Michigan Football Bowling Green Game Primary Defensive Personnel Grades

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Posted on 1st October 2010 by Ben Krasner in Sports Commentary | University of Michigan Sports

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We played a lot of guys and a lot of varied packages all game long against BG,
so this is a bigger list than what might be normal… unless this is the new philosophy?
You’ll see what I mean on several players, below.

The Great/Good:

Mike Martin – He’s about as obvious a top performer as Denard is on offense,
only it’s more expected now because we’ve been seeing it from Martin for three
years. Fast off the ball, often making contact with BG linemen before they are
ready. Split BG double teams simply because they could not close down the gap
before Martin got his head and shoulders in between the blockers. While I will
concede that it’s tough to identify missed assignments on a nose tackle without
knowing precisely what technique he’s supposed to be playing or stunts he might
be assigned on any given play, etc, it’s tough for me not to say that the only
time you see Martin as part of the problem is when he over-pursues or when he
reacts poorly to the play flow change – which is rarely. Coaches had Martin
dropping into zone coverage and he performed pretty well in space. He also spied
the BG QB on a few plays – and also did that well. He made tackles side-line
to side-line as he has each week and he held his anchor point in the goal line
package. Martin had a weak matchup on the other side of the ball as BG’s center
was not very good. However, it was Martin’s quickness, power and ability that
made it so that even guards and pulling H-backs couldn’t make up for the center’s
weaknesses. Martin was a man amongst boys and aside from a lone off-sides penalty,
there’s not a lot of negative to take note of. Grade: A

Ryan VanBergen – Commanded BG double-teams almost as often as Martin did while
also having favorable matchups. BGs OL just wasn’t that great and the more they
had to try to sustain blocks the more that showed. RVB was held several times
(most of them not called) as he was really giving their tackle and guard difficulties.
His responsibilities changed depending on who is playing next to him and what
that player is doing. Sometimes he had contain responsibility and sometimes
he did not. When he had that responsibility, he held it. When he did not, he
went after the linemen recklessly and caused constant problems – especially
for the undersized guys. He applied good pressure when called upon and batted
down a throw at the goal line to force a 4th down. He was our best guy at understanding
when to get his arms up to clog passing lanes from start to finish. There was
a high level of consistency from his side. I doubt our coaches had much to worry
about with him all day. His worst play was where he was clubbed down to the
ground on the screen pass that BG broke for the TD. I believe he was on a slant
and the offensive lineman just went with it and punched him down, opening up
the passing lane. He was blocked well a few times and driven out of plays completely,
which is why he doesn’t get a straight A. But all in all he had a great game
and got his first 2 sacks of the year. Grade: A-

J.T. Floyd – Played all over the field today and from I saw did extremely well.
He covered well. He clearly was coached hard about keeping contain and really
showed up well on that front today. He rotated over with motion and played safety
today and when the TV cameras caught him back there he seemed to be all over
that. He was asked to go in the box like a pressure safety or almost a linebacker
and he was fending off some big boys in the middle of the field. IMO, this looked
like something new for him but it was a good new look to throw out there even
if he did struggle with playing in that space two out of three times. It allowed
us to play our young kids at CB. With Indiana coming up next we’ll need to be
able to play 4 CBs on the field together and they got experience with that,
today because of what Floyd was able to do in other spots. He is not a press
corner at this point in his career and that showed up a little bit, but nothing
that took away from the scheme. He got a nice shot on the QB by pursuing a play
that he cut back against our otherwise over-pursuing defense, which had to feel
good for Floyd. Maybe a play or two he wishes he could redo but he was asked
to do a heck of a lot and I doubt the coaches had too much on the negative side
to hit Floyd with, this week. Grade: A-

