Searching for something to hold on to

Submitted by Bielfeldt's Calves on October 31st, 2010 at 12:47 PM

Happy Halloween everyone.

 

So after suffering through the Michigan vs Penn State game last night, drinking until I passed out and trying to figure out how Lloyd Brady gets the great seats he does, I was forced try and find some rational reason why the Defense man, why?

 

Over the past 8 games every Michigan fan has engaged in some kind of discussion about the defense. And 9 times out of 10, if the conversation is with smart fans, ends in a comment about the youth of it. And I think we can all agree that the defense is young. But, is that really it? Isn't GERG and ultimately Rich Rod responsible for the poor play?

 

I've always been in the "youthy defense" and not the "coaches blow" camp. But after last night I finally had a few moments where I just went, "well maybe coaching..."

 

So I took to the numbers in hopes to find some solace. I remember in 2008 when we were suffering through Rich Rod's first year and the offense was horrible. I looked at the percentage of starters verse other first year coaches. What I found was that Michigan had the highest percentage of underclassman contributors. Fast forward two years and we're #2 in total offense and Denard!

 

So, I want to take a look at the Big Ten defenses and where how they rank nationally in total defense and scoring defense:

 

*quick note: all numbers are through week 10/23/2010

 

 

Team

Total

Scoring

OSU

3

9

Iowa

13

11

ILL

23

15

Wisc

25

34

PSU

31

21

MSU

32

17

Pur

63

62

NW

67

40

Ind

77

91

MN

90

100

UM

104

80

 

No surprise to anybody, Michigan ranks at the bottom of the Big Ten in total defense.

Let's look at the summary of the upperclassman vs underclassman contribution in the Big Ten:

Team

Total

Scoring

Upper Production

Under Production

OSU

3

9

70%

30%

Iowa

13

11

83%

17%

ILL

23

15

66%

34%

Wisc

25

34

72%

28%

PSU

31

21

63%

37%

MSU

32

17

58%

42%

Pur

63

62

54%

46%

NW

67

40

78%

22%

Ind

77

91

76%

24%

MN

90

100

52%

48%

UM

104

80

44%

56%

Aside from Northwestern and Indiana, which no one is going to mistaken for football schools (although NW is bowl eligible), you can't tell me that experience does not translate into success, on some level. Yes, you need talent. But your likelihood to succeed with that talent increases with the age of said talent.

Here's a look at Michigan's chart:

 

Michigan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Number

Solo

Total

Solo%

Total%

FR

9

60

104

20%

21%

SO

9

106

173

35%

35%

JR

9

38

65

13%

13%

SR

7

96

156

32%

31%

Total

 

300

498

 

 

Under

18

166

277

55%

56%

Upper

16

134

221

45%

44%

Total

 

300

498

 

 

So yeah 56% percent of Michigan's defense contribution comes from underclassmen. Three of our top five tacklers are Kovacs (SO), Floyd (SO) and Gordan (FR). And only Michigan State has more underclassmen on its roster.

I suppose you can make a recruiting argument that holds the coaches solely responsible, but even then, the talent they are ultimately responsible for is producing (SO, FR classes). So before you head for AA torch and pitchfork, look at the numbers and hope that we can beat Purdue to get the extra practices.

I have a break out of each team over at Productive Sweatpants: http://www.productivesweatpants.com/2010/10/scary-michigan-defense.html

Comments

Papochronopolis

October 31st, 2010 at 1:04 PM ^

Still nothing to hold on to...

We can keep saying youth youth youth but the question begs: where is the improvement? When is this team going to show up for critical games? Where is the gritty edge that allows undertalented and underexperienced teams to win?

Specific to last night: how did Penn state dominate the line of scrimmage when we were on offense? How does Penn state get away with running just 6 different plays the whole game? Why the he'll isn't rich rod barking at the defense more often?

Im not writing this team off but right now all I have is questions and no hope to hold on to.

PurpleStuff

October 31st, 2010 at 1:08 PM ^

Undertalented and underexperienced teams don't win.  If you know of any that do, please feel free to point them out. 

The team will improve next year and the year after that.  This is how teams develop, from year to year, not from game to game (just like our offense has the last two years). 

Then again, maybe if Rodriguez just barked at them more they would suddenly become awesome.

Papochronopolis

October 31st, 2010 at 1:21 PM ^

I will point to 2005 when a young and green Michigan team pulled one out against a Penn st team they had no business beating. And what about teams like Iowa state pulling off wins against Texas? There are actually quite a few notable upsets each year that are won by teams that have no talent and limited experience. But except for wisco 2008 Michigan hasn't even been remotely close!

I just dont understand how our execution becomes worse as the season goes on...

PurpleStuff

October 31st, 2010 at 1:32 PM ^

That 2005 team had Leon Hall, Lamar Woodley, Prescott Burgess, and David Harris as juniors.  Senior Gabe Watson and sophomore Alan Branch.  On offense they had returning starter Chad Henne (backed up by an older 4-star recruit), returning starter Mike Hart (backed up by three 4-star recruits who all rushed for over 200 yards that year), and the three leading receivers were senior Jason Avant, junior Steve Breaston, and freshman Mario Manningham.

That looks like a solid NFL team.  What did they lack in talent/experience?  And they still went 7-5.

