On the Defensive: Taking a Look at Michigan's Defense Versus BGSU in the Wolverines' 65-21 Win

[Ed Note - At this point there is no version of Every Snap for the Michigan defense against BGSU available for you to peruse as you read through this. I'll link it up as it becomes available. If anyone knows how to transfer video from my DVR to my computer, please email me. Then also email me how I'm supposed to video edit. These interwebz tubes have always given me trouble.]

Overall

First, the Bad. Middle linebacker play continues to be an issue. Watching Obi Ezeh, Kenny Demens, and Kevin Leach play MLB was very frustrating. Additionally, Michigan clearly had some issues in pass coverage. If not for a lot of poorly thrown balls by BGSU's beleaguered quarterback, the Falcons definitely would have been able to move the ball a little better. As it was, BGSU put up 283 passing yards. Sure, 71 of them were on one play, but that's still 212 in the air against a team with a back up qarterback in the game. Not good. Michigan also had some tackling issues, in particular the missed tackel that led to the 71 yard screen pass turned touchdown. Finally, overall secondary speed. Dear God is Michigan slow at Safety. Jordan Kovacs and Cameron Gordon aren't going to catch anyone from behind. It's just not going to happen.

Now, the Good. Michigan gave up only 32 rushing yards on 27 carries. 32 rushing yards. I mean... Daaaaaaaaaaamnnnn. Michigan even managed to sack the quarterback three times. They almost doubled their sack total for the season in one game. As much as the passing yards are a concern, a good reason for the yardage was because Michigan played three freshman cornerbacks in a dime/nickle/quarter/half-dollar package for most of the game. I really can't get too angry about the passing yards when we're getting freshmen necessary playing time in a game that's totally in hand. Michigan is going to need to give these players every possible snap of experience they can handle in order to develop any kind of depth in the secondary. Giving these kids the opportunity to play easily offsets any "bleh" feeling I might have about the pass defense.

I talked about this earlier, but Jonas Mouton and Ryan Van Bergen had monster games. Both were forces on Saturday and both had bounce back games. I honestly thought the defensive line, Mouton and Craig Roh played very, very well. Another nice aspect was the two picks that Michigan collected. I know the wolverines ended up even in the turnover battle, but these guys are extremely opportunistic in pass defense. While it wasn't a great day, it was a good day, and a day that should go a long way towards mending some on the self inflicted wounds from the UMass game.

 

Postional Reviews

The Defensive Line:  Dominanting. For the first time all year I can say that the line completely controlled the point of engagement. BGSU had absolutely no where to run and couldn't get any push on Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, or Greg Banks. I also thought that Jibreel Black looked fairly decent, as did William Campbell (who broke up a pass and absolutely demolished the single blocks he got. Hopefully this is the sign that big Will is ready to take that next step.

I was very happy to see Greg Bank notch a sack on Saturday. With the effort he gives game in, game out, it was nice to see that be rewarded. I think he's starting to play at a Tim Jamison type level. Nothing flashy, but very consistent and not making a lot of mistakes. Hopefully this will transfer over into the conference season. Despite only two tackles I also thought Craig Roh looked pretty good.

Again, the best thing about this game was the ability to put Mike Martin on the sidelines and let Steve Watson, Renaldo Sagesse, and Adam Patterson all get some needed snaps. There's really not a lot to add to this. BGSU's first touchdown was the result of the second team being on the field and some errors by Michigan's young corners getting their first snaps. The second touchdown is on Thomas Gordon for missing a tackle and the secondary being really really slow. When the starters were in, this was an A performance.

The Linebackers:  A study in contrasts. Jonas Mouton had a great, great game. He was smart in coverage, which resulted in a pick. He read the offense, personally destroying a screen that fooled the rest of the defense. He was aggressive yet controlled, resulting in a sack and some great angle plays. He was my star of the game.

