2005 Spring Defensive Preview: Magazine Teaser

A teaser by Sam Webb from the next issue of GoBlueWolverine Magazine:<br><br> <b>The Michigan defense</b> struggled down the stretch last season. This spring they will be looking for answers to what has become a recurring question. How do you stop spread offenses featuring <b><i>mobile quarterbacks?</i></b><br>

When the Michigan Wolverines switched to the 3-4 defense last year, many observers were optimistic that it would lead to a quicker/faster unit that took advantage of the wealth of talent at linebacker. That, in turn, would allow them to bring more pressure from various points on the field and force more turnovers. For much of the year, the change looked to be paying off. Through eight games the Maize and Blue led the nation in interceptions (15), turnovers forced (25), and had the nation's third best rushing defense, relinquishing only 71.6 yards per game. That stellar run culminated in a stifling performance against Purdue in which they held the high-powered Boilermaker attack to three first down rushing, six passing, and just 14 points. That success, however, came to an abrupt halt in the last four games of the year.

The final part of the season saw the Michigan defense face spread offenses with mobile quarterbacks, which turned out to be a recipe for disaster. The Wolverine defenders gave up an average of 257-yards rushing per game, 458-yards of total offense, and 33 points while going 2-2. Heading into the spring, the Wolverines were looking for answers, and one of them may be switching back to the 4-3.

"I think we have to play better defense and that's something that obviously we need to address in the offseason," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said after the Rose Bowl. "I think we've got a lot of outstanding players…a lot of guys that have the ability to do great things, but you can't win championships if you don't play good defense. "

Exactly what alignment the Wolverines will utilize the most remains to be seen. Regardless of which they choose, through maintaining gap integrity along the defensive front will be a major point of emphasis. New defensive line coach Steve Stripling will be a huge key in assuring that that happens.

Stripling joined the Michigan staff in late February after Bill Sheridan departed for the NFL to be the New York Giants linebackers coach. The nineteen year veteran crossed enemy lines to become a Wolverine, leaving that very same post at Michigan State. He had traveled to East Lansing from Louisville when John L. Smith got the job as the Spartans head man. Stripling was part of a Green and White defense that held the vaunted Minnesota rushing attack to 148 and 102 yards on the ground in the past two seasons. That same Gopher unit rushed for 427-yards and 223-yards against Michigan in 2003 and 2004.

"I am delighted that Steve Stripling is joining our coaching staff as the defensive line coach," Carr said. "Steve has an outstanding background both as a player and coach. He is a great addition to Michigan Football."

At Michigan Coach Stripling will be molding more talented players than he had at MSU, and ...

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