Is Shafer gone, and if so, what is the effect on recruiting?

Submitted by undies22 on November 3rd, 2008 at 1:23 PM

Its natural to question the man’s job security given worst defense in school history, etc. But to hear RR come right out and say that they’ve switched to the 3-3-5 stack for the rest of the year, I think you have to put the odds at Shafer returning at 25-30%. Shaf was questioned repeatedly about running that defense in the off season, and he consistently maintained that it would be incorporated because his defense would be multiple, but that he was a 4-3 base defense guy. RR handed the defense over to Shaf, but its obvious from the changing schemes and now RR’s comments, he has felt the need to step in an exert control.

To steal a point from Steve Deace who posted this at GBW, while RR hired Shaf from the outside and gave him a ton of autonomy, Shaf didn’t make a single hire for his own staff. He concludes that the result is that the defensive performance has widened the rifts between philosophical differences in the staff. He further concludes that Shaf has made concessions to those coaches calling for change by incorporating more of their ideas, but this has turned the defense into a grab bag as opposed to one with an identity which goes multiple to keep offenses on their toes.

I personally believe that the basis for the Shafer hire was sound, and one horrific season doesn’t make him a bad coach. His track record as laid out in detail by Brian is that yr 2 under Shaf brings the results he is looking for (more sacks, more Tos). IMO his resume should buy him another season, one in which RR and the other defensive coaches fully commit to his system or are replaced (the assistants, not RR).

But based on RR’s comments I don’t think that is happening. I’m not a coach, but I don’t think anyone would argue that our best defensive players go Graham, Jamison, Taylor in some order, with Johnson and Martin filling in two of spaces in the top 7. Based on offensive personal, the defense is probably going to need to play 5 defensive backs at least half the time. (Que broken record) would you rather take out one of our 5 defensive lineman to get Bobo or Williams on the field, or do you take out a Thompson or even Ezeh? On the surface it appears that going with the 3-3-5 stack from here on out is a build for the future concession, not something that is going to help us now.

A future I think its safe to assume would not include Shafer. Which brings me to this question, what effect does the scheme change move have on recruiting? I don’t think Shaf was any sort of a gangbusters recruiter, but if you’re a DL or DE, wouldn’t you much prefer to play the 4-3? There is one extra position so more PT. And is a guy Campbell going to want to play the nose in a 3-4, and play behind Martin? Or would he rather line up next to Martin and go after the QB while the OL tries to figure out who to double? Ditto for Jones who was already shaky. How are Roh and Lolota going to feel about fighting through more consistent doubles, while fleet Lbs race around them to pick up sacks?

And what about the Lbs and Dbs we’re going to need? Right now most of our LB recruits look to be playing somewhere between 225-235 in college. Not that our starters now are having a lot of success with this, but how many of those guys are ever going to be ready to stand up MSU pulling guards or Wisky Fbs in the hole? Now we’re going to need more Dbs. M isn’t exactly lighting it up with Turner, Gordon, and maybe Peace in the fold.

If Shaf goes it is yet another hit and negative pub against M. Maybe that doesn’t matter in the blizzard of bad pub already out there, who knows. I think it is safe to say that the move will hurt recruiting because everyone is being sold on one system, and now we’re changing. And even if it doesn’t, based on current players/recruits I don’t think UM is suited for the 3-3-5 scheme.



November 3rd, 2008 at 1:40 PM ^

Going to the 3-3-5 was a knee-jerk reaction by RR becuase of the debocle we've been on the field. It makes no sense to go to the 3-3-5 after 4 days of practice and not expect 500 yards to get rolled up on you. I think RR panic'd and had Shafer make the move. If I was Shafer, I would not return next year if I did not have some control over my staff and 100% control of the defense I was going to field. Ohio State is going to go 3TEs and run for 400 yards against a 3-3-5; this is not the Big East.

As far as recruiting goes, I think Campbell would be great in an odd line becuase he's a big clogging DT that blows up the middle of that line and that's what you need with a 3 man line, whether it's a 3/4 or a 3-3-5.

If we stay with the 3-3-5, we won't sniff another win this year because you don't implement a new scheme 9 games into the season. If RR wants to work on it for next year, that's his call.


November 3rd, 2008 at 2:02 PM ^

Well said,  The 3-3-5, and I'm not speaking authoritatively on this, is the defensive equivalent of running the triple option.  You provide a unique enough problem to the opposing offense such that they have to devote extra practice time to deal with it.