Greg Banks – Here’s one that might surprise some people, but Greg played a
solid game. He, too, took advantage of a below average BG OL and benefited from
single-man blocking for just about the entire game. He held point and, similar
to RVB, took care of his responsibilities. He was consistent – when I watched
the replay he’s another position that you almost know exactly what to expect
play to play and there’s just not a lot of worry. He isn’t explosive or tough
to handle, and that showed up on the film as well. But the majority of the snaps
where we have 3 D-linemen taking care of 5 offensive linemen with no worry -
and in fact getting penetration while holding up on the ends – Banks was fine.
He gets asked to hold up on the end and not make any mistakes. IMO he does this
with flying colors against BG. He will struggle against better talent and better
athletes, but he played well today. Grade: B+

Kenny Demens – Played early and in certain packages and played well, then also
came in late in the 4th quarter for additional work. It’s interesting how they
use him on the goal line packages as the deepest man which really allows him
to run downhill at the play. He really did well in goal line situations. He
also played in place of Obi in some more main stream situations and did pretty
well. He clearly needs experience but shows plenty of potential. He scraped
the line of scrimmage well to get in on plays that went the other way and did
not get or stay blocked except for one or two instances (he needs to thank those
D-linemen for that for sure). Demens doesn’t seem to have a lot of coverage
responsibilities yet unless someone gets injured. In mop up duty in the 4th
I thought he showed good instinct and attacked the ball carriers often. He wasn’t
as impressive as he was on the goal line, but he played well against BG. Grade:

Jordan Kovacs – Kovacs had another good game and a lot of snaps, with just
a few plays I’m sure he wish he could have back. He’s not the best coverage
guy and he definitely shouldn’t be left on our opposing teams best receiver
in a one-on-one situation if you want to have a successful outcome, but he got
that assignment twice against BG. One time our D-line pressured the QB enough
so that his coverage didn’t matter and the other we got burnt a bit for a good
pickup. Kovacs did a solid job on their two-man games and covered the underneath
option in those two-man games and did as well as we can expect from him (IMO).
His run support was stout as always. His zone coverage skills are adequate and,
from what I see, if our linebackers would keep their depth on their drops Kovacs
would end up looking even better because passes wouldn’t be completed in front
of him. He’s our only guy that consistently went after the ball. When it was
time for Kovacs to tackle he came with an effort on the ball damn near every
time – a punch, a rake,hit helmet… something was going to the ball. Kovacs
also bails out our defense more than others do when mistakes are made. If a
linebacker goes the wrong way, Kovacs ends up with that tackle. Against BG,
those tackles were mostly made after 3 or 4 yard gains so the damage was minimized.
Grade: B+

Courtney Avery – Hey the young guy stepped in there and I think played extremely
well in his first real big dose of playing time. He wasn’t asked to do a heck
of a lot, necessarily, but I think we are all going to be glad he got so much
time against BG (thinking Indiana game, here). He was playing an inside CB spot
or nickel/dime spot and was asked to take away inside release routes (slants,
quick hitches or short ins) and did well. Of the three youngans (Avery, Talbott
and Cullen) Avery was least likely to have his feet stuck in cement and be reaching
out a receiver he was tightly aligned with. He notched two tackles and nice
pretty nice pass breakups. This was about as good a beginning as you can ask
for. I mean, the most memorable mistake he made? Being flagged for having the
same number as another guy on punt return. That’s pretty much exactly what you
want out of a true freshman playing extensively for the first time. He clearly
has to get better, and could easily be a player that would openly tell you he
needs to play better, but I’m putting him here because he had a good game. Grade:

Will Campbell – Will’s up here because he did very well in what he was asked
to do in the primary role, specifically in goal line situations. He was the
immovable object. Actually he was better than that because he penetrated – he
didn’t just squat there and play the role of the mountain. He looked like a
4-point machine of dominance in there against this OL. When he was in a 3-point
stance he wasn’t as good – what a difference. When he’s in a 4-point stance
he has no choice but to use his legs and drive forward. When he’s in a 3-point
stance he stands up and tries to shove everyone forward bench-press style. Later,
when he came in later in the 4th quarter on the nose, in a 3-point stance, he
was not as good. His leg drive looked non-existent and he wasn’t able to get
much push matched up alone on the center that Martin dominated all game. He
did bat down a pass nicely and was our only backup who did well consistently
throwing his arms up in the air to block lanes. Again, this grade is 85% on
his primary work against BG and only 15% on his backup role. Grade: B+

