Nov 2, 2013; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive tackle Willie Henry (69) and defensive lineman Chris Wormley (43) and defensive tackle Quinton Washington (76) stand on field between plays during the 1st quarter of a game against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan Wolverines: Rebuilding the Defense -- Defensive Tackles

GBMWolverine Coach's Corner2Posted at 8:00am — 8/3/2014

Michigan Wolverines: Rebuilding the Defense — Defensive Tackles

The hogs, the hogs, bring on the hogs. Over the last few years Michigan football has had precious few hogs that were successful in clogging an opposing offense between the tackles. Now everything indeed is connected, and it can be correctly said that the linebackers had some problems getting off of blocks and were not always in the right place at the right time. But still, against top competition the inability of the interior line to limit the running game was obvious.

A word first about the defense, then off we go to the hogs. The Michigan defense has worked very hard since the trouncing administered by a well-prepared Kansas State team. The stated off-season changes, both coaching and personnel, appear to make sense, the experience factor is better, but the experience is still young. There is clear competition and he who is just flat out not getting the job done will see an immediate reduction in playing time.

January 1, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive coordinator Greg Mattison prior of the 2013 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Mattison may again play twenty or more defenders as first teamers in games: this creates experience and proves to players that hard work pays off. There will be moments, but the prediction here is that the defense will indeed be better across the board. This will probably not be a dominating defense against top beef and speed teams, but good enough to let Michigan compete. There are plenty of high-level types and a sprinkling of superior talent. A group of high-level guys that have excellent coordination can do very well.

Compared to a few years ago, the linebacker and safety corps both are much deeper, but no true savior type has yet to emerge in the defensive backfield. There is a proud and supportive coaching staff that will work to eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive.

Oct 12, 2013; University Park, PA, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive tackle Willie Henry (69) during the second quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Michigan 43-40 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O

Turn the pages of history to 2014. There are more potential hogs than before, but as one famous southern coach once said, don’t ever play anyone with potential, play the guys that have proven worth. But when potential is all that you have going forward, so be it, the option of proven experience versus potential becomes irrelevant.

As detailed earlier in the series, Michigan is switching to a 4-3 over defense, a variance of the traditional 4-3 defense used by NFL teams for decades. The 4-3 over defense is a cousin of the 4-3 under and a simple slide by the linemen and adjustment by the strong linebacker can move the defense back and forth from over to under.

The tackles and strong linebacker in the over defense align with the intent of attacking the strong side. The nose tackle can play head up or angle in the weak side 1 hole in the A gap and the other tackle plays a three technique off of the strongside offensive guard’s shoulder. The more attention both tackles can glean from the offensive line, the better for the total defense.

There are numerous candidates, for a change, at the nose tackle slot, some will rotate, as is Coach Mattison’s norm, and some may end up at the 3 technique spot. Leading the way is last year’s high potential freshman, Pee-wee Pipkins. His weight appears, according to the latest release, to be excellent and his recovery has been stated as being on track. Coming back from an ACL injury for a big guy is difficult. There are two stages an athlete hits with such an injury. First, the athlete has recovered enough to play at an acceptable level after recovery being stated. This does not mean the athlete will play at his best. The second stage involves not only full recovery but also the performance level equals or surpasses previous play. It is unreasonable to expect Pipkins to ascend to the second stage, especially early in the year. It can take less than one year to come back to playing status, but more time to reach the 100 percent plateau.

Oct 5, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins (56) is carted off the field against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 5, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins (56) is carted off the field against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

One factor is certain, regardless of Pipkin’s ability to play and endurance early in the season, he will receive help. Bryan Mone, Maurice Hurst, and Willie Henry provide a nice mixture of quickness, size, and athletic talent. Logic based on observation and some minimal common sense would dictate this group should be adequate at both run stoppage and pass rushing. How soon will the inside group make a significant impact? Both run and pass defense are in need of improvement and the only thing missing for a leap is experience. Last year Michigan may have suffered some with a generous rotation inside, but even though Black, Washington, and Ash were the main contributors, the young saw the field and gained some of that valuable playing time needed to start and contribute at a meaningful level.

Oct 19, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Indiana Hoosiers quarterback Tre Roberson (5) avoids a tackle by Michigan Wolverines defensive lineman Chris Wormley (43) in the second half at Michigan Stadium. Michigan won 63-47. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Wormley appears to have worked and grown his way (290 plus) to the inside ranks of the Michigan front line. He could still factor in at defensive end. Blessed with some speed and overall athletic talent, this is the year for the highly recruited redshirt sophomore to get it done. Another player, who assumes the above discussion as Wormley, is Matt Godin. He lacks a little on the weight side but has length and has always impressed with work ethic. Ryan Glasgow made enough progress last year to gain playing time and should make up a part of the line rotation.

Next up will be a discussion of the defensive ends, which except for Frank Clark is yet another area of the Michigan team that can be described as young but with potential.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Doc4Blu

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Tags: Bryan Mone Chris Wormley Coach Greg Mattison Football Matt Godin Maurice Hurst Michigan Football Michigan Wolverines Ondre Pipkins Willie Henry

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