UM vs. Illinois pink slips

Submitted by Magnus on October 5th, 2008 at 12:05 PM

Michigan's lineup has fluctuated throughout the year, and I expect that it will continue to change until Michigan plays with more consistency - which may not happen until 2009.  Note: Only players who have a viable backup will be chosen to lose their jobs. For example, Threet likely will not be chosen because Sheridan has been a complete disaster.

Martavious Odoms, WR/KR.  Odoms was Michigan's best player on Saturday, with the exception of a late fumble on a kickoff return.  Odoms had 7 catches for 129 yards (18 yard average) and 7 kick returns for 183 yards (26 yard average).  He has shown the best ability to get open repeatedly, and he creates yards after the catch.  He breaks a lot of tackles and runs very hard for being only 5'9" and 171 lbs.  In his first action this year as a kickoff returner, he showed better acceleration and decisiveness than any other returners have shown this year.

David Molk, C.  This might be a little harsh, because Molk has a lot of good qualities.  He is quick and strong, and he's a redshirt freshman, so there's plenty of time to improve.  But Michigan's offense started to stall when Illinois started to blitz and blitz and blitz and then blitz some more.  The center is the quarterback of the offensive line and needs to make the line calls, and the offensive line just didn't get the job done.  Illinois hit Threet early, and you could see that he felt rushed and a little tentative later in the game.  Threet actually played pretty tough and didn't get as rattled as a lot of young quarterbacks would, but any quarterback is going to get a little gun shy when he gets hit frequently.  Perhaps Molk should move to guard and allow David Moosman, a redshirt junior who has been around a little longer, to slide over to the center position.

Obi Ezeh, MLB.  After giving up 45 points and 500+ yards in total offense, it's hard to say any defensive player should keep his job.  Defensive backs blew coverages, the linebackers couldn't tackle, and the defensive linemen failed to record a single sack.  Statistically, Ezeh was the biggest bright spot with 15 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss.  He did miss a few tackles, but he's still young and looks like a heat seeking missile at times.  Out of the current crop of linebackers, I actually think Ezeh would be a better fit at SAM with Thompson moving to MIKE.  Thompson is practically useless as a blitzer because of his stiffness.  Ezeh is quicker and more agile coming off the edge.  Either way, Ezeh has been the most consistent defensive player this year.

Steve Brown, FS.  This category is tough, because very few players played well on Saturday.  And instead of just picking on a player, I feel it's necessary to offer a viable solution.  It's time for Steve Brown to lose his job.  With the exception of the Wisconsin game, he has been consistently beaten in the passing game.  The last straw was when Illinois running back Jason Ford beat Brown on a go route down the sideline; fortunately for Michigan fans, Juice Williams made a slightly inaccurate throw and Ford made a poor adjustment and dropped the ball.  Brown consistently gets caught looking in the backfield and reacts too slowly.  He has tremendous physical skills (witness him chasing down Juice Williams from behind on what looked to be a sure touchdown), but his recognition skills are poor.  Charles Stewart made a poor effort on the 77-yard TD pass, but that's the first time this year that Stewart has looked bad.  Redshirt freshman Michael Williams has played well on special teams.  One of those guys deserves a shot at the FS position, and instead of bringing in a third safety in nickel and dime situations, Boubacar Cissoko and/or Troy Woolfolk should enter the game.  Odoms got removed from the KR job for Avery Horn after the former fumbled, but Brown continues to play after allowing big play after big play.  Those standards seem inconsistent.


chitownblue (not verified)

October 5th, 2008 at 12:48 PM ^

Somehow, you picked the one person on the defense that wasn't culpable on a single point scored the entire day as the goat. That's startling.

What about John Thompson who blew the screen to Dufresne, and has also been roundly awful?

What about Charles Stewart who was laughably out of position for another 40+ yard TD, and has also been roundly awful?

What about Mouton who got his ass kicked all day?


October 5th, 2008 at 1:02 PM ^

Perhaps I wasn't clear enough, but I picked guys whose backups might be capable of doing a better job.  Mouton is clearly better than Evans, and there are no other viable options.  The same goes for Thompson.  I'm not picking guys who were necessarily bad.  For example, I could have very easily picked Threet for offense, but we all know now that he's the best option.  So I didn't pick him because him "losing his job" would involve us putting in Sheridan, who would be even worse.

Also, I don't think Thompson was to blame on the screen.  From what I saw, it looked like he was on a blitz when he saw Juice throwing the screen and tried to reverse field to get there.  Even though he never made a play on either guy, it wasn't a bad play on his part.

chitownblue (not verified)

October 5th, 2008 at 12:58 PM ^

But yeah, lets can Brown for his fuck up on a play that netted zero yards. It's not like there were any plays against the D that gained actual yardage. Oh, wait - they had 7 plays over 30 yards.


