Ohio State 37, Michigan 7

Tag: 4-2-5 defense

28Nov 2010
Uncategorized 24 comments

Ohio State 37, Michigan 7

This probably won’t make you feel better, but I tried.

Some bullet points the day after . . .

The 4-man front was better.  I’m not going to rail against the 3-3-5 as a scheme.  Unlike what many people think, the 3-3-5 stack can work against all kinds of offenses.  However, Michigan doesn’t have the personnel or the coordinator to do it successfully.  I got a tip from a helpful insider prior to the game that Michigan would run more 4-man fronts this week, and that proved to be true.  I might be wrong, but it seemed like Michigan reverted to the 3-3-5 more as the game went along, and the defense got worse.  Regardless, bouncing back and forth between defenses week after week is a ridiculous philosophy.  I wish Michigan had run a 4-man front all year long, like I advocated prior to the season.

Denard Robinson can’t do it by himself.  Somebody else needs to step up and make some plays.  Yes, he fumbled the ball in the red zone in the first quarter (a play in which he carried the ball in the wrong hand, something I pointed out two months ago), but running backs and receivers need to make plays, too.  I’ve been supportive of Roy Roundtree all year long and he’s actually exceeded my expectations, but this was a game he likely wants to forget.  By last count, I think he dropped 5 balls yesterday (although a couple should have been flagged for defensive pass interference).

Vincent Smith meh.  Does Vincent Smith have some kind of blackmail material on Rich Rodriguez?  Smith and Michael Shaw each had 8 carries, but Smith had 17 yards and Shaw had 53.  How does that make any sense whatsoever?  Smith has been improving over the past few weeks, but holy jeebus.  Even Fitzgerald Toussaint – who can best be described as “mostly injured” – came in and almost outrushed Vincent Smith on only four carries.  Here’s a hint, Coach Rodriguez: if you’re going to run the ball up the middle, put in somebody, anybody, other than Smith.  If you’re going to pass the ball or run the zone stretch to the outside, put Smith in there.  It’s really not that hard.  Oh, and by the way, Coach, if Vincent Smith “isn’t a fumbler” (your words, not mine) then why has he fumbled in – correct me if I’m wrong – five out of the last six games?

Jordan Kovacs, meet the lateral.  Okay, so the first half is ending.  Time has run out, but the ball is still alive.  It’s in the hands of one Jordan Kovacs, a former walk-on with a great deal of gumption and not much in the way of athleticism, who has intercepted a Terrelle Pryor pass and is weaving his way down the field in hopes of scoring a touchdown.  Should he a) lateral the ball to a speedier, more athletic teammate or b) keep the ball and get tackled?  I really wanted him to pick “a.”  He chose “b.”  This is an example of why Kovacs, in my opinion, can’t be on the field if Michigan wants to field an elite defense.  I understand that he’s the best strong safety on the roster this year, and I’m fine with that.  But if you’re looking for reasons that Michigan lacks the ability to stop an offense, consider that perhaps the defense’s third or fourth best player is a walk-on safety who is literally the last player in the secondary that you want having the ball in that situation.

You know who shouldn’t be playing free safety?  Well, you might know.  But the coaches don’t.  That person would be Courtney Avery.  Hey, I’ve got an idea.  Let’s play a tiny true freshman at free safety who usually plays cornerback, but is a year removed from being almost exclusively a high school quarterback.  Yeah, that sounds like a good idea.  Especially if you ask Dan Herron, who thoroughly enjoyed his 32-yard touchdown run right past a poorly angled, overmatched Avery.

Like Nostradamus I am.  After Michigan’s punt that rolled down to Ohio State’s 2-yard line, I swear to God, I said, “This is going to be a 98-yard touchdown run.”  I can’t prove it because I said it to myself because I don’t like watching Michigan games with other people, but I said it.  Of course, it wasn’t a 98-yard touchdown run – Dane Sanzenbacher got called for a hold at Michigan’s 9-yard line.

Here we come, Insight Bowl!

13Mar 2010
Uncategorized 26 comments

What will Michigan’s defense look like in 2010?

News this past week has percolated from insiders to Michigan fans that safety Mike Williams will be changing positions from “safety” (he played both strong and free safety last year) to “spur.” This has caused some confusion for Michigan fans, some of whom are concerned that Michigan will employ the 3-3-5 stack look that Rich Rodriguez utilized in his time at West Virginia.

