Cam Gordon no longer looks like a freshman out there
Due to the well-documented litany of injuries, defections, and non-admittals over the past 12 months, Michigan’s secondary has lost an incredible eight players who were either four or five star recruits. As a result, the secondary now features one redshirt sophomore, one redshirt freshman, two true freshmen, and a senior who was a backup receiver about nine months ago. Injuries are part of the game, but I have never seen such an intense run-off of talent from one position group in such a short time. None the less, for the first time in weeks, the defense started showing the ability to make plays against Illinois.
Against the Illini, Michigan’s offense and special teams had turnovers on three consecutive possessions in the first quarter. With Illinois starting at the Michigan 47, 33, and 32 yard lines, the defense stood tall to only yield a respectable 10 points on those three possessions. Considering how badly we had been losing at half time of our previous three games, it was huge for the defense to keep the score close early.
Also, not counting the kneel-down at the end of the fourth quarter, the defense held the Illini without points on eight out of sixteen drives in regulation. Considering that Illinois’ average starting field position for the day was their own 42 yard line, holding them without points on half their drives is impressive.
Two of the touchdowns came on total busted coverages against the exact same play. Guess what?You’re going to have some breakdowns with what seems like the youngest secondary in history. Speaking of the young secondary, true freshman Courtney Avery showed that he is a real competitor. Even the long TD pass against Avery was well covered – it was just an excellent throw.
Another very positive note for the defense is that Craig Roh’s return to full-time D-Lineman against Illinois was a definite success. I was skeptical of this move because I didn’t think that Roh could compete on the line at his current weight of around 250 pounds. However, he easily had his most disruptive game of the season. Finally, we got to see “Death Roh” in action. In the first eight games, Roh had only recorded 14 solo tackles. He had five on Saturday alone. He also forced his first fumble of the season and was coming hard off the edge all day long. After another summer at Camp Barwis, Roh will be a nightmare for offenses next year.
Other young talent is starting to make a difference. True freshman Ray Vinopal stepped up in the hole with RS frosh Cam Gordon to make an enormous third down stop on Illinois running beast Mikel Leshoure in the fourth quarter. Speaking of vision, the move to switch Gordon to defense this year was brilliant – the guy is a tough-nosed playmaker. RS soph Kenny Demens not only played tough against the run, but looked light-years better in space than in previous weeks. On top of all the young talent that is getting invaluable experience now, there are several other talented youngsters that haven’t even started contributing yet. Guys like Josh Furman, Marvin Robinson, and Richard Ash are all super-talented guys who should start earning playing time next year.