Texas is terrible.  They are 4-4 and also lost to an awful UCLA team.  We would have a shot to beat them just like anybody else.  Sadly we don't get to play any teams like that (PSU's losses are to Iowa, Alabama, and a much better than expected Illinois team, not a bunch of patsies).

Ernis

October 31st, 2010 at 4:35 PM ^

How about a walk-on QB, utilizing a supremely obvious, predictable, and basic playbook, during his first career start, utterly and effortlessly dismantled the Michigan defense. It should be noted that although Michigan's D is young and undertalented, they are not younger than McGloin; but they are more experienced than him, and also were talented enough to earn a D1 athletic scholarship, while he was not.

bigstick

October 31st, 2010 at 2:01 PM ^

Experience is critical.  We don't have experience (regardless of who is to blame).

But experience (or lack of experience) isn't the end of the discussion (see Ezeh, Obi; and Mouton, Jonas).

Isn't the question now (and hasn't it been for some time):  What should be done about it?

Yes, recruiting.  Yes, patience (some posters treat recruits like they're NFL draft choices and should be ready to step in soon, if not immediately).  Yes, "coaching up" the players you have.  But the question I'm asking is "what should be done about it" on a week-to-week basis.

The answer is, I think, you can't coach/game plan in your "normal" way.  I think you have to be desperate about getting your defense off the field and keeping them off the field.  Brian has referred to this, in part, as "Stop Kicking the Damn Ball". 

With this defense, for whatever reason, there is no such thing as "bend but don't break".  This defense is clearly the poster child for "bend until you break".  You don't fix it, but you might be able to deal with it.  It seems to me you have to gamble regularly.  You will get burned, but you're already in the slow roaster.  Let's get it over with and move on to the next series where I'll try to create a negative play for you.

For the offense, each drive needs to be called with the same desperation to stay on the field as a fourth quarter come-from-behind effort requires.  Every first down marker becomes the goal line.  If "going heavy" is the play on third and 1 from the 1, then do the same thing at the 27 - or the 47.  If you're going straight ahead, use Hopkins, but don't use Smith unless it's a delay/draw.  Third and 8 looks different if you know you've got two plays to make it.  If the opposition is playing a position switch in his first game at CB (as PSU did), attack him (as everyone attacks our CBs).  If Denard isn't the best guy to do that, then put Tate in.  If something works, run it again until they've stopped it twice in a row.  The pass, run, pass, pass effort by Denard down 10 with under 6 minutes to go was weak, at best.  If this is what you want to do, bring Tate in.  I'd prefer that you just keep running the ball with Denard and his 7+ yds per carry.

I'm worried that our staff doesn't realize they're unable to play football as they, us, or anyone else knows it with the defense in the state it's in.  It's tennis on a 100yd court.  You have to hold serve, and then take some chances to force the other guy into making a mistake when he's serving.    

 

w2j2

October 31st, 2010 at 2:05 PM ^

IMHO, Penn State is one heck-of-a-lot better team than anyone gave them credit for.

Royster is a darn good running back, who is tough to bring down.  He reminds me of Brandon Minor. 

That freshman quarterback made a perfect throw to the end zone flag for their last touchdown in the first half.

This in no way excuses our defense, I am just saying....

dahblue

October 31st, 2010 at 2:11 PM ^

You've got plenty of numbers there, but you're kinda skipping over one big fact - this is RR's third year with the offense AND the defense.

I remember in 2008 when we were suffering through Rich Rod's first year and the offense was horrible.

Now we're suffering through RichRod's third year and the defense is still horrible.

Dallas Wolverine

October 31st, 2010 at 2:44 PM ^

After watching that defense last night its clear the panic button has been pushed. Maybe Greg needs to go to the box so he can actually see the mistakes these kids are making. I don't know is there anything the DC can do right now? I am frustrated but I will not cry uncle!

Go Blue

MileHighWolverine

October 31st, 2010 at 4:49 PM ^

We had two guys with experience that could have helped our D up and leave this season AFTER we had Woolfolk go down and were obviously looking for warm bodies to play in the secondary.  Isn't that ALL on the coaches and their style?  I mean, seriously, you can't continue to piss everyone off to the point where we have no more players.  Eventually, these guys need to give their players a break or they risk losing the whole team.

PurpleStuff

October 31st, 2010 at 4:57 PM ^

Vlad and Turner were behind all of these guys on the depth chart.  Vlad was behind Kovacs at free safety last year and behind Van Slyke this year.  His leg is busted.  He was never going to play until it got better.  All the coaches said Turner wasn't ready to play given his physical condition.  They didn't leave because Rodriguez is a big meanie.  They left because they were never going to see the field this year.  Having seen what Roundtree did to Vlad in the spring game, I'm okay with this position.

If players buried on the depth chart want to go somewhere else, there isn't much the coach can do about it.  We have plenty of freshmen and sophomores in the defensive backfield at this point (12, I guess Rodriguez didn't get the memo that he doesn't recruit defense).  The problem is we have one healthy upperclassmen (one for five positions) and he isn't terribly good.

Doctor Wolverine

October 31st, 2010 at 10:04 PM ^

1) Make a bowl game

2) Win a bowl game

3) Beat the nutbucks

4) Land some more high caliber recruits (and keep them here)

5) Beat Wiscy

6) Get Denard to the Heisman ceremony (as a finalist, obviously not much shot at winning at this point)

7) Show noticeable improvement on defense over the rest of the season.