After a momentous start to the season, the Michigan Wolverines’ pass rush has had a pair of quiet encore performances — notching just one sack in the past two games after racking up seven in the season opener.
To defensive coordinator Jesse Minter, it’s not a question of skill or ability; it’s a matter of scheming, and the ebb and flow between the front and the secondary.
“You know, pass rush is a funny thing,” Minter said. “I think a lot of what happened in the second and third game was based on what happened in the first game, and sort of the other team’s way to try and combat that, so I’m not overly concerned. I think pass rush and coverage always work together. I certainly think guys know that there’s opportunities to win one-on-one that we want to take advantage of, so I’m excited to see how we go.”
Elaborating on his answer, Minter went game-by-game, focusing on the differences in each plan of attack from the opposing sides.
“When I look at the first couple of games — first game, lots of pressure, but that team now I think has given up tons of sacks over their first three games. So take it for what it is,” Minter said. “The second game, I think the ball was out really, really fast. I think the third game — honestly, we were preparing for a lot of screens and quick throws, which we did get early, especially on third down. I think it may have slowed our guys down a little bit. So we’ve just got to have some answers to combat that and let ‘em turn it loose when it turns into more of a drop-back game.”
Ultimately, a significant part of the equation comes down to Minter’s emphasis on versatility. The losses of Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, coupled with the significant gains in the linebacker and secondary, has necessitated a rethinking of their approach.
The key to that new approach, Minter claims, is awareness above all.
“I always say this, ‘when you play good defense, you anticipate what’s coming,’” Minter said. “You don’t guess, you don’t say ‘they’re for sure gonna run this play.’ But when you can anticipate things based on ‘they’re lined up like this’ or ‘they’re lined up like that,’ you eliminate some of the thought process.
“I think when you can anticipate and try to get ahead of plays, you play really fast and these guys have proven to be a really, really smart group that’s willing to really study, really willing to work really hard, and it shows up in how they prepare every week.”