JT Floyd Is Out: HowThe Michigan Wolverines Defense Must Cope + Other Thoughts

Cyrus Sidhwa@@cysidContributor INovember 4, 2010

J.T. Floyd played tough as nails for Michigan this year until his injury
J.T. Floyd played tough as nails for Michigan this year until his injury

Before we get to the main stuff, let me go over my basic thought patterns for the last few days since the Penn State game:

  1. What the !@#$ was that? 
  2. Trying to calm down.
  3. Same
  4. !@# !@#$%^ !@#$ !@ !@#$ !@# !@#$% !@# !@#$?????  !@# !@ @ !@#$%!!!!!
  5. OK, OK.
  6. Breathe…
  7. OK.  Rational thoughts, must think rational thoughts…

1. Fine. We’re here now. Here’s my continued issue with the defense. We continue to do absolutely nothing well. With JT Floyd suddenly out for the remainder of the season, the absolutely horrible storm of attrition continues in the secondary. It’s even more painfully obvious than ever that there is no chance that this will be a good pass defense. However, we do have enough guys that can really shut down the run if we commit to that defensive philosophy. 

Let’s commit to doing this one thing very well instead of doing everything pretty poorly.  Sure, maybe we’ll give up a few big plays in the passing game. WHO CARES? We already give up a ridiculous 291 passing yards per game (and 38.8 points per Big Ten game). It’s not like we’ve got anything to lose. 

Frankly, I’d just as soon that we give up a quick strike every now and then rather than just have teams continue to systematically march up and down the field keeping Denard and Co. on the sidelines for long stretches and totally exhausting the defense. Let’s stuff the heck out of the run and force teams into an unbalanced offense. Not too many teams can go away from their own normal game plan and hope to hang with the Michigan offense.

Look, this is nothing new folks. It’s probably the oldest recipe this side of Colonel Sanders’ secret recipe. The recipe for Michigan to play winning football is pretty simple:  stuff the pants off the run and don’t turn the ball over. If Michigan would have followed that recipe, or at least come close, we would probably be 7-1.  We would probably still have lost to Penn State because when PSU couldn’t run, they just screened us to death, and we never figured it out. To PSU’s credit, their screens were brilliantly designed and executed. 

Quick side note: Although PSU may have been Floyd’s worst game of the season, he gave us everything he had this year. He caused the huge fumble on the goal line against UConn. He was our best cover corner and played his heart out making tons of tackles against the run. In fact, Floyd is currently third on the team in tackles.  Huge respect and well wishes for JT Floyd.

2. We may have to win a game or two in a 45-42 shootout fashion, so the offense needs to get clicking much quicker in games. We have to come out of the gates fast and avoid the large deficits that have plagued us the last three games. The Wolverines have scored only 10, seven, and 10 points in the first half of each of the last three games. This really is a major problem.

Teams are really scared of Denard—with good reason. When a team stops Michigan early, it gives them a huge confidence boost—more so than with most teams. With momentum being such an enormous part of college football, the offense needs to dramatically improve its performance in the first half. 

3. Speaking of the early parts of games, I HATED the call on 3rd-and-2 to start the game. RR has talked recently about the fact that, although he and Calvin Magee pre-set the first 25 or so plays, sometimes that stuff goes out the window. It’s pretty obvious that we don’t typically run little Vincent Smith into the line in a short yardage situation, and we shouldn’t have done it then. We normally either let Denard do what he does or at least bring in big Hopkins. The coaches didn’t react fast enough in that situation to change the play call or personnel on the fly.  It was an awful play call, and the resulting 3-and-out set the tone for the horrible first half. 

4. Another major play that also really set the tempo of the “horrendous half” was PSU’s 3rd-and-10 on their third offensive play of the game. Not counting his lone sack, PSU’s former walk-on sophomore Matt McGloin only ran for 17 yards, but his 11-yard scamper on that play was huge. 

Think about it:  Michigan has 3rd-and-1 but ends up with a 3-and-out. PSU has a 3rd-and-10 but converts to avoid the 3-and-out. They march down and score to give McGloin, making his first career start, a head full of confidence.

Those two plays really set the tone. You know, Kenny Demens played pretty well overall (led the team in tackles), but on that third down play, he looked painfully slow and even seemed to ease up at the end of the play. Maybe McGloin’s ‘speed’ surprised him?  It’s pretty clear that we need to keep Demens almost strictly on the short side of the field so he can maximize his power game. He’s a run stuffer in the hole but clearly struggles in space.

5. Denard Robinson, you are amazing. There is no question your passing will continue to grow. Fantastic job carrying 27 times (197 yards) and throwing 23 times without a turnover. Although your passing percentage wasn’t the best, it’s great that you are protecting the rock.  It’s also awesome to see that incredible burst is back. We love you Shoooo!

