The moment Rich Rodriguez set foot on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, a lot of the buzz around the program was about the offensive style he brought with him from West Virginia.
It differed from Lloyd Carr's smash mouth, run the ball down your throat, and then call in the play action passing. Rodriguez drove in the flashy Ferrari while Michigan shipped out the old Cadillac.
It's taken a year and then some for the Wolverines to get the personnel and players they want on its team to effectively run the spread offense. They still have work to do. It could be another long season of players, coaches and playbooks getting familiar with one another.
That's why, in 2009, it's up to the defense to help out the offense.
And then some.
The Wolverine defense was nothing to write home about in 2008. The team surrendered 347 points (28.9 per game) last season and gave up over 1,000 more passing yards than they were able to earn through the air. The team only had nine interceptions in 12 games.
The list of non-accomplishments could go on and on.
However, the Wolverines do have some talents on defense that offer hope for the 2009 season.
And with the uncertainty of the Michigan offense heading into the season, the U-M defense could become the secret weapon in 2009.
Senior defensive end Brandon Graham is one sure reason to believe that this is true.
Graham, a native of Detroit, had 20 tackles for a loss (tied for first in the conference) and 10 sacks for the Maize and Blue in 2008, easily the best on the team. He will once again be a top threat on the outside and should terrorize quarterbacks all season long.
Another returning starter is Obi Ezeh.
The junior linebacker from Grand Rapids, Mich. led the Wolverines in tackles with 98—22 more than anyone else on the roster.
Alongside Ezeh will be fellow junior linebacker Jonas Mouton. Mouton is in the mold of Ezeh, and with another year of experience under his belt should be ready to tackle—literally—the competition this season.
Even though Morgan Trent graduated last season, there is experience returning in the defensive backfield.
Junior Donovan Warren and senior safety/linebacker Stevie Brown have both experience and talent to boot. Brown is the only other senior besides Graham to start on the defensive side of the ball for U-M.
He was fourth on the team in 2009 with 64 tackles and added a pair of picks.
Warren, a cornerback, is another upperclassmen who is expected to step up this season and blanket some of the top receivers in the league. With a couple of seasons under his belt and plenty of confidence from the staff, he is poised for a solid season.
Sophomore defensive tackle Mike Martin received valuable time in the trenches last season and should play another big role this upcoming fall.
Martin certainly won't be the biggest player to man the line this season, however.
That designation should belong to William Campbell. The defensive tackle, out of Detroit, is expected to step in as a freshman and provide a bang up front.
The 6-foot-5, 318-pound tackle was regarded as one of the top defensive players in the nation when he stepped onto campus and the hype surrounding him has fans waiting for him to burst through lines all season and cause lots of havoc up front.
There is no shortage of talent and experience staring in the eyes of opposing quarterbacks for the Maize and Blue this season.
The squad packs a punch and has the ability to change the outcome of any game this season with it's versatility, athleticism and play-making ability.
Whether it's Graham flying around the end at a quarterback, Ezeh wrapping up a ball carrier that just made it's way through the line, or Warren stepping in front of a pass intended for someone else, U-M has reason to believe the defense could provide a boost this season.
It's cliche, yes, but sometimes the best offense is a good defense.
And the Michigan Wolverines might need all the offense they can get this season.