Let me assure you that this will not be the case, at least not in my opinion. I expect Michigan’s base defensive package in 2010 to be a 4-2-5 defense, and hopefully the remainder of my post will explain what personnel we should see this coming season and why.

First of all, the defensive line will likely be Michigan’s strength once again in 2010. Michigan’s best player (Brandon Graham) departs, but there are capable components remaining. I expect Ryan Van Bergen to slide over to the strongside defensive end from his old defensive tackle position. Mike Martin should become the 3-tech defensive tackle, who lines up on the guard’s outside shoulder; this will give him a chance to penetrate against slower guards and avoid the double-teams he faced at nose tackle. Either sophomore William Campbell or senior Renaldo Sagesse will play nose tackle, and sophomore Craig Roh will play weakside defensive end.

With only two “capable” (and I use that term loosely) linebackers returning, it would behoove Michigan to employ as few linebackers as possible. Jonas Mouton and Obi Ezeh are both fifth-year seniors, and while they both underperformed last season, their backups (Kevin Leach and J.B. Fitzgerald) weren’t much better, if at all. Last year’s starting SAM Steve Brown has moved on, and his replacements were to be one of two second-year players (Brandin Hawthorne, Mike Jones) or incoming freshman Josh Furman, who won’t arrive on campus until June. That’s a lot of youth and inexperience. Further evidence that last year’s SAM position will disappear lies in the fact that Mike Jones will be competing at the weakside linebacker position in the spring. I sincerely doubt the coaches would stock such an important position as the SAM with only Hawthorne and Furman.

Recent reports indicate that Troy Woolfolk, who played deep safety last year, will start spring ball at the cornerback position. While I don’t think that Woolfolk will remain at corner through the season, this makes sense for spring ball. Why? Michigan’s only returning scholarship cornerbacks are Justin Turner and J.T. Floyd, and Floyd would likely be a safety if the depth weren’t so shallow. Reinforcements arrive in the summer in the forms of freshmen Cullen Christian, Demar Dorsey, Courtney Avery, and Terrence Talbott. Unfortunately, no cornerbacks (or defensive players, period) enrolled in January.

I’m going to break this down into three components, since terminology and positioning will likely change for this season. If you remember, last year’s “free safety” was an in-the-box player, like Jordan Kovacs. The “strong safety” was the deep safety, which was manned by Troy Woolfolk before he moved to cornerback halfway through the season.

Spur is the name used to define a traditional strong safety-type player, someone who can play the role of a run-stopping outside linebacker but with better cover skills. However, the spur plays on the weak side of the defensive formation. Therefore, this year’s spur will be much like 2009’s free safety. As mentioned above, Mike Williams will play spur in the spring, and he could very well be our starter to begin the season. Other players who will likely play spur are redshirt freshmen Thomas Gordon and Brandin Hawthorne. He would usually have outside contain against the run. Both the spur and the boundary safety (see below) could have a deep zone against the pass, depending on the coverage called. In man coverage, he would have the #2 receiver (the second receiver from the sideline).

Deep safety
I hesitate to call this “free safety,” but that’s basically what it is. This is the safety who has the deep middle in a Cover 3, a deep half in Cover 2, etc. This spot will most likely be filled by Vladimir Emilien in the spring, but it’s also where I expect to see Troy Woolfolk in September. I also think Cameron Gordon will get a tryout at deep safety, although eventually he’ll likely play closer to the line. This is the safety who has the deep middle in a Cover 3, a deep half in Cover 2, etc. In straight-up man coverage, he could have the #3 receiver (the third receiver from the sideline) against a trips formation, but defensive coordinator Greg Robinson likely won’t put him in that kind of call.

Boundary safety
I hesitate to call this “strong safety,” but that’s basically what it is. Jordan Kovacs, Teric Jones, and others will get a shot at the strong safety position. This player will likely have outside contain against the run and the strongside flat in zone coverage. In man coverage, he would have the #2 receiver (the second receiver from the sideline), whether it’s a slot receiver or a tight end.

What does it all mean?
Well, what it all means is that the coaches are trying to get the best players on the field. They think that the team would be better off with someone like redshirt junior Mike Williams on the field than youngsters like Brandin Hawthorne and Josh Furman. And they also realize that there’s no point in removing a player from the most talented and experienced unit (the defensive line) to put in an extra defensive back, which they would have to do in a 3-3-5.

If you’re looking for further resources on the 4-2-5 defense, check out The Football-Defense Report, which is where I got the diagram above.