Decimated Defense: Post-Purdue Update

Submitted by Seth on November 10th, 2009 at 8:01 AM

After achieving my life-long goal of getting linked to by Dr. Saturday, I did a little updating this morning of the first in the acclaimed "The Decimated Defense" posts.

This mgoboard (mysteriously  bumped to a diary) post is so loyal MGoBlog readers can get all the new goodies without re-reading the thing. The first noticeable difference: a Defensive Depth Chart, which looks like this:




NFL All-World Guy

Young Beast

Solid Guy


True Freshman Blue Chip or Serviceable backup guy

Old-guy bust who's kind of serviceable now







Former Infinite Safety Disaster, now above-average tweener guy 4086564528_d4aaa459a1_o Young guy who's progressing but prone to massive young-guy mistakes True freshman wunderkind who is still a true freshman
4086564528_d4aaa459a1_o Long-time judgment-impaired starter who projected to possible Butkus Watch List but instead regressed and lost job to a walk-on Nuclear missile equally likely to strike his own territory as his enemy's Kind of this 3-star red shirt soph who plays exactly like that






NFL-ready junior guy



Current Infinite Safety Disaster, who is worse than the walk-on

Legacy who is halfway decent and was our FS until a few weeks ago

Dust mite true freshman who was a running back until a few weeks ago



True freshman recovering from knee surgery who can't be that great if he hasn't seen the field

Red shirt freshman with clear talent deficiency to be serviceable

( Where 4086564528_d4aaa459a1_o= Walk-on)

There's also a part at the end that uses the 2008 linebacker and DB disasters as a microcosm of the greater problem, which reads as follows:

The 2008 linebacker and DB hauls are a perfect microcosm of Michigan's bigger problems.

Linebacker: At a position that had zero depth left over from previous classes, we brought in four 4-star players: Marcus Witherspoon, Taylor Hill, J.B. Fitzgerald, and Kenny Demens.

Of those, Witherspoon and Hill were lost immediately to attrition. One (Fitzgerald) is on track to be a long-term contributor. One (Demens) seems to be a bust. In this case, Michigan fulfilled its recruitment needs, but was hit by double the expected attrition. Result: one serviceable player when we needed at least two.

Defensive back: At a position that had zero depth left over from pervious classes, we brought in two 4-stars (Brandon Smith and Boubacar Cissoko) and one flier (J.T. Floyd). As with Mouton, Smith was immediately deemed a linebacker, and this was a known likelihood during the recruitment period, so really we brought in just a 4-star and a flier. The 4-star looked to be a bit behind track for his rating, until he got himself kicked off the team. The flier, as was the expected result, was not useful. Result: zero serviceable players when we needed at least two or three.

Linebacker is a clear-cut case of decimation due to attrition. Defensive back is a clear-cut case of decimation due to under-recruiting. Both of these factors have ravaged each class from 2005 to 2008. Along the way, there were some serviceable players picked up, but we are still generally two serviceable players short of the Michigan norm at several linebacker positions and all four defesnive backfield positions, i.e. we are at least 12 good, useful, on-the-roster players away from a normal Michigan defense. That is HUGE!!!

I also updated the charts a bit to reflect the Purdue depth chart changes. That is all.



November 8th, 2009 at 12:38 PM ^

Wow! Thank you for posting this. Makes a lot of sense and helps explain what we see on the field each Saturday.

How long do you think it might take to make up for the deficiency?


November 8th, 2009 at 1:00 PM ^

Predicting an end to the defensive entropy is like predicting when the recession will end. We've identified only the factors that led us to the current state of affairs, but how fast we "come back" matters on a lot of factors.

I predict that our retention rates will rise to somewhere closer to 75 percent. Our recruiting is more difficult to be optimistic about because we're likely looking at two bowl-less seasons hanging around our necks.

