

If they were to fire Gerg at the end of the season, how much say would Rich have in the matter, and how much would be Brandon's?  I know I know, typically it'd be the head coach's decision, but at this point I think I trust the AD more to put the best possible team on the field...


November 1st, 2010 at 2:18 PM ^

But this is not the pros, where coach is generally a supplicant in personnel/hiring matters to a GM. If Brandon is going to hire the DC, why stop there? Does he guarentee a scholarship to his long torsoed 4.9 40 running safety nephew? If Brandon has a major say in this hire than he should be hiring a head coach, not a cooridnator.


November 1st, 2010 at 2:12 PM ^

I only have faith that Dave Brandon will do whatever he can to make bucket loads of money from the football program.  This is not meant as a value judgement and, obviously, that will mean making sure the team wins a lot.

However don't trick yourself into thinking that he wants the team to do well b/c he loves University of Michigan football and all its traditions.


November 1st, 2010 at 4:58 PM ^

I never said he doesn't want the team to win. In fact, winning brings in money to the entire department, so yeah, he REALLY wants to win.  But I think it's foolish to think that he's more than just a businessman doing a job. His unwillingness to publicly campaign for UM and OSU to be in the same division (or even with a guaranteed lat game of the season) is enough evidence for me.


November 1st, 2010 at 5:08 PM ^


I should have been more clear. The money he wants to make from the football program is for the University. However, the rest of your response it simply naive.  There are tons of reasons for a CEO of a shitty pizza chain to take the Michigan AD job: Arrogance, boredom, seeking a new challenge, etc.  Or in DB's case, the chance to make a name for himself in a more publicly scrutinized  position in the state than he had. The man still has political aspirations to a major office.  But regardless, he's now here, first and foremost, to make money for the University from its athletic dept. And if that means, say.... selling out the greatest rivalry on sports... then thats what it means.

Fuzzy Dunlop

November 1st, 2010 at 5:10 PM ^

And if he's interested in making a name for himself in a publicly scrutinized position, you think he can accomplish that without, first and foremost, bringing success to Michigan's football team?  You think that the worst thing for his political aspirations wouldn't be for Michigan football to fail under his stewardship? 

Now who's being naive, Kay?

Steve in PA

November 1st, 2010 at 2:22 PM ^

"I feel like if anything your stats support the Decimated Defense theory."

How is that?  The best defenses we've had were built with the "junk" that was left in the cupboards after Lloyd left.  Every single metric I looked at is WORSE now than RR's first season.

The Decimated Defense theory said that Lloyd left RR nothing to work with.  If that's the case after 2 recruiting classes the defense should be improving.  Plain and simple, it isn't and all we have is hope that it will be better next year based only on the fact that these kids will be better when they are a year older.


November 1st, 2010 at 5:10 PM ^



Remember this?

I didn't say Lloyd left nothing for RR to work with. I said he recruited like Penn State, which is kind of fine if nothing ever upsets the machine and your scouting abilities are unparalleled, and that RR had attrition like early Bo, which is fine if you're going to recruit like Nick Saban, but that both will kill you.

It was never meant as a vindication of Rodriguez. It wasn't even a theory. DD was supposed to say "here's what happened to our defense."

I didn't give RR as much guff for bad DB recruiting at the time, because at the time Justin Turner was redshirting only because he arrived late, and Vlad was recovering from the knee thing, and there were like 8 cornerbacks and deep safeties leaning toward Michigan that we figured there's no reason to worry about Lo Wood at ND cause - hey - we've got maybe one of Keenan Allen or Josh Shaw or Tony Jefferson plus Cullen Christian, Dior Mathis, Sean Parker, Tony Grimes, and maybe Demar Dorsey or Rashad Knight. Who knew he'd whiff on all but Cullen. By that point, RR hadn't lost Vlad, Turner, or Warren. Woolfolk's ankle was fine.

Plus, I admit, I figured Denard would be redshirting right now to become a really really good cornerback.

