January 19th, 2011 at 10:18 AM ^

Nice read, thanks for posting. I cant wait to see what he does with our defense, how he shifts around some of the hybrid type guys, and how he can develope our young talent.


January 19th, 2011 at 10:24 AM ^

We have returning starters at just about every position, combined with a few players who would have contributed last year but were injured.  The line should be okay with Martin, RVB, Roh, and Black, the LB's have JBFitz, Demens, and CGordon, and obviously the secondary has TWoolf, Floyd, & Kovacs.

There are also a few wildcard type players that hopefully Mattison can do something with: M-Rob, Furman, Mike Jones, and Carvin.  I know our defense was dreadful but I feel like DocSat was selling out talent a little short.


January 19th, 2011 at 10:40 AM ^

The defense was sold short...i mean it was bad on a historic level but theres talent there. I expect Matty will do big things with the rerurning starters. My god if he just teaches them solid tackling we will be much improved right? My prediction was the defense would be better this year anyway but now im even less worried about the matter. Do you think Matty could teach SB how to make a 30 yd field goal?


January 19th, 2011 at 10:27 AM ^

The article mentioned that the return of most of the starters were at one time considered 4 * recruits. Is this true? I'm guessing Roh, Martin, VanBergen, Campbell (if he returns to this side), but who else? I've never been a huge recruit follower, but understand that rating does usually mean more initial talent.  Who else on the "projected" defense were highly rated recruits?


January 19th, 2011 at 10:41 AM ^

According to Rivals, Ash, Christian, M-Rob, Ken Wilkens, Cam, Roh, Q, Demens, J.B. Fitzgerald, RVB, Mike Williams, and Martin were all 4 stars with Big Will a 5 star. Granted a lot of these players are not at the position they played when being recruited.


January 19th, 2011 at 11:28 AM ^

That's good to here that there are some nice building blocks.  Hopefully the age of the players is perfect for the transition, as many of them are past the first year jump of realizing how much quicker the game is, and used to the college game, but young enough to still be able to adapt to a new scheme. In addition to all these 4*'s I think Woolfolk will be a solid DB (Corner or safety) and that Avery started to look decent towards the end of the season.  We should have some great competition in the secondary next year, which I will greatly appriciate.  Whatever formation we run, I hope that we play an aggressive front, and play the corners tighter than we have in the past.  I always felt that no matter, how good the QB is, if he is rushed, he is not going to be great. 

I felt the coaching transition started about as bad as any, but is quickly pulling itslef back together.  I give the coaches, both new and old, and especially the players, a lot of credit for weathering the storm and staying together as a group.  Despite the record, I'd be hard pressed to pick a Michigan team I liked more than the players we have right now.


January 19th, 2011 at 12:23 PM ^

Rivals and Scout had him as a middle 3*, but ESPN loved him: 81 rating (don't think they gave stars back then), #11 safety, #94 player in the country.  He's at LB now


January 19th, 2011 at 10:43 AM ^

Demens and Fitzgerald were 4* LBs.  Gordon was a 4* WR (not the same but still was a 4*).  None of the returning starters in the secondary were 4*, however who knows how that'll shake out for 2011.  I believe only Christian was a 4*.


January 19th, 2011 at 10:43 AM ^

rated by the recruiting guru's was never the issue.  Yes Rich seemed to recruit more 3 stars than any other coach in Michigan history, but there is still plenty of 4 and a few 5* on the team.  The issue was the development of those players, or in many cases the lack of development..


January 19th, 2011 at 11:12 AM ^

I take it you have near-complete faith in recruiting rankings?

"... issue was the development of those players, or in many cases the lack of development ..."

Did Kevin Grady just "not develop?"


January 19th, 2011 at 10:31 AM ^

I think going to a 4-3 could be just what the doctor ordered for us.  Roh and Van at the ends, Martin and the corpse of Will Campbell at the tackles...could be a nice mix.


I think the hybrid guys could be helped by being in a more defined position.  The problem is some of them need to drop weight and get faster and others need to gain weight and become true linebackers.  I think it is possible but gaining weight and learning to play a position fast takes a time...we may see this pay off in two years with the hybrid guys (the problem is in two years we will have 0 D-line players and will be forced to run the first 0-6-5) 


January 19th, 2011 at 11:11 AM ^

Demens seems to be a solid MLB.  I'm not too worried about the size of the OLB like the Gordons.  Cam seems to be an excellent open field tackler, and solid against the run.  His size and speed, also means he could be decent in covering slant routes from both TE and slots. I think some of the mid to late 90's defenses, emplyed some smaller LB's like Gold and Jones who worked out well. 


