Michigan Football: Practice Report Tidbits — Defense

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Posted at 6:00am — 4/3/2010

Michigan Football: Practice Report Tidbits — Defense

As promised we now turn attention to what was observed regarding the defensive side of the ball. Keep in mind two assumptions that usually hold true regarding spring practice: (1) things change; (2) opportunities open up to be grabbed by those who are ready.

The defensive line seems to be growing in the quality of much needed depth at each practice. Greg Banks continues to show that he could be a player that will used often in the rotation and is getting some valuable reps. He might have actually now turned the corner where we all can see his practice progress carry over to on the field gains this upcoming season. Let us hope so because this defense needs quality depth to help with any hope of having an effective defensive rotation, defined as perhaps 20 or so meaningful contributors, not 11 starters and 3 or 4 guys to try and hold the fort for a few plays.

Renaldo Sagesse was with the first group on Thursday. Was his placement for this day another message sent to Will Campbell, or has Sagesse been putting in excellent work on his own part and is by his own merit deserving of first unit snaps? The conclusion here is that both Banks and Sagesse have put in the extra work, turned the corner, and will help this team out with line depth. Ryan Van Bergen is being his steady old self — not flashy, but getting the job done.

One defensive linemen of some note who was not working with the first group is Anthony Lalota. He is getting attention from the coaches and seems to have found a niche in this defense. Will it be enough to get serious playing time once fall camp rolls around and Martin comes back?

Linebackers are more than a little bit of a sore subject with GBMWolverine. We thought last spring there was some reason to believe that even though small in numbers the group turned the corner. The results of the 2009 season indicate a second-degree burn for our staff. And so it should come as no surprise that we now take a wait and see attitude, especially since this year’s group is essentially the same players, including Jonas Mouton and Obi Ezeh. Some have said they (the linebackers) are playing better, but GBMWolverine is not sure if the opinion is based on actual linebackers or players some believe are playing a linebacker position? There are only three true linebackers of note, the two previously mentioned and Craig Roh.

Craig Roh reminds us of Shawn Crable by how he is being used in this defense. The staff is moving him around and letting him blitz, go into pass coverage and just go after the ball.

Regarding Obi and Jonas, again we are going to hold out judgment. The one problem we have with the linebackers is that at times they are almost invisible in a lot of cases. You don’t hear about them making a lot of plays, tackles, hits, etc. Historically this is not a benchmark for a leading defensive unit. Maybe that is the old way of thinking where a defense counts on having strong middle of the field players that are in on plays constantly. Again no one is trying to put these players down or say they are not playing well, but we are going to sit on the cautious side for now.

Concerning the defensive backs we will start with the two strong safety positions called spur and bandit. Kovacs just seems to keep making plays and is usually in the right spot. He still lacks the extra boost you would like to see from that position, but at this time there is no one willing (or perhaps able) to grab the spot away from him. Thomas Gordon has stepped up some and so far is playing very well. You can tell how good of an athlete Thomas is and right now he is still a little raw. But being in a new position and playing well this early in the spring is only going to help him keep building confidence.

The deep safety, or free safety, Cam Gordon has really flourished and seems to be thriving right now. He is probably the biggest surprise so far this spring. Just like Thomas, you can tell Cam is a very athletic football player who has talent, but again is a little raw yet. You can bet Vlad, wearing the red jersey and the knee brace on the sidelines watching Cam play well is the best medicine and the quickest medicine for a player like Vlad to get back as soon as possible. Cam had one of the best hits of the day on Thursday and he let everybody know about it — so much so that he got flagged, which did not make Coach Robinson very happy, but Coach loves the enthusiasm that the defense is bringing to practice.

We saved the corner-backs for last for two reasons. First, this position is the toughest to judge in some regards, because you have to look at it two ways in our opinion. Yes the corners are looking like they can play, and are doing quite well, even to the point that it seems like this position might be in good hands come fall. The problem is that the corners may be looking good because of going against the young inexperienced split ends that are running very predictable patterns.

The second factor is the split ends are sometimes non-existent during the 11-on-11 scrimmages. Yes, there are times the wide-outs are getting the ball thrown to them, but the routes they are running allows the defenders to squat down and not be overly worried about the split ends going deep. There will be no such luxury against vertical games like Notre Dame. As mentioned yesterday, JT. Floyd jumped a route early and picked off Tate Forcier and went over 70 plus yards for a defensive touchdown.

So again, because of circumstances, there is a need to take a wait and see approach with the defensive backs until we see them in the fall go against a team that will try and go vertical, a team that has wide receivers with speed that might strike a little fear in the defensive backs eyes, or at least make the defenders a little worried about what type of route might be executed.

One problem this team still is having, and UM has had this problem for many years, is tackling a running quarterback. The defense needs to play smarter and remember the assigned gap coverage and not over pursue the ball carrier. Yes, granted the defense is going against one of the fastest players in college football in Denard Robinson, but this is occurring with Devin Gardner as well.

Do not form the vision that run away quarterbacks dominate every play, but certainly enough to make the coaches a little concerned. Again, it is early on and another new defense is being implemented, so everyone will have things to work on, especially concerning understanding responsibilities.

One thing is for sure, it does appear that the defensive players are understanding their roles and what they are suppose to do in most cases a lot better than at this time last year.

Defensive Depth Chart and Special Teams

Michigan used a 3-3-5 stack almost exclusively, but did stem and such to turn into a four-man front, but the focus was definitely a three front.

Michigan: The 3-3-5 Base Defense

3-3-5 vs. Pro Set
………………………………..0
………………………………..0

………………………………..0
0…………………….0…0…X…0…0…0………………………0
……………………..^………^………^
…………………….DE…….DT……DE
………………^…………………………………..^
………………B…….^………^……….^………S
………………………L………M……….R
^……………………………………………………………………..^
BC…………………………………………………………………..FC

………………………………^
………………………………FS

LDE: Greg Banks
DT: Renaldo Sagesse
RDE: Ryan Van Bergen

LOLB: Jonas Mouton
MLB: Obi Ezeh
ROLB: Craig Roh

BC = J.T. Floyd
FC = Troy Woolfolk
SS: Thomas Gordon (Bandit)
SS: Jordan Kovacs (Spur)
FS: Cam Gordon (Deep Safety)

These players likely to see a roll in the first group, but out:
*** Mike Martin out for Spring football.
*** Vlad Emilien out a couple of weeks.
*** Brandon Herron likely out for most of Spring football.

These players were on the second group, but saw action before with the first group:
DT: Will Campbell
SS: Mike Williams (Bandit)

Kick Off Return:
SE: Darryl Stonum
SL: Jeremy Gallon
SL: Terrence Robinson

Punt Return:
SL: Jeremy Gallon
SL: Terrence Robinson
SL: Kelvin Grady

Punt:
P: Seth Broekhuizen

Field Goals:
K: Brendan Gibbons

No practice on Saturday which has been on the schedule since this winter — also on this blog. The reason is they have four practices next week along with Easter this weekend.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff

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