October 5th, 2008 at 1:37 PM ^

The vaunted Michigan line was also pretty awful. They made some big plays in the backfield, but were only able to do it by totally ignoring gap responsibilities and contain. How many times did B-Graham or Jamison smash a running back five yards in the backfield only to find out that he didn't have the ball as juice ran past the safeties?

Don't they face this in practice everyday? No wonder Threet gained the courage to start pulling the ball out on the option read, he was probably gaining 20 yards a pop in practice every time he did.


October 5th, 2008 at 3:19 PM ^

You must crush the RB or QB on every hand-off.  If you go after the QB then he hands it off to the RB and vice versa.  That is the concept of the read option.  I don't know their exact responsibilties, but shouldn't you have another guy (i.e. LB) closing in on the option man.  That is where the D faultered.  Not Graham or Jamison tackling the RB.


October 5th, 2008 at 5:43 PM ^

The traditional option is best defended by splitting the gap between the quarterback and the tailback and waiting for help.  That is not true of the zone option.  In the zone option read, the backside DE must maintain gap discipline, which is to say, must keep contain on the outside.  The backside DE shouldn't crash unless he is expecting linebacker help on the outside or a corner blitz to keep contain.  The idea is to eliminate the quarterback as a running threat, thus limiting the effectivness of the option.


October 5th, 2008 at 3:37 PM ^

on Brown. Of the entire secondary, he was at fault for maybe one play. I honestly think Trent has more problems at CB. Think back to USC in the Rose Bowl when they came out in the second half and just went to town on him. Ever since then the plan for any football team that fell behind to us was to throw to Trent's side of the field. Think about how many times Warren has been tested. Now think of how many times you've cursed Trent.


October 5th, 2008 at 3:42 PM ^

a) Read the entirety of my post.  Who would you put in there instead of Trent?  None of those young guys is better than a 5th year senior.

b) Trent didn't get picked on yesterday, and he didn't do badly.  So that just doesn't make sense.


October 5th, 2008 at 7:41 PM ^

I'm sure Pryor loved the results of yesterdays Michigan game. He's counting on super stats against us I bet. Michigan's defense played so bad mentally. They might as well of not showed up. They were there physically but not mentally. 



October 5th, 2008 at 7:54 PM ^

I don't think we have had solid safety play since those two...they may not have been the most gifted (none were drafted I believe) but they were smart and always seemed to make the big play when needed (Shazer against Purdue). I think the biggest problem our defense has had the last 3-4 is the big plays. The safety is the last line of defense and ours have been brutal! I know the arguement is that its not their responsibilty but I don't care. Good, smart players put themselves in position to make plays and more importantly, prevent the opposing team from making them. We just haven't had that in awhile and I think defensively that should be our #1 priority moving forward.


October 5th, 2008 at 8:08 PM ^

Ray was good, but Shazor was the ultimate feast-or-famine guy. He'd follow up a fantastic play with an absolute boneheaded one. He had some bad, bad performances at the end of the 2004 season.


October 5th, 2008 at 11:27 PM ^

I thought the entire defensive gameplan was flawed. I think the ends were intentionally told to go after whoever they thought had the ball instead of waiting for the play to develop and being sure who had the ball on the option play. The idea was to rough up Juice and Dufrene until they get tired or were afraid to hit the gap. This is the same failed gameplan that backfired against Wisconsin last year. I've never believed in the roughing up the playmakers so they don't make plays theory. It's flawed because first you are vulnuerable to surrendering big plays and second because you have to totally stop them because otherwise they gain confidence and they can absorb hits when the momentum is swinging their way.
Shafer probably had to do this in his previous stints because he had inferior talent. But this defensive line has talent. Why did he completely take Graham and Jamison off of the play (when the read wasn't there) instead of just letting the play develop and having those guys hit the hole. It's not as if Illinois had a great O-Line. This was just a horrible defensive gameplan. Shafer should be held responsible for this failure. So far, his schemes have yet to impress, and I place that responsibility solely on Shafer because RR seems to have deferred the entire defense to him. And Gibson should be on a short leash now. The secondary has been dreadful. If they don't improve, I think Gibson should be gone by years end.


October 5th, 2008 at 11:36 PM ^

I'm not sure what you mean by this.  You think it's a flaw that Michigan's defensive ends were taught to hit "whoever they thought had the ball"?  I'm not sure how that's a flaw.  Illinois did a good job of carrying out their fakes, and both Juice and Dufrene are too fast for defenders to "wait."  If you wait to be 100% sure of who has the ball, they'll already be five yards down the field.


October 6th, 2008 at 11:29 AM ^

Michigan's defense layed out for Juice Williams like drunken prom date. The inner truth of Saturday is that there were just bodies out there w/out a purpose. Or collectively they just did'nt seem to have the backbone drive. You do not give up that many yards to one guy period. The only way something like that happens is when it's either allowed or the other guys take the day off. Sorry but Michigan's defense gave it up to the Juice and then some. And I'm talking about Mindset because all trickles down from there.