Michigan's Defensive Keys to Victory

GBW's correspondent Josh Turel spends his time doing NFL Draft Anaylsis for various publications, but he has taken the time to analyze <b>Texas</b> for you!<br><br> As far as the <b>U-M defense vs. the UT offense</b>, U-M fans will know they are in a match-up against a traditional Big 12 power: Texas will spread it out, and then RUN it, with passes to the tight ends sprinkled in.<br><br> What does Josh see as the <b>Defensive Keys</b> to Michigan stopping the Texas offense?<br><br>

I see Four Keys: for the Michigan defense:

Gabe Watson

With all the interior running Texas does, the Michigan Man in the middle, Gabe Watson, will need to have a great game. Watson is a two gap player and will be the focus of many combo blocks from the interior lineman. Texas generally doubles the center on inside runs with a guard or triple teams him with either the center or one of the guards breaking off to attack the linebackers. The key is, if the guard is trying to overtake him, the responsibility for Gabe will be to disrupt the center for as long as possible because he will be the one going for the linebackers. If he reads the center blocking down the line WATCH FOR THE CUTBACK! Texas employs plenty of runs which give Benson the opportunity to cut it back, and Watson reading the block and defeating the down block of the guard will put a big road block in the inside cutback lane.

Ernest Shazor

It's no secret the Texas Longhorns are a run first team -- they practically live and die by it. And why not? I hear a lot of mention of their 105th in the country passing rank; well folks as the old saying goes, "If it's not broke don't fix it." There's no reason to throw the ball 25+ times when Benson can reel off five yards a carry. Texas has never lost a football game in which Cedric Benson has hit the 100+ yardage mark! If Michigan doesn't want to make it 25-0 for Benson, strong safety Ernest Shazor will have to be hungry and on the hunt to keep Benson under the century mark. Michigan will load up in the box with Shazor in an effort to contain not only Cedric Benson but to have a defensive back closer to the line of scrimmage to key tabs on Vince Young. Shazor will also have to keep tabs on the tight ends depending on the coverage: his eyes need to be open for delays and bootlegs to David Thomas and Bo Scaife. A lot is on his plate this game. Shazor needs to come up big for the Wolverines.

Discipline & Fundamentals

One aspect that seems to deteriorate near the end of every football season, regardless of level, is fundamentals. With coaches focused on game planning it is sometimes over-looked and under-taught. Whatever the reasoning, the fundamentals of the Michigan defense have broken down as of late. Although they have faced spread offenses, the techniques and fundamentals of the game do not change and facing mobile quarterbacks only puts the spotlight on them even more. Defeating blocks, making tackles and on- on-one matchups are keys to stopping mobile quarterbacks. There's no big secret what has missing here: when you spread out the defense and leave only 4 or 5 guys in the box, it's about pursuit, tackling and technique. The Wolverines cannot expect to blow assignments, reads and tackles if they expect to win.

Now for the good news! It's bowl season, meaning the team has had ample time to re-evaluate themselves, re-establish their fundamentals and polish their technique. Here are the main points:

- Stretch the runner east and west, eliminate the cutback.
- Proper pursuit angles.
- Eliminate the big play.
- Limit mental errors, know your assignment!
- Maintain physical play. Texas has worn down most of the defenses they have played; Michigan's constant personnel rotation should help this area. - Refuse to stay blocked.
- Use some variety in block-beating techniques.
- Depth in coverage; don't get beat deep in the Cover 3 and Cover 2.
Tackle, Tackle, Tackle! When you're lucky enough to get your hands on Vince Young, wrap up and drag down.

Also, as you seen in the Texas diagrams (in last week's article: click here), their offense strives off catching defenders out of position and trying to make too much happen -- which is why discipline is so key. Michigan's defense is going to see a lot of diversions, fakes and formations. X's and O's wise the Longhorns will throw in reverses, fake reverses, delays, options etc, anything to take advantage of the athletes they have on the O.

Contain TE's David Thomas and Bo Scaife

Two big weapons in the offense are tight ends David Thomas and Bo Scaife. The two have combined for 42 catches, 656 yards and six touchdowns. Thomas is the one who should worry Michigan fans the most in the passing game. He is one of the faster tight ends in the country and averages 17.9 yards a catch. Texas is very creative in getting him the ball: on misdirections, drag routes, throw back screens, delay routes etc. He's got deep speed and pretty solid hands. Depending on the coverage, the linebacker/safety matched up with him in man coverage needs to stay disciplined and get leverage on the route. Like I've said Texas gets him open by using some kind of deception on the play, so reading the play and getting position will be huge.

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