Ouimet starts with the Michigan Defense (tomorrow the Offense). He call the defense "The Utmost Interest."
Ouimet starts with the Michigan Defense (tomorrow the Offense). He call the defense "The Utmost Interest."

Ouimet's Spring Wrap-up: The U-M Defense

With Saturday's 'spring game' actually just being a final practice, we've asked former U-M staffer Mark Ouimet to tell us what WOULD'VE happened in a 'real spring game'.<br><br> "Believe it or not, the Michigan offense won't miss Braylon. However, in this spring game game the defense would dominate. Here's why."<br><br> Ouimet starts with the Michigan Defense (tomorrow the Offense). He call the defense "The Utmost Interest."<br>


"It will be the Michigan offense that will lead the team in the fall. But this spring the defense has dominated every scrimmage." "Why? Because the offensive line is not what it will be in the fall. Michigan's best offensive lineman, Jake Long, has been out all spring with his shoulder. And, most of all, the interior O-line is 'not there yet' due to injury and position changes."

"Consequently, the defensive front four has pretty much disrupted every scrimmage this spring -- in fact Gabe Watson has been help out at times so the interior O-line could have a chance to work on things and develop."

"And this is how it has to be for the 2005 season for the defense. Whereas in 2004 the defensive backfield was counted on to lead the "D," this year there is no Jackson and Shazor back there. So the front seven has to lead the 2005 Michigan defense, and the front four D-linemen have to lead the front seven."

"Michigan's front four has to to control the line of scrimmage and put pressure on those mobile quarterbacks that hurt Michigan so much last season."

"To coach this D-line Michigan has hired Steven Stripling away from Michigan State. The MSU front four was very aggressive under Stripling, and this spring Stripling has joined defensive backs coach Ron English as the most vocal and aggressive assistant coach on the field. Stripling is constantly stressing to his charges to get upfield (into the backfield), to make plays, and to stop the run -- including a running quarterback. In order to take the pressure off an inexperienced defensive backfield this year, the Michigan D-line HAS to control the gaps up front and disrupt those mobile quarterbacks before they can get into 'space' and be able to dictate the play."

"The MSU defense was not great when Stripling was there, but the D-line did a good job (and disrupted that Minnesota offense which has given the U-M defense fits recently) -- and Stripling has a lot more talent to work with here at Michigan than he did at MSU."

"Gabriel Watson, Patrick Massey and Alan Branch are the main guys inside. Watson, as I said, has been dominant in the spring because of the uncertainty in the U-M interior OL -- but the key for Gabe is getting into better shape than he was last year when he wore down in the stretch. For Gabe it is all about being in shape, and we'll see if he finally 'gets there' for his final season. Watson has all the ability in the world if he can get in shape and finish."

"Watson and Massey are the known guys in the middle of course -- and moving Massey back inside has been a good move. Alan Branch has had a good spring as well."

"The success of Massey, Branch and Watson will be the #1 key to the 2005 Michigan defense -- if they can dominate it will be reassuring to the rest of the defensive unit, and allow the coaches time to shore up other end -- the defensive backfield."

"At the 'true defensive end' spot in the 3-4 defense, Lamarr Woodley is one of the best and has had a good spring. Lamarr has played both the 'true D-end' and 'rush end' spots in the past, but he will stay at the true end spot this season."

"Rondell Biggs playing behind Woodley has had a good spring as well. But in the interest of having the 'best 11 men on the field', Michigan has been rotating their 'rush ends' into the 'true D-end' position as well, particularly Pierre Woods."

"And the 'rush ends', Pierre Woods and Shawn Crable, have also been bouncing between the rush end and SAM (strongside) linebacker spots (Tim Jamison is the other RE, but his activity coming off knee surgery has been very limited -- only a few snaps per practice -- and he is undersized now.)"

"Which brings us to the linebacker spots. At SAM linebacker, Prescott Burgess HAS to be the guy -- they want him to win the spot -- with Crable and Woods seeing playing time there as well. Burgess is Michigan's fastest linebacker, but he is still a little undersized as far as bulk and strength."

"Michigan wants speed on the field (as well as guys that can tackle of course) to counteract the spread offenses they'll be facing, and that's why Woods has been used at THREE spots (DE, rush DE and SAM) and Crable at rush DE and SAM."

"So far at the WILL (weakside) linebacker spot, Chris Graham has been the best guy -- he's undersized at 5-10 or a little less, so we'll see how he holds up through a season ... in the spring he has done well -- he's strong, fast and aggressive."

"At the MIKE (middle) linebacker spot it'll again be Scott McClintock as the starter with David Harris also playing a lot. McClintock has never gotten through a season without being injured so Harris is important at that spot."

"So, those front seven are the most important for the Michigan defense, in order to protect Michigan's young cornerbacks. This year the corners will be the weakest part of the defense. There is a lack of experience there ... and there's no Marlin Jackson back there. Leon Hall and Grant Mason will be the starters (I was at Michigan when we recruited Mason), with Morgan Trent and Charles Stewart the back-ups. And I think Brandon Harrison will come in in the fall and play quite a few snaps. So those are all inexperienced guys back there."

"At safety it's Ryan Mundy and Brandon Englemon, with Jamar Adams backing them up. So there will be growing pains in the defensive backfield with inexperienced guys. Hopefully they will grow up fast."

"But do you see what I'm getting at? They key for the 2005 Michigan defense is the front four getting to the quarterback both in passing and running situations."

"Ands to why Michigan won't miss Braylon Edwards -- I'll get to that next."

(Come back tomorrow for Ouimet's analysis of the Braylon-less Michigan offense.)

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