Thursday, November 26, 2009

Coach's Corner: These are the areas of Michigan Football that need to improve the most in the estimation of the GBMW staff.

Coach's Corner: These are the areas of Michigan Football that need to improve the most in the estimation of the GBMW staff.

Before the discussion below, please note that the variable of competition level between the first four games and the Big Ten season can only partially explain what happened the past season; premier exhibit A – Illinois.

Overall concerning the team:

1) Get the swagger back, NOW!!!:

In the first four games of 2009, this team played with an edge and a confidence that was great to again see. But after tough road loses to Iowa and Michigan State, the swagger evaporated, sublimated, or just plain left. During the last few weeks of 2009, this team was a shell, mentally speaking and performance speaking, of where it started, the psyche had completely changed. This great game of football is largely attitude, mental outlook and preparation. Michigan will continue to struggle if the swagger runs and hides after tough loses.

Now we present a variation of the familiar chicken and egg theme. Does the confidence/swagger/edge come first, followed by this hard to measure tangible contributing to victory, or does a down team need to win first, thereby gaining energy and confidence that can reestablish lost swagger? Coaches who read the above know that teams work as hard on attitude in the off-season as on conditioning. Coaches, who are by nature natural psychologists, recognize that if they can make players believe they are d*MN good they will play that way. It is tough to beat top teams without being able to match the opponent’s swagger. One of the reasons USC beat Ohio State was swagger, USC expected to score on that last drive, clearly all could see this in the manner USC executed down the stretch. The next week, observers could see going down the stretch of the Washington and USC game that USC knew the goose was cooked. The well used, but not worn out, phrase “you can see it in the body language” is real, not just imagined perception.

In football things change rapidly and the USC analogy is a great example of how tender and fluid swagger or mojo can be.

2) Physical Play:

This area of needed improvement is similar to #1. The first four games Michigan was flying around smacking teams. The Wolverines had a physical edge to their game. By season’s end the edge had completely disappeared. Of course, as stated above, the competition level improved along with the non-conference teams not being as good as many predicted. But still, competition and youth cannot account for the entire loss of points 1 and 2.

Offense: Areas needing Most Improvement

1) Hang on to the d*MN ball: Yes indeed this most basic requirement of football can be taught, drilled, and emphasized.

The turnovers have to stop. Santa Claus should not reside in Ann Arbor.

2) Blocking the edge:

In pass protection and the running game, Kerrigan, and just about every other top defensive end in the league, had a field day against Michigan. The inability to block the edge kept Forcier contained in the pocket and limited his effectiveness. In the running game Michigan was unable to run the stretch zone making the running game one-dimensional. The line simply must block the edge better.

Michigan had planned for and worked very hard on using the I-formation power set in short yardage and red zone situations. First, Moundros was injured and this made the I-formation less effective. Then, Minor went out and Michigan lost the square I-formation tailback to make the package work. Anyone who watched Michigan with C. Brown try to run straight from the one-yard line gets the idea of why we say this.

3) The vertical passing game:

Michigan needs to back opposing safeties up. Teams were basically playing eight man fronts most of the time, with little fear of getting beat deep. Until Michigan’s passing game can create space and burn the safeties, teams will continue to crowd the line of scrimmage. Yes, indeed, the above scenario does present two problems: no deep completions and more pressure on the running game caused by eight or even nine in the box.

4) Use the tight ends more:

Yes, Koger dropped some big passes but he has too much talent to become a bench decoration. His ability to create mismatches must be used to a fuller extent. Koger also made some great catches as well and it seems that unfortunately many people have quickly forgotten. One last thing, Tate has to do a better job of getting the ball to the tight ends. So many times Tate was either late or threw passes that were tough to catch.

5) Quarterback play:

The first half of the season Tate Forcier was very good, the last half he looked like a completely different player. Gone was the swagger and gunslinger attitude that made him so good. We still are not 100% convinced that Forcier is the ideal fit for this offense. In our opinion, he would fit better in Purdue or Texas Tech’s version of the spread.

