Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The New Michigan Defense

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Does anybody remember what the Michigan defense from 2008-2011 looked like? Let me rephrase that. Does anybody want to remember what they looked like?

A win for the Wolverines usually meant reaching up into the 40’s, and it would still be a tight game. If teams wanted to run the ball, they ran the ball with ease. If teams wanted to go through the air, they went through the air with ease. If the opposing coach wanted to play his 7-year old son, he could have done it and probably would have been successful. There was simply no resistance.

Now, let me ask this question: who is still shocked at the Wolverines' defense in 2011? Teams had a tough time doing anything to get points up on the board. The defensive line, led by Mike Martin, consistently came up with huge stops throughout the season, and, while it does still need some work, the secondary progressed in leaps. Of course, this was all with the same players who could only prove they played defense by the little position letter next to their name. So what changed?

We can talk technique and talent until the start of next season, but it all begins with heart, desire, and passion. When Brady Hoke came to Michigan in early 2011, he installed a new mind set before a new defense. Greg Mattison did the exact same thing when he was hired as Michigan’s Defensive Coordinator.

The very best part of Michigan’s defense in 2011 was their ability to make adjustments. I can’t remember a game when the 2nd half was not better than the 1st. Take the game against Northwestern for example. The Wildcats walked into the locker room at half time with a 10-point lead, 24-14. The final score of that game: Michigan won 42-24. Northwestern did not score a single point in the second half.

Situational defense was another huge part of the success in 2011. In the Sugar Bowl, Virginia Tech had a number of opportunities to bust the game wide open, especially with a seemingly handicapped Michigan offense. However, guys like Mike Martin and Ryan Van Burgen shut the door on the Hokies when it was most needed. Michigan does not win the Allstate Sugar Bowl without the stellar performance from Michigan's defense.

The Wolverines have some holes to fill on defense this off-season, but there is a lot to build off for next season with one of college football's best stories from last year.  Michigan's defense is finally back.

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