Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mailbag question: Should be better on defense

Posted at 8:00am -- 1/20/2010

Mailbag question: Should be better on defense

Hey guys, great site and keep up the good work!!

Using Iowa as an example, UM gave up two big plays to the tight end alone. Take one of them away and Michigan wins. This (giving up big plays) happened in every game this year. We would play pretty decent for a couple of series but would eventually get killed on a big play or two and lose a game we should have won. We could have easily been 8-4 or even 9-3, if not for the big plays. So I'm thinking 2010 should be a much-improved year.

The offense will be better at the QB, WR's and O-Line. The big plays on defense should be fewer and further between with another year of maturity, more training with Barwis, getting used to playing together, and knowing how each player will react to a given situation, a defensive coordinator who is back again, and more competition from red-shirts and incoming freshman. Things are looking pretty darn good!! Right?? Or is the BIG PLAY going to haunt us again?? What are the causes of a BIG PLAY being given up on defense?? Is it a collapse of the strong/weak side?? Or maybe this is caused by a collapse of a player (or two), coaching, youth, or maybe a lack of talent??? You'll probably say all of the above, but could you talk about it a little. Can the defense keep this from happening again this year?? We really can't be that bad or that far off, can we??

Thanks for shedding some light on this for me.

Tom T.


Thanks or the question and comment.

We sure hope you are correct and Michigan has a chance to be a good football team, especially on defense. Quarterback play alone should help the offense quite a bit.

There are two questions/concerns that in our opinion will determine the offense’s overall success next year. First, there is a clear concern about the running backs. Who will take over the role of the primary go-to running back and will this go-to back stay healthy? In fact, will the running back committee in general stay healthy? The second concern on offense is the personnel that will eventually make-up the offensive line.

Running back is our biggest concern, and rightfully so, since the offense’s performance last year noticeably dropped off with B. Minor, the go to back, out of the game. Currently, V. Smith, who shows clear promise with his innate cutting skills and toughness, is questionable with a serious injury.

Remember, GBMW had the same concern last year with the running backs, since both Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown both had injury histories and rarely were 100% healthy while at Michigan. This year there is the same line of thought since Michael Shaw, Vincent Smith, and Fitzgerald Toussaint all have had problems staying healthy while at Michigan. Collectively, this group does not have much game experience and Smith may or may not be healthy at the start of the season. The worst-case scenario is scary: Smith and Shaw are down and a freshman (red-shirt or true) becomes the go to back. Cox, a max back, would likely take over and frankly he works hard and is at least adequate. Cox may grab any such opportunity to see the field more frequently and literally run with it.

The second primary concern, which is just as obvious, is that the offensive line must replace two starters. The offensive line should be better by next season’s end, but might show some early season growing pains. Also, a question within a question: will David Molk be 100%, or at least healthy enough to compete for his starting job at center this fall. He is a tough and dedicated kid, but connective tissue needs time to heal and get stronger. A healthy David Molk solves one part of the offensive line concern and competition may solve the second.

As you allude to Tom, the defense should (but there are no guarantees) benefit from consistency and program cohesion. Returning eight starters should also create improvement, and there is no replacement for experience. We are taking a wait and see approach regarding the defense at this time. Simply, this group must come light years to get UM back on top.

Depth is still a huge issue on defense and who will replace Stevie Brown, Brandon Graham, and Donovan Warren, the three best players from last year? The success of the players who replace the three cited above will determine a lot about the success of the 2010 defense. Replacing B. Graham is the biggest question mark we have right now. B. Graham was a player that made the other defensive linemen better because he took on double teams that provided opportunities for others, along with getting consistent pressure on the quarterback. We have a better feeling about replacing D. Warren, but experience is lacking at the cb position as well. We will have a better handle on all these concerns after the spring practices we attend or hearing reports from others who attend.

The players that are coming back should gain in performance by being in the same system two years in a row, along with players getting game experience. There is always the hope that someone emerges to become the impact player every defense needs.

Beware of bold talk about all of the 2010 defensive recruits coming in and making big impacts. Starting a bunch of freshmen would lead to the following conclusion: “Well next year they will be sophomores.” There will be a couple of talented red-shirts that will see plenty of playing time. But most of the 2009 and 2010 defensive class will need to go through normal program development and wait in the wings.

Written by GBMW Staff

Go Blue -- Wear Maize!

1 comment:

Markus said...

Great question and response post.
Thank you for this.

And by the way, you guys run a great blog. I'd love everyone to be more positive (sunshine and happy thoughts), but reality bites and it's way better to be on terra firma.

If there's a pleasant surprise to UM's defense next year (2010), I think it could be the DL. Yes, UM loses Graham, but this is where most of Michigan's high talented players reside (Roh, Van Bergen, Campbell, Lalota).

At running back, Michigan should be in good shape. Teric Jones is moving back to offense, and it should be interesting to see Denard Robinson and Jeremy Gallon applied to this offense with Cox, Toussaint, Shaw. It's a very deep stable and someone will emerge.
If they could only stay healthy.

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