If retention and recruiting rose to, say, Ohio State levels starting right now, Michigan would have a respectable defense by 2011, and an excellent defense by 2013 (when the 2010 crew are upperclassmen). But how likely is that, really? Retention rates for Ohio State are only so high because they redshirt a lot of guys, which is a reflection on past depth.

A more likely scenario would be for Michigan to have kind of a Michigan State-like recruiting except with a few more 4-stars per year, a normalization of retention rates, and defenses in the lowish middle of the Big Ten for the foreseeable future.

Michigan wins a lot of games 35-24, winning and losing based on how well the offense clicks.

That seems to jive with past Rich-Rod teams. Great defenses, more so than schematically dependent offenses, are built on great talent, which is built on extraordinary success.

Willie Heston

November 8th, 2009 at 1:09 PM ^

Actually it makes too much sense as it is a proper use of logic and rational thought.

According to Lynne Henning the "cupboard is bare" meme is pure baloney. Of course, no reasoned counterpoint argument is presented to support this statement. I suppose there is no need for analytical reasoning if your goal is get others worked up to get hits in a lame attempt to save a dying news medium and hence your job.

Thank you for your excellent work Misopogon--sure explains a lot.

I cant fathom how hard this season must be on this team (coaches and players alike)--they deserve our full support.


November 8th, 2009 at 1:45 PM ^

You left out the part about "no excuses" and how Hopson and GERG are obviously to blame for the defense's lack of success.

Great work as always. I would also add that looking at the freshman and sophomore classes right now, there is reason to have hope. The d-line seems to have discovered three long-time starters and there are more freshmen (a number of whom have significant star power) at linebacker and DB than in the other three classes combined. If recruiting/attrition just aren't a disaster going forward (meaning we add to these numbers a little over the next few years), the defense has a chance to be pretty good in 2011 and can't be any worse.


November 8th, 2009 at 2:01 PM ^

Did anyone read his comments? It was something like...guys are working on things on Monday...BUT we forget how to cover at game time...not sure where everyone is supposed to go...etc.

Man, I'd hope a player would keep that opinion to himself. I think we see it on the field, but still it doesn't look good in print now or for future recruits.

The blown play yesterday wasn't his fault. Kovacs had the deep zone and just plain old missed the guy running down the sideline because he was looking straight up field. Can't blame him that much for that as he is a walk-on RS Fr starting what his 6th game.

I'd love to have guys like Marcus Ray and Ernest Shazor back really bad!


November 8th, 2009 at 8:31 PM ^

It puts an exclamation point on the big problem being execution. The question consistently asked is whether it's the coaches. Woolfolk's comment makes the case that it's not the coaches -- it's the youth or lack of experience/talent of the D that isn't executing on Saturday. And, oh by the way, it's the same 4-5 guys every week.

That could be a HUGE benefit to recruiting if accurate. "Hey (insert talented youngster here), I'm here to tell you can play, maybe as a starter, next September. Come in and prove you're the man and it's yours."

The offense is on the brink of being the juggernaut RR is used to -- and it will be better than WVU because he'll multiple QB options (assuming DG is as advertised). The D has to be only average for this team to win the Big Ten then (though truth be told I could not care less about the conferenece -- I want it all).

West Texas Blue

November 8th, 2009 at 1:50 PM ^

2013 for timeline for excellent D? Yeah, that's what I figured; one full recruiting cycle to rebuild D. Problem is, will Rich Rod make it to 2013? It will be tough. Also the timeline is making an assumption that our players on D are developed properly by our current positional coaches, in which I have serious misgivings on Hopson and Gibson.


November 8th, 2009 at 1:56 PM ^

That MLB for ND looks great. A true frosh starting and moving around in space. Watched the end of the ND-Navy game yesterday. Great to see ND lose, but I think that guy is going to be a terror for years.

Now, if we can get one of those kind of guys, that helps one of our weakest spots (inside LB). Sadly, Safeties rarely are ready to play as true frosh.

