Solid Points from Sports Columnist Michael Rosenberg on Michigan, Michigan State and Notre Dame

Why is the Wolverines’ D so poor? Let’s count the reasons

Michael Rosenberg paints a clear picture of what has happened to Michigan’s defense since Rodriguez took over, including a history of the personnel involved.  He describes the beginning of the issues when Rodriguez hired defensive coordinator Scott Shafer (the last person he hired on the staff who had no input in hiring his assistants).

The defensive staff was completely dysfunctional, and late in the season [2008], Rodriguez scrapped Shafer’s defense and installed a makeshift version of the 3-3-5 that worked for him at West Virginia. Predictably, that failed. Rodriguez fired Shafer at the end of the season.”

The current Defensive Coordinator is Greg Robinson [former head coach at Syracuse] and unfortunately, as Rosenberg points out:

The 3-3-5 requires frequent and varied blitzing to be effective, and Robinson has never been an aggressive blitzer.

He further explains how Michigan’s defensive strategy is exasperating the problem.

Lately, U-M frequently has stacked eight men on the line of scrimmage, which has put even more pressure on the young secondary. The way Michigan has schemed lately, the Wolverines are virtually incapable of playing a two-deep zone to take pressure off the overmatched cornerbacks.

EXPLANATION:  This is because stacking eight men on the line of scrimmage or putting eight men in the Box (LINK TO DEFINITION) requires a Safety to move up to help stop the run.  Generally this means that the remaining Defensive Backs will have to defend the receivers in Man-to-Man Coverage.  While Zone Coverage formations, such as the Cover 2 Rosenberg mentions (two-deep zone) (LINK TO COVERAGE ARTCICLE) allow the defense to help out their weaker players, Man-to Man leaves those players on their own.  Double teaming the opponent’s best receiver is not an option in Man-to-Man like it is in Zone Coverage.  This is especially problematic if the Defensive Back is weak or inexperienced as big passing plays become a greater threat to exploit his vulnerability.

Three Michigan State questions with Michael Rosenberg

Iowa is easily one of the top 20 teams in the country and desperately needed a win at home. Plus, Iowa had several matchup advantages. The game snowballed on Michigan State, but you can’t just chalk this one up to MSU overlooking somebody. Give the Hawkeyes credit.

Notre Dame’s biggest problems: perception, and this fall, coaching

But it’s not just that Notre Dame got to 4-5. It’s how Notre Dame got to 4-5. Kelly, the offensive whiz, seems to lose brain cells every week. To put it bluntly: He has done one of the worst coaching jobs in the whole sport this season…Almost every loss can be attributed, at least in part, to coaching…No reasonable person could argue that Notre Dame is running a talent deficit against Tulsa and Navy.

I don’t necessarily recommend reading the article because the author went to Michigan and his distaste for Notre Dame is a little too apparent, but he does make some solid points. Without going through all of the coaching mistakes Rosenberg mentions, I’ll just point out the most egregious of them all.  In the final minute of the game against Tulsa, needing just a field goal to win, with a great kicker and just a 36 yard field goal standing between him and victory, Kelly chose to have his back-up quarterback attempt a touchdown pass.   The result: an interception. Unacceptable.