January 19th, 2011 at 12:13 PM ^

While Cam is tall, he's lanky, and I thought he struggeld at the line of scrimmage and taking on blocks.  He's going to have to get a lot bigger and play MANBALL lower if wants to stay at OLB.  But I do think he's a playmaker and he'll get there. 

Contrast him to Mike Jones, who's got a huge bum (no homo) and strong lower body - perfect for taking on blocks or filling holes against the run.  I. Bell is similar.  I think it's most likely we see Demens, Fitz, and Jones starting at LB next year.  Though waaay too early to say.


January 19th, 2011 at 1:56 PM ^

Cam might be better suited then for third and longs at the OLB. I agree he won't do much with a pulling gaurd, but he seemed to do really well when he was allowed to blitz.  I was imagining the 4 downman causing some more double teams, and our OLB's allowed to blitz, stay in short coverage, or fill the whole against a fullback. Although, I'll fully admit, I am not close to an expert, or even a really educated person when it comes to defensive sets and who goes where, so always feel free to prove me otherwise. I'd rather someone tell me I'm wrong with a good explanation than just call me a DB (correct as that may be, Ha). 


January 19th, 2011 at 2:11 PM ^

I'm not nearly an expert myself.  Very interested in what Cam's role will be next year - he can make plays, but I'm not sure his body type lends itself to a lot of added weight.  Would be a rare odyssey to move from 4* WR to pass rushing OLB, but he's athletic enough.  Really like him as a player, very curious to see where he ends up.


January 19th, 2011 at 11:16 AM ^

I honestly don't remember a lot of missed tackles this year, and actually remember some decent open field tackles by Cam Gordon and Vinopal.  I do remember plenty of holes that were wide open when our linebackers slid to far down the line, or wide open wheel routes, or wide open men when we were between man and zone defenses.  I think positioning and scheme are going to make the most difference in whether we come back to a decent defense over, you know, the last two years.


January 19th, 2011 at 12:05 PM ^

specifically with the 2 you mention - Gordon and Vinopal.  Cam hit people too high and didn't wrap up, and Vinopal threw too many shoulders w/out wrapping up.  Carvin Johnson seemed like a great tackler for a TF, and I think he takes the SS position next year (though there are a lot of candidates, incl. Kovacs)

I do agree with the scheme - gap sound is a must next year, and GM should bring that


January 19th, 2011 at 10:43 AM ^

My takeaway on the hire:

Whenever your defense has probably the 4th or 5th best average star rating in the big ten, and you finish close to last in every defensive category, something is wrong.

The youth has a lot to do with it, so the D will automatically be better because our average age will increase by 1 (who out of our commits could see playing time on D next year? Countess? Anyone else?). 

And if youth is say.... 60% of the problem, the other 40% falls on coaching.  And if a NFL-caliber DC isn't a huge improvement over a clown (puppet?) who ran a defense he didn't even know, then I'll lose all faith in humanity.

If we were around 110-120 in defense this past season, I expect that to make a significant leap in 2011.  Somewhere back around the '08 levels immediately: 60th-70th overall, and by the end of the year we're fielding a top 50 defense (barely).


January 19th, 2011 at 10:51 AM ^

Ooo oo and T-wolf comes back. That alone has to account for a huge jump!

However IF (knock on wood) he doesn't improve our D over the course of a few years, with all his success in the college and pro ranks, then finally I think we can all agree that Shafer wasn't quite the evil many at the time thought he was.

Can't wait to see the effects Mattison will have on the field!


January 19th, 2011 at 10:43 AM ^

Along with the majority of you, I was angry with how our coaching search transpired. I was frustrated with the delay, the seeming indecision by DB, and the ramifications that resulted, including a decrease in the number of available coaches, the obvious impact on recruits, and the general unease felt amongst the fanbase at our seemingly flailing around in search of a coach.

But I have come to realize, especially with the recent hire of Mattison, that what DB did was the only realistic way that he could have gone. Why do I say that?

