Ann Arbor, Mich. – If anyone knows defense, it’s former Michigan safety Marcus Ray.
Back for another round of his “Rays of Light” segment on WTKA 1050’s The Michigan Insider show with Ira Weintraub and Sam Webb, Ray was asked to preview the Michigan’s upcoming game against Utah.
One thing that sticks out to Ray immediately about Utah’s defense is the very fast and sack-happy Utes front seven.
“First you’re going to see defensively from Utah is a very fast, faster than advertised, front seven,” Ray said. “Their linebacker, number 41, is pretty good, too. They’re going to run a 4-3 scheme. They don’t really do a lot of movement upfront. But what they will do is knock your head off in the secondary. They play a lot of zone coverage and they try keep the ball in between the hashes so that they’re safeties can get a beat on people. They are subject to play-action pass.”
Let’s not be mistaken, Ray doesn’t not believe the Utah defense is one of the best units U-M will see this season. According to him, they won’t make adjustments very often in their base 4-3 and will try to get you with their physicality.
“This defense is not great but they are physical,” Ray said. “They play a lot of base defense, they line up in a 4-3, and kind of stay in that. They don’t make a lot of adjustments by formation but they will get after you upfront because they’re fast, athletic and they’re smart.”
U-M, especially Jim Harbaugh, is going to try to establish the run this season. It will have to rely on the offensive line to gel at the right time.
According to Ray, establishing the run could be the key to victory for U-M. Power running that eventually wears down the Utah defense.
“But here’s the thing that Michigan, I think, their offense has an advantage versus Utah’s defense,” Ray said. “Jim Harbaugh is going to pound the football down Utah’s throat, whether they like it or not. Let’s say if Utah stops Michigan on a two-yard gain, Harbaugh is still going to run the ball at them because they’re susceptible to being worn down because they’re not that big. They’re smaller guys who can move, more pass rush guys, but I don’t think they’re guys who can take 45 run plays. You’ll see in the second half a two-yard game will start to go to six, then it will go to eight and then those defensive backs won’t like making those tackles on a 235-pound running back every other play.”