Happy Thursday, folks. Welcome to Morning Brews. This morning we continue our statistical look Michigan Football, although the topic this morning is less controversial than the offense. I’m talking about Rashan Gary, and his stat line - which, for a player of his caliber, may be less impressive than you would expect for this point in the season. Now, before any of you truck on out and light the fuse on my Twitter mentions, know that we’ll be spending this morning going over why there’s absolutely nothing to worry about when it comes to Gary. Despite recording only one sack so far this season, he still has had a huge impact on games.
As usual, there is a song referenced in this morning’s Brews. There are at least three clues this morning, which may be words, phrases, or pictures. These clues may reference song lyrics, the artist, or the album. Fire away down in the comments section with your guesses.
Rashan Gary is very good, even if his stat line is a little thin
MGoBlue’s most recent feature is on Rashan Gary, who they describe as “confounding opponents with speed and power.” I think that’s a rather apt description of the former five-star and No. 1 overall recruit. But with high praise comes high expectations, and Gary hasn’t exactly been lighting up the stat sheet through the first three games. When it comes to total tackles, he’s sixth on the team. Tackles for loss? Fifth, and he’s only recorded one sack so far (though it’s worth noting that he’s ahead of the tackles per game rate of everyone on the defensive line last season).
So what’s going on? Well, frankly, teams know that he’s fast and powerful. Opposing teams are adjusting to his presence through a variety of tactics, which can make it harder for the explosive sophomore to rack up stats - but that doesn’t mean he’s not having a profound impact on the game. Let me show you what I mean.
This first clip is from the Cincinnati game, right after the refs tried to eject Rashan Gary for a textbook hit on the QB - and, well, Gary got angry and focused some of his frustration on the quarterback. When he’s at his best, this is the sort of play that Rashan Gary can make. Cincinnati didn’t have the RB stay in to block and they didn’t double team him, so Gary showed the speed and power that other teams fear. He runs right around the RT and wallops the QB, who barely had time to complete his dropback. This sort of play from Gary forces opposing teams to adjust. Adjust how, you ask? Let’s take a look at the second clip.
In this second clip, Gary is at the top of the three-man DLine - and he impacts the game without being at the point of attack. Air Force wants no part of him, so they run their triple option to the short side of the field. This benefits Michigan’s defense because the sideline is the friend of a defense. It forces Air Force to operate in a more confined space. It also forces the play to Chase Winovich’s side, who has recorded more tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks than Gary so far. I haven’t watched enough film to be sure, but I would hazard a guess that part of Winovich’s big start to the year is due to teams running more plays away from Gary and toward Chase.
Running away from Rashan Gary wasn’t a tactic used only by Cincinnati and Air Force. Florida did the same thing during the season opener. Who’s that waiting for Florida’s RB at the bottom of the screen? It’s Chase Winovich (plus Mo Hurst, who busts through the middle of the line to get in on the tackle).
This fourth clip highlights the final thing I wanted to show you guys this morning; the double team. A player of Rashan Gary’s caliber often requires opposing teams to double team him, particularly for pass plays. In this clip, the TE and the RT block Gary - and open up a huge hole for Devin Bush to run through. Who’s leading the team in tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks right now? Devin Bush. Who’s been a revelation at LB? Devin Bush. His success is due in large part to his development as a player and hitting the weight room (having lost ten pounds since last season, he’s been paying his dues), but he’s also benefiting in no small part from plays like this one.
As you can see, just because Rashan Gary isn’t leading the defense in the statistical categories doesn’t mean that he’s had a poor start to the year. In fact, despite Gary only recording one sack in the first three games, Michigan’s defense is averaging nearly one full sack per game more this season than they did last season (4.3/gm vs 3.5/gm). I suspect that’s due in part to the attention that Gary receives from opposing teams.
Will Rashan Gary surpass Taco Charlton’s sack total (10) from the 2016 season?
This poll is closed
Yes, he’ll do it with ease
Yes, but it will be close
No, this slow start puts him too far behind Charlton’s pace
Michigan’s video team has been crushing it this year, and one thing I’ve particularly enjoyed this season has been their “mini-movie” series that recaps the previous game. Check out the mini movie from the Air Force game above. Also check out the first couple episodes of “The Victors,” which is the team’s in-house video series. They’re short (just a couple minutes each), but they’re well worth the watch. Episode one may be found HERE, and episode two may be found HERE.