Those who would probably tell you they could have played better:

Kevin Leach – You know what… Kevin isn’t asked to do a ton, but what he does
he does pretty well. He’s an assignment guy, not a big play guy or a physical
force guy. He’s a coverage backer and he took away what looked to be the first
read for BGs QB more than a couple of times. He gets good deep drops quickly
and plays well within the scheme in his nickel defensive assignment. He was
called on to rush the QB from the outside and put better than adequate pressure
on the edge which helped lead to Banks’ sack. He also rushed over the B gap
on occasion. Actually, when he rushed, the BG QB’s first read was to where he
vacates – so basically just a coaching gamble that doesn’t pay off both times,
but he also got picked up by the running back too easily. He did well on special
teams from as much as I could see and had a couple tackles there. His issue
today was that he got blocked on the play-side too easily. OL were able to cut
him. RBs were able to pick him up, too. There’s no shortage of drills in practice
that address those issues and he just has to be better at anticipating what
the blocker is going to do and initiating the contact so he’s under his own
control. Grade: B

Terrence Talbot – Saw a little less action than Avery. Looks more the part
than Avery does, physically, but let’s his feet sink into cement out there too
much. I expect this out of freshman so it’s hard to knock him all that much
during these first games of his career, but he’s not going to get away with
it in Big Ten play and there’s lots of footage fit for coaching this week. With
experience will come the game quickness on reads and reactions that seems to
be there. Lotta work to do, but great to get him in there and he did a pretty
decent job. Grade: B-

Craig Roh – Wow, where was Craig Roh all day? Well, quite frankly, he was blocked!
And when he wasn’t blocked well you would find him running past the play in
behind the QB and out of sight. BG clearly made him a point of emphasis and
sent plenty of attention his way. If you watch a replay you will see him frustrated
pretty much all day. He simply couldn’t get through. Then he tried to outrun
the OL – and he ran right out of the passing lanes. He was also given a lot
of pass coverage responsibility against BG and I don’t believe I saw the QB
test his zone all day. His drops looked pretty good until they were out of picture.
Honestly, it was his strong suit on this day. One play where he did have an
opportunity to make a play was on the play where the pass was dropped but it
popped off the receivers knee and ended up being caught by the running back
trailing the action. On that play he was unblocked and had a clear path to the
QB. He was sluggish in recognizing the opportunity and his feet failed him.
He also was undecided in attacking the QB at full speed for a hit or throwing
his arms up to block the passing lane. The result was a good pass that became
an adventure. Maybe it was the matchup or BG’s style of play or he just didn’t
have his motor cranked up as high as usual. Whatever it was, he just wasn’t
the usual Craig Roh we’ve been watching and this came against Bowling Green?
He recorded just one tackle and one assist. But he didn’t play poorly, he just
wasn’t the play maker this team asks him to be and needs him to be: Grade:

Jonas Mouton – Continued his frustrating play by both being explosive and johnny-on-the-spot,
followed by moments where he totally abandoned his fundamentals and his mistakes
led to BG making plays/yards. His best areas of work against BG were in obvious
passing situations. He had great drops today; real good depth. With he on one
side and Leach on the other the seams were covered like glue – or at least well
enough that the BG QB would have had to force something – which is exactly what
happened on Mouton’s INT. He also did pretty well rushing off the edge and with
his hand on the ground – pretty much a giveaway that he’s headed to the QB when
he’s set up like that. When he did rush he was getting good matchups but was
choosing to go around the running back or H-back instead of driving through
them and collapsing the pocket around the QB. When he was defending the run
he was again both up and down. He made some solid hits and he did a good job
of not over-pursuing plays. Often, though, he was moving around as if he was
unsure of his next move. He literally got trucked over by an H-back in his gap
responsibility because he went in there tentatively. He got blocked too often
and abandoned contain too often. I don’t know how much or hard coaches would
be on Jonas – a 5th year senior. If I had to guess they would harp on not giving
up contain when he has that responsibility and attacking the football with a
little more authority, but probably just chalk the rest up to consistent inconsistency
and need for repetition. Grade: C+