If we could field even a half-way decent D next year (20-24 pts a game), then we should win 8 games unless something goes south with the offense.


November 8th, 2009 at 3:32 PM ^

LB's...if they go to a midwest power school, its usually PSU, OSU or ND.....don't know why it is, but that's the case...our best recently have been underrated 3 stars like David Harris or converted fast RB/athletes that are 6 feet 210-220 like Ian Gold and Dhani Jones (he was not an RB...). But the point is that for some reason we are not strong looked on paper like we have brought in 4 star LB's that would help the cause, but Misopogon has outlined what has happened recently with those recruits... Unfortunately I don't see it improving much as RR is known for his O, not we have our work cut out for us to play up the early playing time angle. Our challenge is this though...if you are a stud LB, do you go to LB U? OSU or Jon Tenuta's D? ND's D is horrible as well, so they are the big name program we fight toe to toe with but have suspect D's. PSU and OSU are in a different class right now.... Either way we need to stock the cupboard again with 3 and 4 stars and find some capable guys in there. Tony Jefferson, Furman and Olyanian (sp?) would be incredible pick ups for us at this point in time....


November 8th, 2009 at 4:13 PM ^

Thanks again, More good info. I tell you what, reading this series makes me really tempted to retract (temporarily) my past anti-Saban over recruiting comments and wish for us to sign like 30 guys this year.


November 8th, 2009 at 9:02 PM ^

Is there really any hope for things to get better? I know we've been over this a million times, we know we are goiung to Lose Graham and perhaps Warren, but if Big Will can emerge, and Martin keeps improving, do you think the improved play on the inside could openb things up for Roh and RVB on the outside, giving the secondary a little bit more of a cushion than thye are getting now? I'm praying (Please, please, angry Football God, we've felt your wrath and endured much pain...) that Campbell and Turner can step up, and that would move Woolfolk back to Safety, and help a little bit with the depth in the secondary. Also has anyone heard anything about how Lalotta is doing? Perhaps if he comes along then maybe he could add some depth to the D line, or fill the stand up spot Roh has been playing this year. Just grasping for anything positive when It comes to the defense, guys.


November 8th, 2009 at 9:30 PM ^

Great post.

Along the same lines, I've been wondering if anyone has compiled a list or a graph comparing the total experience of the starters (or two deep could be done as well). i.e. With Michigan's defense we'd have a D-line of Graham (4 yrs), Martin (2 yrs), RVB (3 yrs) and compared those to other schools. We know about the attrition and poor recruiting but it'd also be interesting to see a numerical or graphical representation of how we stack up against other schools in total years in school on defense and offense.

If Ohio State is starting guys with 3.5 years of average experience and we're starting guys with 2.5 years of experience that's a big difference and helps to explain the breakdowns we see happening when things start happening at game speed.


November 8th, 2009 at 9:48 PM ^

Although this is clearly a devastated defense, and is often painful to watch (see Saturday, when Purdue marched 88 yards exclusively using short throws to score a touchdown in the third quarter), I try really hard to see it in a somewhat positive light. There is an OBVIOUS need for talent at a number of positions, and I like to think that potential recruits can see this. They can see how good the offense will be (when we have blockers), they can see how they can fill in the defense. The availability of immediate playing time has just GOT to bring in some good recruits... or we're in even more trouble than we are now.


November 8th, 2009 at 9:55 PM ^

Here's a breakdown of the two-deep (NT is three), by class (1s/2s):

RSr 0 / 0
Sr 2 / 0
RJr 0 / 3
Jr 2 / 1
RSo 3 / 2
So 2 / 0
RFr 1 / 3
Fr 1 / 3

A few highlights:

5 of 23 (> 20%) are suicidal kittens.
8 of 23 (~ 35%) are RFr or Fr
8 of 23 (~ 35%) are upperclassmen.

RR wants to have three guys actively competing at each position. When there are 5 walk-ons in your two-deep, there's a long way to go.