6. I continue to swear we need to hand Mike Cox the ball. He will carry defenders and push, stiff-arm, and fight for more yards than Shaw or Smith can. We keep hearing about not being able to put in the whole playbook with Mike (and now his knee might be bothering him?). What does that even mean—and at this point who cares? Against PSU, Shoelace racked up 7.1 yards per carry. The other three backs only averaged a paltry 2.8 yards when they touched the ball. Assuming his knee is ok, just give Cox the rock and let him run behind Lewan, Schilling and a pulling Omameh. He will break tackles and rip off big plays. As long as Mike Cox makes ball security his absolute No. 1 priority on every play, he should be a beast. 

I was going to say that a healthy Fitz is also a very interesting option, but he still isn’t healthy. This poor guy has been unable to play in almost every single game since he got to Michigan. If we can ever get Fitz’ body right, this guy will run with incredible emotion after everything he’s gone through in the last year or so.

7. Hagerup is our best guy on kickoffs. He started the year shaky on punts but has been better the last few games. Hopefully, he can continue the positive trends.

8. Man, we really should be breaking some kickoffs for more distance. Gallon doesn’t understand that the ball is the program and should not be back there anymore. He is not a fundamentally sound kick returner. Yes, he’s quick and has quick-twitch juke moves, but how many times have we begged him to take care of the ball first?  Fundamentals before flash.

It really seems like Stonum is much more sure-handed than Gallon. Stonum may not have as quick of moves, but when he gets a crease, he can really burn down the sideline.  Darryl’s returns were great last year, and it would be awesome to see him find that magic again as we go down the stretch.

9. Junior Hemingway, you are a weapon. Please stop dropping the ball when it hits you in the hands. By the way, great job by Denard to go right back to Jr. after a key drop. To Jr.’s credit, he stepped up and made the play but enough drops already for a guy who RichRod said may have the best hands on the team. I have a sneaking suspicion that Shoelace and Jr. are on the verge of really having some incredible on-field chemistry. I’m just hoping that it happens soon rather than next year.

10. Craig Roh continues to have a disappointing sophomore season. Roh gets moved around a good bit to give him the opportunity to make big plays both rushing the passer and dropping into coverage. For the entire season, Roh has zero interceptions, zero fumble recoveries, zero fumbles caused, half a sack (for five yards), one QB hurry, one pass break-up, three-and-a-half tackles for a loss (for 16 yards) and 27 total tackles. 

In our defensive scheme, Roh’s position needs to account for way higher production. At this point, I’m convinced he needs one more offseason in the Barwis system to pack on more bulk. He’s got the moves and the motor to cause havoc but just not enough power. That’s what happens when you have to play a lot of young guys.

I would love to see Roh and Demens split time depending on the run/pass situation and therefore allowing Marvin Robinson to get on the field. Robinson is a stud of a freshman.  We’ve already burned his redshirt, so let’s get him out there with Kovacs and Cam Gordon.  Robinson is 6’2”, 200 lbs of total muscle, fast and hits like a monster. He seems perfect for the bandit in my opinion. If there’s one thing Michigan clearly needs on defense, it’s more athletic playmakers. We haven’t forced a single turnover in three weeks. We haven’t even had one fumble recovery since the UConn game. Unbelievable.

11. I miss seeing Martavious Odoms out there. The kid has really packed on some muscle and is a really solid all around Tasmanian devil of a football player. I hope his recovery from surgery is off to a good start.

12. One of Bo’s many lessons rings true now more than ever. Bo said, “When your team is winning, be ready to be tough, because winning can make you soft. On the other hand, when your team is losing, stick by them. Keep believing.”

If we claim to be Michigan men and women, then we better darn well respect what our legendary coach taught us. This is not the time to fall off the bandwagon and start talking junk about our team. Obviously, Bo wasn’t saying to put our heads in the sand and pretend like everything is hunky-dory. We’ve already talked a lot about things we need to correct, so we’re not doing that.  Here are five things to continue to love about this team:

1. Despite limited production from the running back position, we have the eighth best rushing attack in the country.

2. Despite averaging nine points per first half in the last three games, we still have the 19th ranked scoring offense in the country.

3. Despite an excruciatingly frustrating last three games, the team is solidly sticking together.  This team told us at the beginning of the year they could handle adversity because of their close bond.  They have been true to their word, and it’s one of the biggest reasons why they still have a chance to turn this ship back around.

4. Despite being a five-star defensive recruit who hasn’t seen the field much, Will Campbell has had an awesome attitude and has moved to offense.  Good on ya Will—you are appreciated here.

5. Denard Robinson, Denard Robinson, Denard Robinson. 

So, Wolverine faithful, stick with your boys. Come out and be loud as you possibly can to support The Team. Send positive vibrations instead of just taking the easy road and ripping on them when they are down. This team desperately needs to get to a bowl game so they can get the extra practice time. For a team this young, those 12-14 extra practices would be huge going into next year. Be that 12th man and make a difference.

That’s all for now. Time to get ready for Illinois.



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