Thinking positive - DBs

Submitted by Spread Attack on February 17th, 2009 at 5:56 PM

So, like many people, my thinking is swinging between the depressing "Argghhh here comes another 3-9 season" and unrealistic expectation of "Tate & D-Rob are the 2nd coming of my lord and savior". I tend to fall more toward the former than the latter, and that is depressing.

So, in a series of diaries I'm going to try to convince myself, and maybe some of you, that significant improvement is on the way this season. If you think we're going 9-3 or 10-2 I hope you're right, but that seems lofty. The aim and tone of this is set to show we can go 7-5, or maybe 8-4 if we get some bounces.

For my first submission, I'll look at DBs and try to convince everyone that overall we are better off at this position than last year. I can't stress enough that "better off" is relative...

Donovan Warren: Warren is a stud, he was in on 52 tackles, had an interception and 4 pass breakups. Considering it seemed like the opposition went at him relatively infrequently, this is quite impressive. He seems to be a sure tackler, and limits the YACs (yes, I do remember the slant that went for a TD, and that seemed like an isolated event). I think most are pretty confident with him, so I won't waste more time here.

Boubacar Cissoko: I assume he will be taking care of duties on the other side of the field. This probably makes everyone kind of nervous because he is so smurf-y, but i'm going to try and talk you into it. In spot duty as a freshman, he broke up 3 passes (tied for 2nd on the team) and was in on 15 tackles. Also, he's FAST with a (fake) forty time of 4.4 coming out of high school. Let's not forget that he was a 4* to rivals even with his height, and it's their job to know these things. He should be at least serviceable. Morgan Trent was a huge letdown for me this past season after showing promise as a junior, so I'm hoping Boo-Boo can fill his role, though probably not in the leadership realm.

Others: After that, I think incoming freshman Justin Turner has a chance to play a role similar to what Cissoko did last year. He also has the size Cissoko lacks. In a perfect world, he is successful enough to move to a full-time corner for the last third of the season. This would allow Cissoko to move to a nickelback role, which is his true calling in my opinion. I don't think that will happen, but it's the ceiling of what he can achieve as a true frosh. We also have Woolfolk and Johnson who have some game experience. They certainly can't be every-down players unless they've shown some significant improvements but they add depth and a little veteran knowledge to the mix.

The only contributing CB we lose is Trent, who as previously mentioned was a disappointment this season. I think he had a good head on his shoulders and was a good leader, but he was exposed as kind of meh as far as his raw skill and instincts go. His stats were similar to Warren's, but it seemed like they went at him twice as much. He also gave up a few big plays that don't show up on the stat sheet.

Oh god, how could these be any worse? What a nightmare in 2008. Okay, enough of that, here comes an analysis of the players.

Stevie Brown: I'll be gentle on this one since this is a relative comparison to last year, and not judging on an absolute scale. At worst he's the same, but it is much more likely that he improved at least some. I'm not saying he'll be "good", but he should be better than last year. I'm really hoping the best for this kid, he shouldered a lot of blame last year, and some (though not all) was undeserved. He may have played poorly, but man he took a ripping when he clearly was trying his absolute best and was more upset than anyone at his failings. Would love to see him get some redemption. Moving on.

Michael Williams: Who is going to fill in for Harrison? Other than QB, I think this is the most important question on the team for next year. It isn't because Harrison was great (he was average at best, just looked good in comparison to Brown). It's because we all witnessed, painfully, exactly what poor safety play can do to a defense. Just imagine how much worse things would have been last year if our two safeties had been Stevie Brown and... Stevie Brown. No thanks. Anyway, I think Michael Williams is the kid most ready to step into the other starting role. Not only does he have the most game experience (18 tackles, 2 for loss), he also was a 4* recruit to rivals coming into college. He was the only not-terrible DB in the Illinois game last year. In fact at a quick glance at UFRs, I did not see one negative play for Williams all year (I only looked at a few games, definitely could have missed something). I don't know what reasons the coaches had for not playing him last year, but those reasons couldn't have been good enough. My only concern here other than inexperience is speed. Coming in, rivals lists him with a 4.67 which is not very quick for a DB. I can't find anything more recent. Silver lining? 2 years of Barwis hopefully improved his speed and at safety, much more than corner, you can overcome a lack of blazing speed with heady play (which the lack of negatives in the UFR suggest he has).

Brandon Smith: He (I think) redshirted last year. He was a 4* to rivals with 4.5 speed, and he was a big dude at 6-2 210. He had 9 INTs in high school his junior year and was an Army All-American. He is a wild-card in this race and could go either way as a total bust, or push Williams for the starting position.