Forcier is simply not a classic pocket quarterback. Between his lack of height and pulling the play down too early, Tate was less than efficient going down the stretch in the red zone.

6) Michigan needs to be bigger and stronger on the offensive line:

Michigan’s offensive line, a hard working and improved group, simply does not have enough consistent push upfront. This is obvious and past debate.

Offensive line play, in the red zone, basically comes down to moving the line of scrimmage. With Molk out, Michigan's line lost the ability to get a rhythm of effectively getting hats on hats and driving defenders backwards.


1) Defensive Line:

This group also needs to get bigger and stronger. Martin stepped up and played much better the second half of the season. But good teams were still able to run the ball almost at will. Even with the gambling safeties pulled in tight, Michigan had significant difficulty in stopping a good run game. The front seven must be stouter against the run and allow the safeties to back up, so that the cornerbacks can play tighter. Again this is a classic football 101 example of the domino effect where one problem (not stopping the run game as a unit) causes a second problem (safeties tight, chasing, getting beat deep) and even a third problem (corners off giving up a free 8 yard pitch and catch play that leads to offensive coordinators up in the box expressing thanks and accepting the free donation).

2) Linebacker Play:

This unit needs to improve big-time in both run and pass coverage. Michigan 's rerouting and ability to help defensive backs in various coverages was not good. Linebackers were continuously over-flowing to the ball and opening up for opposing coaches in the box opportunities for counters and cutbacks. Many good backs really hurt UM because of this inability to flow, read, contain the edge, and fill the proper hole.

3) Athletic Safeties:

Michigan needs to find some, make that plenty, of skilled athletic safeties, enough said. Again this year, way too many big plays were given up by safeties not being in position, up too close to cover, or not being athletic enough to provide help.

4) Shedding and getting off blocks in space:

UM’s screen and short pass defense was terrible. The force, fill, contain, and cutback help in the flats against sweeps and other wide running game plays was not a prize either.

5) Pass rush must get better:

With only Brandon Graham providing meaningful pressure (outstanding!), everyone else must become better. Michigan especially needs to generate some push from the defensive tackles. Next year, the staff will have to successfully prepare and improve the current position players on the roster, or this problem will remain as is.

6) Improve the overall athletic ability of the entire roster:

How many times did you see Michigan blitz and be able to get there in time, instead of giving up big plays? How many tackles in space, when players were in position, were missed? Michigan just does not have enough explosive athletes on defense that are needed to play against today's multiple wide receiver offenses that make defensive coordinators defend every inch of the field.

There is plenty of work to be done and some athletic help appears to be forthcoming at least in the secondary. But every area of this defense needs better athletic ability and better depth.

Thanks for stopping by Go Blue Michigan Wolverine
If you have any questions please E-Mail

Written by CoachBt, Doc4blu and ErocWolverine


Frank said...

Sounds like just about everything!

William (Bill) said...

It would be beneficial and assuring if RR would give the fans some indication of what his plans are. He has not indicated a game plan as far as recruiting. Why a QB from Spartanburg, SC who isn't rated that highly? I don't think Michigan needs more QB's, but they have a need at almost every position.

coachbt said...

Our information is that C Jones was recruited as an athlete capable of competing at QB, but could also help at SE or Safety.

GregGoBlue said...

Agreed Re: Tate not the optimal QB for the system. RR needs an athlete at QB capable of breaking the big play running the ball. I still think he can thrive in the short passing game being the occasional run threat, but that's not what this offense is supposed to do. Do you think D. Robinson stays at QB, or do we put all our eggs in the D. Gardner basket?

My opinion? D. Robinson is not a QB, that much was clear from this year. If he's not the #1 QB (which he's not), you can't have your best athlete on the bench. Switch 'im.

I think your point about a vertical passing game is hindered by Tate's apparent ceiling on his deep ball. Gardner has a pretty strong arm (but nowhere near the accuracy and solid fundamentals of Tate). It should be an interesting battle next year.

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