Lloyd's big mistake was not being able to parlay the 2006 season into a big recruiting class. There were big scouting problems, which might have contributed to guys transferring later. For example, James Rogers got a camp offer after wowing Michigan's coaches against a top CB recruit of the time. U-M offered Rogers and thought they'd found a major sleeper, and didn't offer the CB. Turns out, neither of them were that good. It seems to me that a knowledgeable staff can figure this kind of stuff out earlier. At safety, seemingly everyone but Michigan knew that Jonas Mouton was a linebacker, Brandon Smith was a tweener, Stevie Brown was raw, and Artis Chambers was a basketball player.

At CB he got just Donovan Warren when he needed at least four safeties and cornerbacks. Mike Williams was in that class, but he proved useless. Troy Woolfolk was a legacy -- Butch did that recruiting. CB was not recruited well.

At linebacker he nabbed Panter (JUCO), Evans (2-star) and Herron (a DE). This is when the underclass LBs were Brandon Graham, Cobrani Mixon, Brandon Logan, and Obi Ezeh. Graham was already DE-bound, Logan was already useless, Mixon was already transferring, and Obi was already Obi. LB was not recruited well.

As for Rich Rod, recruiting-wise, he has been excellent at finding his guys for offense, scouting the right players, and convincing them to come play for him. Getting Shaw and Rountree at the last minute looks brilliant now; they're the best at deep positions. But defensively, RR hasn't done this at all. Rich Rod's defensive recruiting could be a result of all of that losing, but he made the same mistakes that Lloyd did, only amplified. Look at the depth chart, then look at 2009 recruiting, when for the desperate OMIGOD HELP positions of CB1, CB2 and FS RR got...Justin Turner. Rodriguez also took a gamble that Emilien could come back from injury (he couldn't). Other than that, he might have only gone after Witty to get Denard Robinson. 2009 was a deep year for cornerbacks, and we've got none of them.

For recruiting blame on Rodriguez, look at his priorities in 2008. Defensively, he added Taylor Hill, who got to campus, took a look around, and left. Other than that, RR trusted Lloyd's recruiting and did what he could to keep them. Offensively, in a month in a half RR built a pipeline to Pahokee with Odoms, fended off Cal and others for McGuffie, dug up Omameh and Barnum while adding them to an already good-looking offensive line class (Khoury, O'Neill, Wermers, Mealer), picked off Terrence Robinson, unearthed Feagin from who-knows-where, and coaxed Shaw and Roundtree to decommit from Penn State and Purdue, respectively, all while chasing the No. 1 recruit in the country around trying to get him to play quaterback. Those who say RR didn't have time to recruit in 2008 are forgetting that the man got his 2010 starting RB, half of his receiver corps, and added a sleeper offensive lineman who's now a starter, and another 4-star who ended up being better than four highly rated guys already in the class.

And no defense.

For defense, RR hired Shafer then gave him assistants who didn't get along with him, then fired Shafer and hired Robinson, then gave him a system he doesn't understand. There's a ton of culpability for the defense on Rich Rod. He can talk all he wants to about the true freshmen cornerbacks, because he's right that they're true freshmen cornerbacks. But why is Jonas Mouton still playing like a freshman? Why did a defensive line that was so deep when he got here become severely lacking any depth? Why is there an embarrassment of riches at slot receiver and guard while the only defensive back from '08-'09 is a converted wide receiver who should be a linebacker?

That was all in the DD series, and it's still part of the story today.

Lloyd Carr got sloppy with recruiting late in his career, especially in '07 and '08, expecting whichever hotshot coach who followed him would be able to hang on and mold all of these projects into the next great Michigan thing (I sincerely believe Lloyd thought he left the school in good shape -- he also thought DeBord should be an HC candidate).

Rich Rod, on the other hand, is an extremely, almost ludicrously good scout, recruiter and schemer for offense. He wins tough battles for offensive recruits, and does an unbelievable job of finding the kinds of guys who will succeed for him. He invented the best current offense in football, and has a group of sophomores putting out a Top 5 offense in Year Three when he was left a perilous offensive line situation. Defensively, RR has done little to show he can recruit any better than the Michigan coach who thought Chris Richards, Johnny Sears and Brandon Harrison would fill a gaping need at cornerback. He certainly has culpability for this defense.

