Turel's Film Evaluation: The MSU Defense

The Michigan offense versus the Spartan defense -- here is where the game could well be won or lost on Saturday. Josh Turel has broken down Spartan film and lays out what the Wolverine offense must do to win.

Michigan State Defensive Depth Chart

Strongside End
92 Cliff Ryan 6-2, 302, Jr.
95 Justin Kershaw 6-4, 253, Fr.
94 Jonal Saint-Dic 6-1, 260, Jr.

Weakside End
40 Michael Bazemore 6-3, 270, Sr.
93 Nick Smith 6-6, 265, So.
47 Brandon Long 6-4, 230, Fr.

Nose Tackle
96 Domata Peko 6-2, 320, Sr.
99 Brandon McKinney 6-3, 320, Sr.

Defensive Tackle
17 David Stanton 6-3, 291, Jr.
99 Brandon McKinney 6-3, 320, Sr.

Linebacker
41 David Herron Jr 6-1, 246, Jr.
52 Eric Andino 6-4, 232, So.
53 Adam Decker 6-2, 235, Fr.

Bandit
27 SirDarean Adams 6-0, 222, So.
42 Rob Tabatchnick 5-11, 209, So.

Linebacker
43 Kaleb Thornhill 6-1, 240, So.
49 Steven Juarez 6-1, 225, Jr.
63 Devin Pritchett 6-2, 249, So.

Cornerback
12 Ashton Watson 5-11, 189, Sr.
13 Travis Key 5-10, 181, So.

Cornerback
9 Demond Williams 5-9, 174, Jr.
31 Jaren Hayes 5-9, 180, Sr.
37 Ross Weaver 6-1, 189, Fr.

Strong Safety
36 Eric Smith 6-1, 202, Sr.
38 Cole Corey 5-10, 194, So.
26 Tom Dance 6-1, 205, Fr.

Free Safety
29 Greg Cooper 5-11, 189, Jr.
21 Otis Wiley 6-2, 185, Fr.
28 Mike Bell 5-11, 189, So.

Film Notes:

Michigan State is a team that likes to bring pressure but the're pretty predictable at doing it. They run an inside twist with linebacker David Herron just about everytime he gets around the middle of the line of scrimmage. They like to stunt and twist the ends; look for Clifton Ryan and Michael Bazemore to dive inside on certain pass rushing downs. They almost always blitz on third and 5+ yards, and it's usually a corner plus a linebacker coming. They will bring a double corner blitz at times as well. Linebacker SirDarian Adams is their main blitzer off the edge and he can make plays. They have a difficult time covering the medium to long range zones, but they cover the flats well. The tackling can be spotty at times, but it's not a large weakness.

Defensive Line:

I really like Clifton Ryan, the strongside defensive end. He can rotate at tackle but he has put on some bulk since last year and he is a very strong player. He supports the run well and he will make it tough for Michigan to go his way. He's not a great pass rusher but he can bring a bull rush from time to time. Michael Bazemore is the opposite type of player. He's an athletic rusher who has an array of moves and he uses his arms well. He is the team's best outside rusher in my opinion. They will rotate Justin Kershaw in there as well. He plays with good discipline and technique but I haven't been overly impressed with him because he doesn't make many plays and can get muscled around. Inside Domata Peko is a standard space eater. He uses his hands well and can cause a pile but he doesn't have much range at all. He's a big body in the middle and they will rotate Brandon McKinney in there to spell him at that role. I think David Stanton is a solid player in the middle. He plays with a good forward lean and he can make plays behind the line of scrimmage, though I think he can be beat defending the run.

Linebackers:

SirDarian Adams is their best linebacker from the bandit spot in my opinion. He's an outstanding open field tackler and he just makes plays. He's athletic enough to cover backs one on one as well as in zone. His only downside is he isn't big or overly physical but he can play. Kaleb Thornhill is a solid player who has pretty good range. He needs to work at disengaging blocks but he plays the run well. David Herron Jr. has translated his surprisingly good season last year into this season. He loves to hit and is their main rusher inside, he's a solid player as well.

Secondary:

A vulnerable group in my opinion. Ashton Watson is probably their best corner but I'm still not that impressed with him. He's pretty physical and can play the short zones well but he can be beat. Demond Williams is a bit shorter but he has pretty good speed and range. Jaren Hayes plays backup and anyone who's watched him play knows he gives up a ton of big plays. Eric Smith is excellent at supporting the run in the box but he can struggle at covering the deep zones of the field and in pass coverage. Greg Cooper has dropped a few interceptions but he has generally been around the ball and looks to be a decent safety for the Spartans.

Overall:

This group doesn't generate that great of a pass rush with their front four but they can get to the quarterback with their blitz packages. They will usually bring six men on the rush in third and long and they will blitz frequently with one man. They don't do a whole lot of creative blitzing but they do it often. Their defensive line is active, their ends stunt inside a lot and combo with the linebackers on occasion but most of it hasn't been overly effective. The key for Michigan will be picking up the blitzes and stunts, which for the Wolverine O-linemen means more zone pass protection and having the backs pick up the extra linebackers/defensive backs blitzing. SirDarian Adams is a player at bandit linebacker and the other two Herron and Thornhill are solid players as well. The secondary can be beaten downfield and Michigan must do that; if U-M plays in the flats or the in the short zones, Michigan State should be able to cover it. They play the flats pretty well.

Bottom Line:

Michigan is capable of putting 28+ points on this defense; the question is will U-M be effective enough in the red zone to get the points … and would 28 be enough?

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