  1. Availability of coaches to talk to. We wanted to talk to JH, obviously. And DB wanted to talk to Miles, even if many of us fans on mgoblog did not. These coaches had their bowl games in 2011. Firing RR in early December, only to wait a month just to talk to these coaches, would have been worse of a blunder than what transpired, since obviously we were going to talk to them before we made a change. We had to wait to make the coaching change, IF we were going to make one at all. These two coaches didn’t work out, for various reasons, but it’s not like there aren’t other great coaches around the country, even in early January with many positions filled.
  2. Hoke has come with glowing recommendations. Do I care he’s a “Michigan Man hurr hurr”? Obviously not, that is starting to piss me off tremendously. What I think DB sees in him is that while yes, that may help with the fanbase to give him a chance that clearly RR did not, what I think REALLY helps and what he’s really looking for is a defensive-minded guy who can elevate our D back to what we as Michigan fans have come to expect. He comes glowingly recommended by many, many people who have played college and pro ball, and if they give their support, who am I, an average fan, to disagree or even argue?
  3. Waiting until after the bowl game gave DB a change for an honest assessment of our program. Was the bowl game absolutely necessary to evaluate the progress of our coaches? One could easily argue no, that one data point is inconsequential. BUT, I can see a point being made that our defense and special teams has been suspect over RR’s tenure, which I think we can all agree with. Our overall record has steadily improved, and our offense has been great. But with a stagnant D and special teams, that does not equal long-term success. If the bowl game, after using 15 practices to address some of our against a quality opponent, showed improvement in both categories, then I would be more optimistic for 2011. But that obviously did not happen, and there seemed to be even a regression. If extra practices didn’t help, why would one be optimistic that things would turn around?
  4. DB is not stupid. Bold, but obviously not stupid. He has said that Michigan football is his “company’s” flagship product, and he knew how critical its success is for Michigan athletics (and therefore, his own tenure and legacy). He would not have made a change if he did not think the product on the field would be worse long-term. People may complain that the spread offense is the ONLY way to get to national prominence, but I disagree – in 2006, not too long ago, we were #2 facing #1 Ohio State. Traditional pro-style offense is more boring, but modern pro-style offenses, whatever that means, can be dynamic and incorporate spread elements. What I’m saying is, there isn’t one way to skin a cat, and just because we’re going back to a more traditional pro-style offense doesn’t mean we’ll automatically be going back to “3 yards and a cloud of dust,” and hopefully we’ll incorporate some “spread” elements to incorporate the skill on our roster. That being said, I’ll be kicking myself and eating my words if we do not take advantage of the skills on our roster.

Now that the coaching change has been made*, I am more pleased with what has transpired. DB was true to his word in the sense that we are spending more, which must be the case to get Mattison from Baltimore, which I am thrilled with, he seems to be a great hire. Our most important recruit will be in Ann Arbor in 2011 (Denard). And we are going to a 4-3. Woo, I say. Our offense may slip a bit, from excellent to great. But if we trade our special teams and defense from bad to above average in the near term, and great in the long-term, I will take it.

*For the record, I was a fan of the RR hiring.  I loved the idea of bringing in a dynamic offense to Ann Arbor, and thought that coupled with our traditionally strong D great things would happen. I was also an advocate of giving RR a 4th year, but as our D continued to stagnate and our special teams showed little signs of improvement, I became more impartial to a change. Now that we have made the change, obviously I am becoming more and more okay with the hire, and am even guardedly optimistic.


January 19th, 2011 at 10:51 AM ^

The 3-4 and the 3-3-5 require very specific personnel that Michigan just didn't have. I thought those were schemes that were awful, awful fits with the players they were trying to jam into those spots. It was as uncomfortable to watch as the first Rich-Rod offense. While Rodriguez found guys that were excellent matches for his offense, he never landed those marquee recruits that could make similar impacts on defense

I think a return to a 4-3 base would be an excellent way to salvage the last bit of those careers.

david from wyoming

January 19th, 2011 at 11:10 AM ^

Were did you get your mastery of defensive schemes and personal? Or did you just write down your opinions in this post?

Michigan had the players to run a 3-4 or 3-3-5. We just didn't have the coaching and instruction to go along with it. Just because you didn't like the results of the team the last few years, doesn't mean you get to make things up.


January 19th, 2011 at 11:51 AM ^

"In the first case, seven regular starters and 11 of the top 15 tacklers return in the fall,..."


Roh, Martin, VanBergen, Demens, C. Gordon, Floyd, C. Johnson, Vinopal, Kovacs

That's 9...not counting TWoolf.

I think the wealth of returning players...yeah, I said "wealth"...will pay off in 2011.  I do think we'll see some changes to the starting lineup, but for next year, we should actually have pretty good personnel.