Then we get to Kevin Leach and Obi Ezeh. Ezeh continued to look lost at middle linebacker. He is easily suckered away from his assignments in pass defense. He's slow to close a gap. Midway through the first quarter it looked like Robinson said screw it, and sent Ezeh on delayed blitzes every time. At which point Ezeh ran into a lineman. He ended up playing quite a bit, but I think that was because he had toin order to work through things. It was not an encouraging performance. Likewise, Kevin Leach isn't providing a lot of depth at the deathbacker position. Leach just looks slow and blockable. There's no other way to describe him. In spite of play a good chunk of the game, Leach managed only one assist on a tackle. This is not good production from a linebacker.

I'm somewhat frustrated with the inability of guys like J.B. Fitzgerald and Kenny Demens to break through whatever glass ceiling is keeping them on the sidelines. Demens played half of the time that Ezeh did and still made more tackles. He was more aggressive and he was more decisive. The issue may be that he's A LOT smaller than Ezeh is. Ezeh's a big dude in comparison to Demens. But Demens looksbetter out there than Ezeh does. Obviously the coaches know more about the players they're putting out there than we do, but at a certain point, I think it's gotta be a wash to start Demens over Ezeh. It may still be bad, but at least we'll have the chance that Demens will improve.

Moving to the Bandit position, I thought Thomas Gordon looked good. He did blow an easy tackle that led to the long TD run, but other than that, he's been more than serviceable. I was also happy to see Brandin Hawthorne get some snaps. There really wasn't a lot to cover here, but I thought Gordon looked pretty solid in coverage and generally supported the run very well.

While Mouton was great and Gordon was okay, Ezeh continues to be awful. Because of that, I can't give this unit anything better than a C+.

The Secondary: Because of the number of freshmen that played, I'm honestly grading on a curve here, but I thought Courtney Avery looked really good. He doesn't quit on plays. When he gets beat he fights back even harder. He's got great timing, and he's a pretty good tackler. I was thrilled with his performance.

What's surprised me the most is the amount of Terry Talbot we've seen so far this year. Talbot's been the first freshman corner in the game a couple of times and seems to be pretty good at sticking to his man. I honestly can't remember a pass thrown anywhere near him. Maybe this is another of Rodriguez' diamonds in the rough. I don't know, and it's far too early to tell, but he looks pretty good. Cullen Christian seemed to have a rougher day. He got beat a few times, but thankfully it didn't end up costing us. Christian seemed a little tentative, but hopefully that will work itself out.

As for the starting corners, J.T. Floyd had one bad break on a tackle that ended up costing Michigan some yards, but was otherwise solid and had a PBU and good coverage. I can't even recall if they threw at James Rogers. So the starters looked good and more importantly they made it through the out of conference schedule healthy.

At safety, I thought the Gordon/Kovacs duo was great in run support and meh otherwise. It's hard to really guage the pass defense over the top because BGSU didn't go deep at all. One thing that did concern me was watching a very small Kovacs line up on a very tall tight end/WR that resulted in a 20 yard completion, with the WR/TE dragging Kovacs for 8 of those yards. Expect Indiana to try to exploit this as often as possible.

There's really not a lot to criticise about the safety play. Maybe they should've been better stopping on of the goaline stands, but really I thought they were pretty good. As an added bonus we got to see some of Marvin Robinson and Ray Vinopal. Robinson has a pair of nice tackles, including an "it's me or a touchdown" tackle. Vinopal, of course, had a great pick and run back, followed by getting cracked and fumbling the ball. I know it's garbage time, but a pick in your first game is pretty cool. Especially when you saw Vinopal diagnose the paly and make a great break on the ball. Maybe he'll exceed that two start billing, maybe he won't, but it was still cool to see.

Overall, the secondary gets a B trending to a B+. There were open receivers here and there, but overall they looked pretty good.

Overall

A redeeming performance by the defense. I'm not sure we can gleen too much from the game, but I'm pretty pleased with the way things went down. Because the game was such a shellacking, I'm not going to go into any kind of grand evaluation. This game jsut didn't warrant it. But there were positive signs, and the things we knew would be issues remained so. I think Michigan at some point needs to start Kenny Demens to see if he can make a Kovacs-ian leap in a game over what he does in practice. I can't see the downside based on ezeh's play so far.

Other than that, a good performance from the defense. Nice to have a little confidence heading into Indiana.

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