Anecdotally, my freshman year of undergrad our defense ran a similar system and two of the linebackers made the vast majority of tackles for the defense.  The DL's and DB's weren't even close.  We went 1-10 that year.


November 3rd, 2008 at 4:16 PM ^

Both Brian and Gsimmons have posted on the 3-3-5.  It can work in the Big Ten.  When you say "This isn't the Big East", that's outdated thinking.  Everyone's concern with the 3-3-5 is the power running game, but only a few teams in the Big Ten base their offense in the power run game (MSU, Wisconsin, maybe Iowa).  The majority of the conference runs some form of the spread.  The 3-3-5 can be like a 3-4 defense, but instead of big, fast outside linebackers a la Demarcus Ware and Terrell Suggs, you have strong safeties like Brandon Smith and Mike Jones (just assumptions with those names).  With a three-man defensive line, the purpose of the defensive linemen is to occupy the offensive linemen and let the second level make the tackles and/or blitz.  Several of the best run-stopping teams in the NFL have had base 3-4 looks.  The purpose of the defensive linemen is not to "blow up" the middle of the offensive line; it's to occupy blockers and let the linebackers flow to the ball.

The 3-3-5 can work.  But it requires the right personnel and the right coaching.  Obviously, Michigan still needs one or the other...or both.


November 3rd, 2008 at 6:48 PM ^

PPG (rank)

2007         2008

Michigan 20.3 (#23) 30.9 (#97)

Stanford 28.3 (#69) 23.6 (#56)

Louisville 31.4 (#94) 23.9 (#58)


YPG (rank)

2007         2008

Michigan 330.4 (#25) 393.6 (#91)

Stanford 435.5 (#98) 366.4 (#70)

Louisville 416.5 (#85) 316.5 (#36)


Passing YPG (rank)

2007         2008

Michigan 179.7 (#7) 252.6 (#102)

Stanford 266.2 (#108) 259.9 (#106)

Louisville 251.2 (#89) 224.9 (#80)


Rushing YPG (rank)

2007         2008

Michigan 150.75 (#57) 141 (#65)

Stanford 169.3 (#78) 106.56 (#21)

Louisville 165.3 (#72) 91.63 (#9)


November 3rd, 2008 at 8:50 PM ^

I spent some time around the Mountaineers and if you watch their 3-3-5, it's not really what you think. The 5 DB's are actually more like 3 DB's with 2 LB/DB hybrids.

As many before me have stated it's a very complex defensive scheme. WVU is efficient because they've run it since Casteel became DC in 2002. If that's what we want to go to, then we need to recruit the players to fit it. And I think we have them coming. Mike Jones is listed at 6"2, 200 lbs, Isiah Bell is 6"2, 205. They would fit perfectly in the 3-3-5 with Warren, Cissoko, and maybe JT Turner or Floyd?


November 4th, 2008 at 6:57 PM ^

Im not sure why Michigan is messing with the 335, other than an "acknowledgement" that the defense has struggled in space this year, and cant weakening up front to add a defender in the back is the way to go??

Not really....the best solution is to keep the traditional 4-3 with 3-4 change ups at time and recruit athletes who can play in space at OLB and safety, and teach them to tackle. Keep kids like Roh, Lalotta and probably Campbell interested in coming here, and get guys like JB Fitzgerald out there asap to get him some experience... if they try to get this 335 thing going full time its going to fk everything up imo.


November 4th, 2008 at 7:54 PM ^

"...the defensive performance has widened the rifts between philosophical differences in the staff." This reminds me of the OC that Tuberville brought in to teach Auburn the spread, then Tommy didn't fully commit to it and fired the guy in mid-season. Michigan's too classy to fire an assistant in mid-season (although Lloyd retired a rugby-kicking special teams coach to stud one year). I hope Shafer's gone next year.

 As to recruiting, we seem to be banking heavily on Roh and LaLota to come in fill a need at DE. But look at the guys we have there now - Jamison and Graham. We may lose both if Graham departs early. And two true freshmen DE's are supposed to come in and shore up our sad sack defense? They're going to be better than the veterans we have now? I hope and pray we don't have another defensive year like this one.

Please bring in a miracle worker to coach them. Who was Helen Keller's mentor - is she still available?


November 7th, 2008 at 6:58 PM ^

I don't understand this comment:

"His track record as laid out in detail by Brian is that yr 2 under Shaf brings the results he is looking for (more sacks, more Tos)."

Shafer has only been a DC four years - two at WMU, one at Stanford, and one here. So he's only stayed for year 2 once. Was his second year at WMU really that great that we can draw strong conclusions?