Nov 2, 2013; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive back Raymon Taylor (6) leaves the field during the 2nd half of a game against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. MSU won 29-6. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan Wolverines: Rebuilding the Defense -- Defensive Backs -- Part I

GBMWolverine Coach's Corner2Posted at 4:45am — 8/7/2014

Michigan Wolverines: Rebuilding the Defense — Defensive Backs — Part I

Stop The Leaks

At the end of last year, Michigan’s defensive backfield gave up enough yardage to declare a track meet. Earlier in the season the pass defense ranking and performance was at least satisfactory, but certainly not noteworthy.

What happened to the defensive performance is more open to conjecture than brilliant analysis, and the why may never be known. Suffice it to say success was not the final result. The safeties became totally lost in the last two games and many combinations throughout the year yielded no dependable pair to play the field.

Oct 5, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive back Blake Countess (18) scores a touchdown on a seventy two yard interception return against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the fourth quarter at Michigan Stadium. Michigan won 42-13. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

That was last year and back are some defensive back candidates that have at least above average ability, and one arrives that clearly has well above average athleticism.

The shift to the 4-3 over could entail several backfield assignments. Michigan will probably use cover 4, cover two, and maybe a little cover zero in the defensive backfield scheme.

The cover four and the 4-3 over makes UM similar to the initial line-up Michigan State puts on the field. The differences are the physical play, execution, and blitz packages the Spartans present. The cover four provides the luxury of dropping four deep backs and the outside linebackers take the flats. As in any zone there are natural holes and the cover four is intended to make the long game difficult. Against the cover four an offense needs to read the coverage quick, throw quick, and take the short gains. The cover four helps to avoid deep damage from several receivers running deep routes down the boundaries and seams. So, offenses then like to flood short zones after sending one or more receivers deep.

Oct 12, 2013; University Park, PA, USA; Michigan Wolverines safety Jarrod Wilson (22) during the fourth quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Michigan 43-40 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O

The cover two has the traditional two deep look, the safeties play 10-12 yards off the ball. The safeties have the difficult responsibility of each covering one-half of the field in the deep zones. The middle linebacker gets deeper than normal, and hopefully, in the thinking of the defensive staff, deep enough. The cornerbacks get up close and personal and jam the receivers hard. After a successful jam, the corners look for the quick inside throw, but they also have the action in the flats. Many times this leaves the cornerbacks in man-to-man situations. Being closer to the line of scrimmage, the expectation is that the corners can be more involved in the running game. Still, the safeties can rotate to the flat and cornerbacks can release deeper than the quarterback expected. The primary weakness of the cover two is the seam between the safeties. The cure is pressure. Many teams send a tight end to the vulnerable area, whereby the safety has a choice: cover the hole or fall back to help out over the top. The quarterback makes the safety read and throws accordingly.

Cover zero (O) is man-to-man coverage. There will certainly be a few times that UM uses this coverage. This coverage scheme allows for multiple blitzes and packages. The disadvantage is that once beaten a defensive back can expect little or no help over the top.

Oct 19, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Indiana Hoosiers wide receiver Nick Stoner (14) makes a catch over Michigan Wolverines defensive back Jourdan Lewis (26) in the second half at Michigan Stadium. Michigan won 63-47. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The cornerback situation appears to be better, both talent and depth wise, but hold off on the unit accolades for now. Like every other Michigan unit, the defensive backs must convert athletic potential into strong play. Cornerback is perhaps the most difficult position on the football field to play and excel. When a corner is beat, it is like the outfielder who drops the ball and lets two runs score and the batter advances to second base. Corners not only need to be as good of athletes as wide receivers, they must be better. Receivers have the advantage of knowing where they are going.

Part II will have player breakdowns.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Doc4Blu

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