Sam Webb: So Marcus, the running game, Brady said that Derrick Green had his best week of practice since he has been here at Michigan. It really looked like that, especially in the second half; you saw great feet and great vision from the young man.
Marcus Ray: “I was at practice on Tuesday and I stood there and I watched Derrick Green run the football. He did a great job. The one thing I like about Derrick is he is patient. He waits until the hole opens up. He does not stick his head down and try to create something. He allows his offensive line to get their blocks, execute the scheme and then he finds whatever opening is there. He has great cutback vision. I think his weight loss has tremendously helped him athletically. Because now he gets his feet, he picks them up and puts them down faster. He can make guys miss, but Derrick is going to be the guy, I think, in my opinion, to run the football (and) move them forward. If he can average about 80-90 yards a game by himself, that is going to help Michigan’s offense significantly.”
Sam Webb: Was it just a case of there being more holes. Obviously, (against) Miami, they opened up more holes… or was it also that he recognized and felt the holes better this week. It seemed like if you look back at the tape last week against Notre Dame, a lot of people are talking about the offensive line. It really looked like there were some times when the offensive line opened some big holes and the backs just kind of missed them.
Marcus Ray: “That’s exactly right. This Michigan offensive line isn’t as bad as people think. They know the game plan. They block the guys they are supposed to block. They may not always win that block but the guys aren’t running free. The guys don’t look confused up front. They are playing as a unit. Now when you know there is an outside zone to the right, you’re a running back like Derrick Green, he’s saying to himself, ‘I trust my offensive line.’ He actually trusts his offensive lineman to execute the blocking scheme, even when they run down down, like two down blocks with the lineman and then they pull the back side and run it up the middle, he has enough patience to know that it is going to open up right here in this lane after he gets that block. That offensive line played well for the most part today. They opened up some huge holes. Miami is not a great defensive team but their front fought back and I think gave Michigan some problems on the inside run game but they did not have the horses and obviously attrition set in. Derrick Green and that offensive line did a great job and I think this line is going to get better and better as the season moves along.”
Sam Webb: Alright, so let’s move to the defensive side of the football and three games now Marcus. Three games is a small sample space but no team has really run the football on Michigan. I don’t know that you expect Miami to but Notre Dame didn’t either. Can we read anything into how the run defense has been over the first few weeks of the season?
Marcus Ray: “You can read a lot into it. Because Notre Dame really tried to run the football but Greg Mattison prides himself on stopping the run first and foremost. Second of all, you don’t want to give up any big plays. Michigan front four versus the run is pretty stout, inside with Glasgow, Mone, Big Henry and those guys in there. Then you see Frank Clark, Taco lining up on the edge, Beyer is playing well. They understand how to fit the run. They play with gap integrity and they get a push up front, even versus zone blocking teams. The problem with the Michigan’s defense line is they don’t have a premier pass rusher. They don’t have a guy like Clowney or someone who you just know is going to get two sacks a game or three tackles for loss. But as a unit I think they play well, they understand what their responsibility is and then give Jake Ryan and Joe Bolden a lot of credit too because they understand what gap they need to fill, they read the blocks and then they get down hill. So collectively I think the front seven is doing a great job of stopping the run.”
Sam Webb: Let’s move to the back end, your forte, so to speak. We saw two adjustments in this game. Number one, they played more base defense, had a SAM out there and played some zone. I want your take and your evaluation on that. Then, as the game went on, you saw them make a switch at that nickel spot. They moved Delonte Hollowell out, kicked Blake Countess inside and played JD and Jabrill on the outside. Your take on how that kind of affected things also.”
Marcus Ray: “Well I think Michigan wanted to give that look that you’re talking about on tape with their old nickel defense, if you will, where last year Countess would move in and inside when Jourdan Lewis or Stribling would come into the game. I think Michigan wanted to get some base zone coverage on film to see how they executed. But to give Miami some credit because when they recognized it was zone, they went to play action and that sucks the linebackers up. That’s why you saw a few passes right over the linebackers occur and right in between the linebackers. Miami likes to go vertical. After Jourdan Lewis intercepted that first pass, great job of playing the ball in the air but it is not hard to play the deep ball when you are already seven or eight yards off. You just turn, leverage the guy and go up and get it. I was proud to see Michigan be able to execute a good pass defense, for the most part, in zone without having to send a lot of pressure. Because man to man, let’s face it, it’s just tough to do. Miami has two guys, David Frazier, Rokeem Williams on outside, averaging over 100 yards per game, and they want big plays. Michigan can’t afford to give up big plays on defense and still win. But I just think overall on the back end, when they are fully healthy, let’s say when Ray Taylor comes back, Wilson comes back, Hollowell probably wouldn’t be in the mix as much anyway if it wasn’t for injuries. So, Jabrill is a guy you can move around. He is smart. He can cover slots. He can play bump-and-run and off and he will come up and hit you. So I think they have some options on the back end. They need to find the best five when it matters the most, when everybody is healthy. I think Michigan will be just fine on the back end. To be able to put a SAM linebacker in there and get it on tape, now you can coach it up. The first two games Michigan started on nickel but now when you get an outside linebacker in there now, he gets some reps and he understands his underneath drops and they didn’t always execute. But let’s face it, Michigan didn’t play a lot of base defense in the first two games.”
Sam Webb: Last one for you Marcus, you said you feel like Michigan is going to be okay. Alarm bells are going off for a lot of fans right now. I think that the die has been cast on this season, that this team is destined to not be what a lot of fan wanted them to be this season. Just your take, your outlook for the rest of the way, Michigan, how they’ll fair against Utah; Michigan, how they fair in the Big Ten race.
Marcus Ray: “As far back as I can remember, Sam, when you talk about championships, defense wins championships. Michigan has an excellent run defense. Now they are trying to figure out what type of pass defense they’re going to be. Notre Dame exposed Michigan’s man-to-man coverage. Notre Dame is a different animal. Michigan might not face another quarterback like that for a few weeks. They have time to work on it, coach it up. When you have a defense that can stop the run and get pressure on the quarterback, something Michigan did this afternoon, I think that all is not lost. Where your concerns need to be is the turnovers. Don’t look at the offense and say, ‘Oh we’re going to lose every game, our team is terrible,’ because it’s a three tier situation, offense, defense, and special teams. Miami might not have scored a point if Michigan didn’t turn the ball over. So they’ve got ten points, the ten that you saw on the board. I didn’t expect Miami to score. Now once you get on a short field, now you can get some points, when you turn the ball over and your defense back to the wall, to only give up 10 points, being in the situation that they were in, it has probably saved Michigan. Now it’s just a role reversal. The defense is the one that has to be their offense, if you will. And even though they only got one turnover, that’s one more than they had the entire season. When you have a defense that can stop the run and play pretty good pass defense for the most part, even though Michigan gave up some plays, all is not lost.”
Sam Webb: Great stuff as always Marcus Ray. Good luck the rest of the way. I know we’re going to see you back in the booth sometime soon.
Marcus Ray: “Thanks Sam.”