Obi Ezeh – This wasn’t a matchup that favored Obi and he didn’t see a ton of
playing time as a result. When he was in there he did a fair job when plays
were designed to head in his direction. His troubles came from a tendency to
over-pursue and taking poor angles to the action. He’s always a step slow in
pass coverage and that showed up today, even though the coaches were clearly
trying to keep him off the field in most passing situations. Didn’t allow any
big plays, really. he was a non-factor in just about all of BG’s biggest plays.
And he did blow up several lead blockers – that’s just clearly what he does
best. If BG would have run more of that kind of offense Obi would have seen
the field more. It’s possible that lead to over-pursuing the plays that he was
in the game for – wanting to make the most out of a smallish opportunity. Sluggishness
reacting on goal line plays doesn’t help his grade. Grade: C+

Cullen Christian – Cullen saw extensive action and looked like he needed to
get his first prime game action out of the way. The feet being stuck in cement
while reaching for receivers was very apparent and to be expected. he got a
couple tackles and played… like a freshman. Plenty of coaching film available.
He looks like he’ll need some time to let the game slow down for him, but clearly
has some talent. I would argue that he didn’t do anything in this game to prove
that he is more a future corner or more a future safety. That’s something that
I’ll monitor through the rest of the season. I think it’s clear that Cullen
will continue to get PT and it will be fun to watch him mature on a week-by-week
basis. Grade: C

Those who clearly struggled:

James Rogers – Rogers played a little softer today than he has in the first
three games. I am not sure how much of that was scheme related and how much
was just him being “safe”, but he stayed well deeper than I expected
and when he did come up he came up in a press look and didn’t do too well. Neither
he, nor Floyd, are press corners but they did show that look today. If Rogers
is going to continue to do this he’s going to need to work a lot on his technique
or … well… let’s just leave it at that. He allows himself to get and stay
blocked and he must get better at avoiding blocks or getting off them with quickness
and physicality. It would be one thing if he were maintaining contain on the
outside, but it’s even worse when he over-pursues the action and then is completely
done for. He was our edge on the screen pass that was busted for a TD. Contrary
to what was said, we only missed one tackle on the play. We simply lost contain
in the second level, in part by Rogers, and then had no speed from Rogers or
others to track it down. If this is as bad as it gets with Rogers, we’re going
to be fine. But he could have stepped up today against an inferior opponent
and definitely did not. Grade: C

Cam Gordon – Cam cam cam… Cam did not have a good game. However, I’m keeping
this very short because TV doesn’t pick him up a lot. I’m also keeping this
short because I think he’s out of position and so I don’t know what the future
holds for him. Cam supported the run very well. That’s the good part. His coverage
and his ability to rotate over in a timely fashion are weaknesses that showed
up again, today, and I fear someone is going to expose us big time. His lack
of track-down speed has already been well documented and when he gave up contain
and over-ran the screen pass action … oy. He get’s a A for effort and for
supporting the run. That’s about it. Is this guy a future OLB or hybrid? Games
like this make me interested to see him tried at Mouton’s spot or Thomas Gordon’s/Carvin
Johnson’s spot. Lots of coaching work to do, here, and plenty of film to use.
Grade: C-

Thomas Gordon – Gordon didn’t get as much PT against BG as almost any passing
situation it was Avery sitting where he typically would be on the field but
in a different role (corner versus hybrid safety/LB). BG’s short passing game
was our chief concern or at least not giving their raw QB anything too easy.
Consequently, Gordon was asked to do a lot less than in previous weeks as he
is not as good a cover man. That didn’t help TG, though, because when he did
get his opportunities he didn’t exactly shine. He started the game off ok -
late covering a route but sticking his nose in and stuffing a running play at
the line. Later he was very blockable on the outside plays, BG’s running back
ran over him on the only short yardage play TG would see… He was the lone
missed tackle on BGs screen that popped for a TD. That missed tackle was the
last we’d see of TG until mop-up time at the end of the game as he was replaced
by Leach for the second half. Grade: D+