Monday, September 04, 2006

And on to the Defense against Vanderbilt

Ron English made his debut as defensive coordinator on Saturday. There was lots of talk about how things would change and the defense would play "fast and aggressive" and on and on and on. But sometimes you just have to sit back and see for yourself. Well, we all got to see it, and OH MY GOD! The attack dogs have been unleashed. If you are like me you used to wonder why Ohio State could year after year stuff the run and pressure the quarterback with regularity and we were relegated to getting gashed by tailbacks and mobile quarterbacks.

Consider those days over. Michigan was mean and nasty and played exactly like everybody was hoping they would play. They just obliterated any hope of a rushing attack for Vanderbilt and then the DL pinned their ears back and dominated the Vanderbilt offensive line. Yes, it's Vandy, but it's also one of the best blocking units in the SEC and they got lit up. LaMarr Woodley just teed off against 2 of the best OTs in the SEC and wrecked havoc in the backfield for 3 TFLs and 2 sacks. And that was with Vanderbilt trying their best to go away from him. So what happened? The rest of the DL cleaned up and Michigan finished with 6 sacks and numerous QB knockdowns. And this was against a very mobile QB that is a hard target to bring down. Position by position...

Defensive Line

Rondell Biggs got the start at end opposite Woodley, although Tim Jamison was listed as starter and sat out the whole game. I'm thinking it was probably a little disciplinary action. Alan Branch and Terrance Taylor got the nod at tackle, though Will Johnson frequently rotated in as well. Jeremy Van Alstyne and mega-recruit Brandon Graham also got some looks at end.

How can I analyze their performance? It was basically dominant from start to finish. They stuffed the run and had the QB running for his life. English rarely had to blitz to get pressure. LaMarr Woodley played like a serious candidate for the Lombardi award and should be in the running for Big Ten DPOY if he stays healthy. Rondell Biggs ended up having the game of his life with 4 TFLs and 2 sacks.

Overall grade: A+. The best performance I have seen from a Michigan defensive line in recent memory. It was absolutely everything you could have hoped for. If they are this good the rest of the year, Michigan is going to have a top 5 national defense.


Linebackers

Shawn Crable, David Harris, and Chris Graham got the nod, though Graham tweaked a hammy and Prescott Burgess saw a lot of action. All in all, they were very solid. Very good tackling and they took good angles. Pretty good in coverage as well. They were not spectacular, but the DL was taking all the glory any way. Burgess definitely shed a few pounds and moved well in the open field. Crable is still at his best when blitzing the QB. Harris just roams the middle and puts TBs on the ground when he gets near them.

Overall grade: B+. A very solid showing.


Defensive Backs

Leon Hall and Charles Stewart started at CB, Jamar Adams was at SS, and Brandent Engelmon got the nod at FS. Leon Hall was very good. He recovered a fumble and Vanderbilt generally avoided throwing at him like the plague. Charles Stewart was so-so in his first start. He got toasted on the trick play when he came up to support the run and let his man get wide open in the endzone. He also was generally a step off the receiver in man coverage. He did tackle well, though, and in general kept the play in front of him. Jamar Adams delivered lots of big hits but was a step late on several occasions in coverage over the middle. He also got knocked for a PI on 3rd down. Good showing, though, as he frequently got in to the play and made his presence felt physically. Brandent Engelmon was quietly effective for the most part. He was pretty solid in coverage and managed to rip a fumble loose from the QB. Ryan Mundy and Morgan Trent saw some action in nickel packages and both stayed off the highlight reel (good or bad).

Overall grade: B. A little dissappointed in Charles Stewart's coverage, but there was only 1 glaring mistake. Leon Hall was very good but never got tested. The safeties were solid.


Defensive Coaching

If this is how Ron English is going to have them play, he will be up for some national recognition later this year. Their logo for the year should just be "The Fast and The Furious" because they were out for blood. His first real test will come in 2 weeks when he gets to match wits with Charlie Weis and Heisman boy wonder Brady Quinn. The early results are as good as it gets, though.

Overall grade: A+.

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