Others: We have a frosh righteously named Vlad Emilien. He'll probably end up an LB, but maybe he'll play some safety as a true freshman before he bulks up and makes the transition. There's a chance he's underrated, since he was injured for his senior season, but there is probably just as good of a chance that the injury set him back and he's overrated. Let's hope for the former. Artis Chambers left so, like... bummer. That leaves freshmen Adrian Witty and Mike Jones and other people that we better hope don't see the field. If they do, not to be a jerk, but: yikes.

Cornerbacks we should have an improved Donovan Warren, an improved Cissoko that hopefully can be the equivalent of Morgan Trent, and a freshman that has a chance to play the role Cissoko played but with better size. We also have a couple guys that can handle spot duty, and they even have some minimal experience. Net gain.

Safeties we have a he-must-have improved Stevie Brown, one guy that saw spot duty and showed a lot of promise, and another somewhat unknown guy that came in highly rated and was red shirted. Actually, you know what? Screw this. There is no possible way our safeties are worse than last year. Even if they are a push (they will be better than a push), with the improvement at corner our defensive backfield shows a net gain.

OFF TOPIC: Somebody less stupid than me should post a formatting how-to. I want to use neat bullets and bold and such, and this being my first actual submission, I have no idea how to do that.

UPDATE: I know how to bold things now. Woooo progress.



February 17th, 2009 at 6:19 PM ^

I love the idea for these posts. it is like a Brian Cook season preview several months in advance of his. Here are some thoughts:

-- Who knows where James Rodgers ends up. Could be a corner, safety, or nickel.
-- You might also see Smith come in as the nickel and move Williams to the old Harrison role.

Other positions:
-- Don't neglect the special teams. I think this is going to be a huge reason we COULD jump by several wins:
-- KR - can't possibly be worse. That was the worst position on the field last year, and I'm COUNTING Stevie Brown.
-- PR - I'd settle for a slight improvement to average.
-- P - a wash, maybe slight improvement
-- K - you're always scared of freshmen, but last year KC Lopata was 10/15, but only 5/10 outside of the Metrodome!! Not a high bar to have to clear.

Spread Attack

February 17th, 2009 at 7:14 PM ^

Appreciate the suggestions. Hopefully it's not blatantly stealing MGoBrian's season preview. It's not meant to, before spring and summer workouts and the press conferences that go with them, there really isn't enough info to have an accurate picture, so these are definitely more of the "wild ass guess" variety than actually making any salient and relevent points. Also, Brian's will be prettier and much more well-written, not to mention better researched with more insights. This is just something fun to kill the time for me. If the commenting public overall thinks it's too much thievery, I'll just make this the only one.

Also, I'm just kind of curious to see how much my own perceptions change between now and the season, when I'll inevitably have talked myself into believing that we can compete for the Big 10 title. So, it's a record... a diary, if you will, of my thoughts that I can look back on and say "wow, I actually had reasonable expectations at one point".


February 18th, 2009 at 1:34 AM ^

You are right that improvement on special teams will net us some W's. I mean, the only time I could watch a special teams play last year without fear of self-defication was when Mesko was punting(with that fun little roll out). I am sure I wasn't the only one hoping Bo's spirit would somehow descend and help to gently guide the ball in mid-flight right into the cozy warmth of the awaiting hands of _(insert your favorite fumbler here).


February 17th, 2009 at 7:25 PM ^

When we're discussing DEFENSIVE BACKS when talking about Michigan football? This is the school that has been QB U for twenty years and offensive tackle U for almost as long. And don't work yourself into a tizzy thinking somehow, some way, RR is going to turn this team into a winner this year. He had two redshirt frosh at QB last year, and to top that, now he's run off the better of the two so he can start two TRUE frosh QBs this time around. He's gonna add two or three redshirt offensive linemen to the mix just to make sure one of the QBs doesn't survive the season, and then he'll tell us that, well, he's only been here for twenty five months, Lloyd didn't leave him any talent and we need to get a life! Michigan is on its way to becoming Nebraska.

Spread Attack

February 17th, 2009 at 9:03 PM ^

You sound like kind of an angry person, chill out.

A) I started with DBs because there is so much QB talk (and offense talk in general) right now that I'm kind of saturated with it. Thought people might want to hear about something else, and i definitely wanted to write about something else. However, I will get to your precious QBs and OL. I thought I made it clear that this would be a series of diary entries when I said "series of diaries".

B) I'm pretty sure our last Heisman winner was a DB. Some dude that played in the late 90s, check it out!

C) DBs are a huge question mark. Seeing as they were a big part of the mess that was last year, I thought I might try to put a positive spin on the future so that I could, you know, look forward to the season.