January 19th, 2011 at 12:24 PM ^

The defense this year has some major reasons for optimism:

  1. CB1: Rogers to Woolfolk -- Troy Woolfolk returns to give Michigan a senior cornerback who has consistently performed between decent and All-Big Ten over many starts in his career. This is a huge upgrade over what was by the end of 2010, James Rogers. Caveat: Troy's greatest strength is his tremendous speed, so if the injury has lingering effects that could diminish his abilities.
  2. CB2: Freshman Rotation to Floyd -- J.T. Floyd isn't an All-Big Ten performer; he lacks speed and last year developed a penchant for overrunning tackles (he didn't do this in '09 -- his edge tackling was a big part of the defensive performance against OSU). But you have to imagine a junior J.T. Floyd will be much better than when we were tossing 3-star true freshmen in there.

The rest hinges on better coaching and year-to-year improvement, which last year we learned wasn't a sure thing but should be. This should be most evident in the linebacker play. I don't think "toughness" of scheme or personnel was the problem last year at LB so much as positional misalignment and players consistently chasing the play instead of being where they need to be to funnel or fill. In a word: coaching. And Mattison should be on anyone's short list of guys who know how to coach linebackers, right?

We don't know what the scheme will be. But between Jones, Furman, Fitz, T.Gordon and M-Rob there's a good shot of one or two of these guys becoming more effective OLB starters next year than the combination of Mouton/Obi/Fitz/Roh and the freshman rotation at the (probably now defunct) Spur position (though they weren't terrible). If we go 3-4, figure Roh becomes what Woodley used to be, and it's Demens plus two from the above; if we go 4-3, Roh's got his hand down and it's still Demens plus two from the above. So to break it down, we're going from this:

  • GERG coaching, Mouton/Ezeh/Fitz and T.Gordon/C.Gordon/Carvin this:

  • Mattison coaching, two of Fitz/Jones/Furman/T.Gordon/C.Gordon/M-Rob, all a year older.

With Roh not in a position he's bad at, and Demens not lined up in a position to fail.

At the safety spots the room for improvement is greater but the potential not so much. Still, given warm body is probably better than Gibson, Kovacs can be trusted to be the same kind of guy Wisconsin and Iowa have gotten away with for years, and I have this vauge feeling like Carvin Johnson can play free safety.

Things that still worry me a lot are depth and talent at safety, and depth behind the defensive line. As to the latter, we probably need two of Ash, Talbott, Q-Wash and Will to emerge as better than Patterson and Sagesse, and one or both both of Paskorz and Wilkins (or perhaps Beyer) to be better than Greg Banks. Fortunately our head coach is the guy who turned in consistently effective defensive lines using 3-star types like Norman Heuer, Grant Bowman, Shawn Lazarus, Pat Kratus, Dave Petruziello, Dan Rumishek, Jake Frysinger, Juaquin Feazell and Eric Wilson. When he had 4-stars at his disposal he turned out Rob Renes, Glen Steele, Larry Stevens, James Hall, and Josh Williams. Few of these guys were very big or demanded double teams.

Having lived through Hoke's tenure as D-Line coach, I was always kind of upset that we were "getting by" with Grant Bowmans. Planetoid objects like Gabe Watson, Alan Branch, Alex Ofili and [Name Redacted], and competing for the creme of ILB/DE prospects like Woodley, Eugene Germany, B.Graham, Will Paul and Pat Massey were all in the future. Howevah, Hoke has historically done a great job with undersized guys like Wilkins, Paskorz, Q-Wash, Ash and Talbott.


January 19th, 2011 at 3:38 PM ^

I think you may be selling some of those old D-linemen a little short.  Steele and Renes were All-Americans by the time they were seniors, and Hall is one of our all-time sack/TFL leaders.  We did have a stretch at the end of Hoke's tenure where the DL wasn't as strong, but it was generally pretty good.  In 2001 I think we led the nation in sacks (or maybe it was just the Big Ten). 

Regarding the CB position, I liked what I saw out of Courtney Avery.  I think Floyd's going to have his hands full winning that job back.  Avery was obviously undersized, and pretty raw technique-wise, but I thought he displayed good instincts and athleticism.


January 19th, 2011 at 4:38 PM ^

Renes is like the perfect example of what a Hoke defensive lineman can become -- he's like 260, and came with a scant recruiting profile (they thought he was a linebacker if I remember pre-OMIGOD RECRUITING recruiting) of a typical 3-star "eh" guy -- like a Sarantos if you remember what Sarantos'es were like (I just do 'cause my friend's wife used to date one). Or maybe a Brackins. Brackinses.

Steele and Hall were recruited by Hoke's predecessor, who is...oh, our new DC Greg Mattison. So, uh, yeah, I guess you can count those guys?