Steve in PA

November 1st, 2010 at 11:05 PM ^

So, he sounds more like an offensive coordinator than a head coach.  There's nothing wrong with acknowledging that.  I explain to people all the time that promoting the person best at their job (sales/technical/etc) doesn't necessarily mean they will be great or even good in a position of leadership.  It's a different "toolkit" that is required to be successful.

I was certainly not picking a fight.  My contention is that the defense is getting worse, not better in RR's 3rd year.  Heck, even an incrimental improvement would have kept me on the "kids are too young" justification.  Last year's freshmen are this year's sophomores and we're playing worse.

Which is easier to learn offense or defense?  I've always been taught that defense is easier to learn, yet the freshment and sophomores on the offensive side of the ball seem to be doing just fine.

I'm not calling for RR's head either, but at this point if DB pulls the trigger I won't be too upset.  I'm done making excuses and justifications for losses.  It is what it is and on Saturday I'll be sitting on my couch rooting for the only team I've ever loved.


November 2nd, 2010 at 7:02 AM ^

I think Rod also has to take some blame in the departures of Turner, Vlad, Warren, Lalota, Smith, Chambers, Hill etc. He should be the one advising his players of what the should be doing. Remember Rod is more than coach to the players, he is like a mentor - someone they can go and ask for help or guidance. If these players didn't have a serious talk to Rod before they left the programme then I am concerned. Surely, Rod should've advised these players that they did have an opportunity for large amount of playing time?


November 1st, 2010 at 2:26 PM ^

Thanks for the charts (not being sarcastic), it helps put visualize the ineptitude of our defense.  You missed the point of the "Decimated Defense" series though.  Our defense sucks b/c there is a giant hole from the recruiting classes of 2006 and 2007.  Those classes would be true seniors/redshirt juniors (2007) or redshirt seniors (2006).  We are still playing too many underclassmen, and we are playing more underclassmen this year than we did last year.

Blue boy johnson

November 1st, 2010 at 2:50 PM ^

Finish the argument, leave no second guessing. I want RR back for a 4th season, I think he warrants the opportunity and I don't see much good starting over after this season. If we have to fire RR after next season, at least the new HC would be walking into a situation where he/she could compete from day one.

I am as disheartened as many of you, but I feel for RR, Gerg, all the players and staff at the same time. I want everybody back, I think potentially it is the best move, and it is the right thing to do. I think you give a guy with RR's reputation a minimum of 4 years. If it doesn't work out by next season then it doesn't work out, but I think the coach and all the players who have bought into the program deserve another go round.


November 1st, 2010 at 3:34 PM ^

Of course the players deserve another year; the university made them a pledge to honor their scholarships.  The coaches are another story.  They're not charity cases.  They are extremely well-paid (even the position coaches earn six figures) to field a successful team.  In three years, their team has gone 2-6, 1-7 and now 1-3 in conference play.  That's a bad mark for anyone, much less one at the winningest program in history.  If things don't get better over the next four games, they don't deserve another year. 

Blue boy johnson

November 1st, 2010 at 6:07 PM ^

From my perspective RR should get a 4th year, though he may not "deserve" it. I think he should get a minimum of 4 years and we have yet to reach the minimum. He is going to get paid anyway so lets make him earn the money rather than making him a charity case.

Most M fans have reached their breaking point with this staff, I am not there yet, I see indications of RR putting things in place. Recall RR was brought in to build a program, and 3 years is not an sufficient amount of time to draw final conclusions. I am not certain things will be better next year but I want to find out. I know I am in the minority here, at least I think I am.

As far as the next 4 games, I don't expect things to get better, but that doesn't mean we won't squeeze out a victory or 2, the fickle finger of football fate may shine brightly on the maize and blue dobbers.


November 1st, 2010 at 5:50 PM ^

Sure, the DD meme can expire.  It will happen when people stop bitching and the response isn't needed.  Until then, it is in full force.