Friday, September 16, 2011

Expectations against EMU: Defense

In lieu of a traditional preview, for what are hopefully obvious reasons, I thought it would be more useful to point out some things to watch for on Saturday as well as a few things to expect/hope for. Previously: the offense


Will Campbell. The real thing to watch on the defense will be Will Campbell. He had a remarkably productive game against Notre Dame and should be able to repeat that performance against a run-heavy Eastern Michigan team. If Campbell is going to become a contributor for the defense, he'll need to prove that the Notre Dame game wasn't a fluke. He'll also need to become more consistent against the run and double teams. EMU provides a good avenue for him to get reps and work on his technique.

Jibreel Black vs Craig Roh. Roh has entered his third year on campus in a supremely underwhelming fashion, so much so that Black mostly replaced him against Notre Dame. There are rumblings that Roh has/had mono which is slowing his production, but that seems too convenient, especially when Hoke almost explicitly dismisses the suggestion. This is probably the most intriguing position battle on defense. These two should get about equal playing time tomorrow and we'll be able to see which can consistently provide the pressure that Michigan desperately needs from their front four.

How does Marvin Robinson bounce back? Robinson is just learning the free safety position and prone to some ugly coverage errors. It's even questionable whether or not he can be a permanent solution at free safety. MGoBlog says he's probably not, but I'm a proponent of gambling with the best talent. In my opinion, having Robinson on the field and gambling that he'll grow out of these rookie mistakes is far more preferable to trying to put a less athletically talented player on the field who might not make as many mental errors early. Mattison will likely call a lot of those presnap bluffs in this game and see how well Michigan handles the coverage. Robinson's performance will be telling: if he can learn and progress from his errors against Notre Dame, he could very well be Michigan's free safety of the future.

Speaking of Robinson... I want to see Mattison continue to dial up pressure against EMU and show the same presnap formations that we've seen already this year. There's no need in taking it easy against EMU, so coming out with the full defensive playbook--at least the stuff that they've already shown--will be important. Michigan is still badly blowing coverage on what should be some of the base formations of the defense. This is a good opportunity for Hoke and company to really coach up a few of the culprits (Kenny Demens and Marvin Robinson, specifically, who have both had difficulty remembering their assignments).

Stop face guarding. For whatever reason, it seems as though the coaching staff has told Michigan's corners to face guard opposing receivers. In the first two games, I can't remember a single instance of man coverage down the field when Michigan's corners weren't face guarding. Courtney Avery was even called for a bad pass interference call in the endzone because of it. Maybe they're just inexperienced and bad at identifying the ball, but the corners' technique seems far more indicative of a systemic approach from the coaching staff. With a quarterback that struggles throwing the ball, Michigan's corners should be able to finally rectify these struggles, if only for a game. Michigan should have this game firmly in hand, making this good practice for the corners to be more aggressive and work on technique that they may not be completely comfortable with.

Fergodsakes, rest Troy Woolfolk. Injured ankle, hand cast, and a shredded nose is enough. There's no purpose in playing Woolfolk in this game. Michigan can gain nothing by putting its injured starting cornerback on the field against a team that can hardly threaten the secondary. This will also open playing time for the young corners that Michigan will use throughout the year. However, given Woolfolk's desire to play and Hoke's emphasis on toughness, he'll probably be out there for one or two series.


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