February 18th, 2009 at 7:11 PM ^

Um, that would be because I AM angry. Followed Michigan football since 1965. Season ticket holder since 1979. Third generation degree holder and parent of fourth generation Wolverine. There is MUCH to be angry at. RR and his band of inbred morons just served up the worst season in Michigan football history. That's 130 years or, in West Virginia terms, roughly the amount of time since a member of Rich Rod's family married someone who was not ALREADY a member of Rich Rod's family. The list of traditions and streaks these clowns destroyed or defecated on is long and illustrious - and GONE! In their place is one new tradition - each year RR will run off our most experienced QB and start over.
Yeah - our last Heisman winner was a DB. Who won primarily because everyone saw him play on OFFENSE on Sportscenter. I understand that you are looking at the team unit by unit. My point is that when one STARTS evaluating a team by considering its DBs, the rest of the team must stink pretty bad. And it does. You are absolutely correct - the DBs are a question mark, and they are probably the most stable, productive unit on this team. There are only two tough guys on the whole team - Brandon Minor and Brandon Graham. The rest of the team looks like transvestites in training. Another tradition seems to be starting up...


February 19th, 2009 at 6:26 PM ^

Incorrect and absurd are the heart and soul of the rant. Ranting is the reason God created message boards! Where else to vent and pour the vitriol engendered by observing a season of football such as that produced by the Miner's Child? Yes, I use hyperbole often and well - I did, after all, obtain a Michigan degree, something few of the posters here can claim, judging by their grammar, syntax and spelling (see the post below). I will cease my ranting when that Son of the Pits puts a team on the field that is deserving of the winged helmets they wear. It won't happen anytime soon, I fear.


February 17th, 2009 at 10:47 PM ^

DBs did ok this yr, but it was because of the formations we ran. We will be so much improved it will be night and day. Cissoko and Warren will be one of the top DB duo in the country come end of season.

Have them two, and I really hope brandon smith turns into a god. Hes supposed to be that big saftey everyone runs away from and notices when hes on the field because hes such a hard hitter.

blue note

February 18th, 2009 at 12:12 AM ^

It will be pretty apparent whether there has been improvement or not.

Western Michigan brings back their QB who threw something like 35 TD's last year... Notre Dame has a third year starter at QB and two receivers who combined for around 20 TDs and 2,000 yards.

Obviously both teams are going to throw the ball early and often. Graham will command double teams, but there's no guarantee we will have much of a pass rush, especially early in the season, so these guys will be tested.

The thing that worries me is what really killed us last year were missed tackles/poor tackling form and bad angles in space. That's pure fundamentals ... and even if that is fixed, we absolutely need DBs to start making some plays to take the pressure off the young D-line. Trent and Stewart together had 4 picks last year, the rest of the DBs had... 3 combined. That has to go way up.

The first two games will make it pretty clear whether the DBs will be a strength or a weakness again.


February 18th, 2009 at 8:53 AM ^

I enjoyed the post. Keep 'em coming.

Reason I'm responding is that I've heard a lot of the "well, if Turner can give us what Boo Boo did as a Fr., and Boo Boo can step it up, we could see improvement" analysis.

The more apt comparison between players, and ceilings as a Fr, is between Turner and Warren. Warren was a 5* big corner who came in as ready made for college, save the need to get bigger/stronger. Turner is close to a carbon copy. If Warren can be an all american contending performer, Turner can replicate Warren's fr year, and Boo Boo can handle the slot (half of Harrison's position last year), I think your optimism will come to fruition.

Gereric Turner knock was great player, but can he play corner? Turner and his coach always maintained he wanted to (and could) play corner and that is where UM had him slated. Cause he committed early and gurus stopped paying attention the question persisted. Then he showed up at the AA game and played corner all week (early in the week he was one of only two healthy corners practicing for his team) and everyone said "oh shit yeah, this guy can play corner" and he got his 5th*.

I think Warren was fairly knocked for needed strength but unfairly knocked for physicality as he was a willing tackler as a fr. For the limited amout I've seen, I think Turner will also need strength (though he is praised for his physicality). But I think he's one of those rare guys like Law/Jackson/Warrenn who you can start on the outside by like his second game and be an above average second corner in the Big 10.

Also, cosign on the boom or bust from Smith, but I say that's a career label. I'd be stunned if he gets much meaningful playing time this year. Though, this is not what coaches/insiders are saying.


February 19th, 2009 at 11:19 PM ^

Vladimir Emilien is a safety, and he will be a safety for the foreseeable future. Bell and Jones are the safeties who might switch to linebacker.

JT Floyd probably deserves to be mentioned before Zach Johnson. And Zach Johnson hasn't played a single down of defense (only special teams), so he and Woolfolk probably shouldn't be held in the same regard.

Adrian Witty was recruited as a cornerback, not a safety.