Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Nonconference report card: Michigan D
By Chantel Jennings
Four games. Four wins. Michigan now has a bye week to fix all the errors and miscues that appeared through the four weeks before it marches into the Big Ten season. Defensively, the Wolverines are quite young and there was a fair amount of turnover and positions affected by injuries. So far, here’s the grading of Michigan through the nonconference schedule:
Defensive line: C
Frank Clark has shown flashes of great play, but as has been the case for much of Michigan's defense, it's been inconsistent.
Remember when Michigan said it would have a four-man rush this season? Yep. Have you seen it all yet? Nope? Me, neither. They really haven’t been able to consistently get pressure on quarterbacks and they haven’t been good in pass rush, highlighted by the fact that every 20-plus yard play so far this season (there have been 15) has been on a pass play. Now that’s on the secondary, too, but there should be more pressure up front. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison put some of the blame on himself and said that maybe he gave the group too much after he was so impressed with them last spring. Regardless of where the blame falls, this game is about results and Michigan hasn’t shown much. Frank Clark -- who Taylor Lewan billed as an All-American kind of talent -- has shown flashes, but again, it’s not consistent. He and sophomore Mario Ojemudia are the only two defensive linemen who rank among the Wolverines' top 10 tacklers this season.
Considering the fact that the defensive line hasn’t been able to get much pressure on quarterbacks, the linebackers have been called upon to do more. For the most part, they’ve answered that call. Sam linebacker Brennen Beyer came up with the quarterback hurry against Akron to seal the win and Mike linebacker Desmond Morgan had the big, one-handed interception against UConn to give the Wolverines a huge momentum swing. At the Will position, James Ross has also been solid. He and Morgan are two of the Wolverines’ top tacklers this season. As a group, the Michigan linebackers account for 11.5 tackles for losses.
Against Notre Dame, the secondary looked as though it were in the B-plus/B range. However, the other three games have moved that grade down. As a group, they really haven’t had a lot of time to really play together as Thomas Gordon was suspended for the first game of the season and Courtney Avery sat out the first three games of the year. But with everyone back against UConn, the unit probably should’ve looked better. Blake Countess has been solid and has as many interceptions individually as the rest of the team combined. Jarrod Wilson has shown progress and could be a very good player in Mattison’s system, but as a unit the secondary just seems to be underachieving these days.