Michigan survived a scare from another FCS opponent on Saturday leaving many Michigan fans up in arms about the performance of the defense. It was a lot closer than it should have been, Michigan winning 42-37, and needing a failed onside kick attempt by UMass to seal the deal. Yet, after the way Michigan started in the first two weeks of the season, many maize and blue faithful seem to have forgotten what this team really is.
Yes, it has college football’s most exciting player right now in Denard Robinson. Yes, the offense has averaged 33 points a game so far. Yes, it beat Notre Dame in South Bend. But most figured this to be a 7-5 team before the season started, due in large part to one thing: the defense.
It’s not a knock on any player. Nor should it be a call for defensive coordinator Greg Robinson to be fired, as ESPN’s Mark May and many others suggest.
The fact of the matter is this is a defense starting a walk-on (Jordan Kovacs), a converted wide receiver (James Rogers), and two redshirt freshmen (Thomas Gordon and Cam Gordon, also a converted receiver), with a walk-on-fullback-converted-linebacker (Mark Moundros) also getting extended playing time. In addition, the top corner and senior leader of the secondary, Troy Woolfolk, was lost for the season just before the first game, and an opening day starter, Carvin Johnson, has been out with a knee injury that he suffered in the first game.
If you haven’t read Misopogan’s “The Decimated Defense” part one, part two, and part three, please click on those links and read them now for a comprehensive breakdown on why the defense is what it is right now.
Pinning the blame on Greg Robinson at this point is nothing short of ridiculous. This is the first season since 2007 that the Michigan defense has had the same coordinator as the year before. The defense needs some stability.
A lot of fans point to Robinson’s failure as head coach of Syracuse before being hired by Rodriguez as proof that he’s not fit to lead Michigan’s defense. They shrug off the two Super Bowl rings he won as defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos.
Some guys just make better coordinators than they do head coaches. One needs to look no further than South Bend the previous five years. Charlie Weis was highly successful coordinating the New England Patriots offense to multiple Super Bowls in the early 2000s before leaving for Notre Dame in 2005. His time guiding the Irish was largely unsuccessful with a 35-27 record and now he’s back in the NFL, coordinating the offense of the Kansas City Chiefs – the same Chiefs that racked up nearly 400 total yards in a win over the San Diego Chargers last Monday.
The jury is still out on Robinson at Michigan, although judging him by the defensive performance last season and the first three games this season is a bit unfair given what he has had to work with. He should at least be given enough time to get a full crop of actual defensive recruits into his system.
With the electric play of the Robinson gaining all of the positive headlines (Denard), Michigan has regained national attention in the early part of this season. That will only help with recruiting as kids will want to be the next “Shoelace” or play alongside him for the next couple of years. If the offense can continue to roll and if Denard can keep putting up Heisman-like numbers, highly-rated defensive recruits might long to wear the winged helmet and Robinson will be able to fill the holes with concrete rather than gum.
We all knew the defense would struggle this year, so don’t let the quick start cloud your judgment. Just hope that Denard and the rest of the offense can continue to carry the team to victory and keep Ann Arbor a prime destination in the eyes of prized recruits.
Remember that this coaching transition is still a work in progress and keep things in perspective. Yes, losses and near-losses to FCS teams are frustrating, but the last thing we need to do is overreact.