X's and O's Mailbag: Crable & Dutch

In GoBlueWolverine's weekly X's & O's series, Josh Turel tackles your questions about anything football. In this edition, Turel tackles some of the pressing questions surrounding how Shawn Crable will be utilized on defense and what role converted wideout Doug Dutch is best suited for in the defensive secondary.

This week's question was submitted by Victors Club Message Board posters, “energyblue1” and “BigJes”

Question one comes from energyblue1: “On defense, Dutch better suited at free safety?”

Josh Turel: “I have not seen enough of Doug Dutch to determine which one he is best suited for, but I’ll give you a few points about the situation from my perspective. First, I think the need for cornerback is greater than safety. Furthermore, immediate playing time is available out on the island, and that is something Dutch has to like. Overall, I think the transition is easier to cornerback than to safety, especially coming from the offensive side of the ball. Corner may be a more difficult position physically, but the mental demand of the safety position is one of the most underrated aspects of football in my opinion. I’m certainly not saying Dutch doesn’t have the mental faculties to learn the safety position, I’m just saying that there is much more to pick up at that spot so it’s reasonable to think it would take him longer to make an impact. The safeties set the defensive backfield. They are in constant communication with others in the secondary and they are the main adjusters in the defensive backfield. They are responsible for adjusting to the formation, reads in sky coverage’s, “I’m here” calls to the linebackers, among other things. It is a tough position. Cornerback is a tough position as well, but like I said, the mental demands aren’t as great, especially on a team that runs quite a bit of cover two like Michigan. The main focus is more on technique, where safeties need to know a lot more about schemes. From a skill set standpoint, I like Dutch’s upside at cornerback. He has always shown good quickness in the limited times we got to see him in practices and scrimmages, and he is also underrated physically. We know he has really good speed, and in talking to some of the other receivers last season, all of them said Dutch was the strongest player in the group. It is extremely difficult to switch positions and get immediate playing time, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dutch be able to contribute later in season and possibly next year if he puts in the tough work. The biggest thing to watch for with him is confidence level and intensity of his approach. Can he be consistent with those things at every practice throughout a season?

Question two comes from BigJes: “I’d like to hear some discussion on how UM will try to utilize Shawn Crable's unique skill set. There have been rumblings that he's best as a hybrid SAM/DE. How does UM disguise how they'll use him? Will they use more 3-4 with him sliding up as a 4th down lineman? Will they move him up in the 4-3 and use a lot of 5 man rushes? Does his skill set make 4-2-5 more or less desirable?”

Josh Turel: I think last year and the spring game gave us some indications what the plan is for Shawn Crable. Shawn is one of the best, if not the best pass rushers on the team. What I expect from Ron English is to really vary how he uses Crable. Referring back to last season, Crable was used as a 4th down lineman in some situations and as a roaming type blitzer in others. I expect it to be a fluid situation again this year. I think where/how he lines up will depend upon down & distance AND opponent. In the spring game, Michigan displayed at least one package where the SAM linebacker is a roaming player that varies his gaps in a three-man front. This makes it tough for the offensive lineman to concentrate on their assignments because the blocking scheme may not end up being the proper one depending on the last gap he ends up in. Teams around the country do this quite frequently with defensive end/linebacker players. Jim Heacock liked using Vernon Gholston in this capacity last year. From the looks of the spring game, it appears that Michigan is going to use the 4-2, and 3-3 as their reduced fronts against spread formations. I think the 3-3 is a very good situational defense. From the coaching clinics I’ve been to, if you give a coach that runs a 3-3 defense a grease board, he can draw you an endless number of pressure packages. You’ll never convince me it’s a great base defense, but I think as a package against spread teams, Michigan could really utilize Crable. In a 3-3-5, I think you will see Crable as a linebacker that can rush or drop back into coverage, but most likely as a pass rushing defensive end in a 4-2-5. Crable is less desirable 4-2-5 linebacker because your two linebackers are ideally middle linebacker types. In a 4-3 defense, in my opinion Crable is far more valuable rushing the passer than in coverage, so I expect him to be used in some fashion there. The varying fronts will allow for Crable to move around in different formations and rush from different locations. This should be a plus for Michigan because it will be harder for opponents to game plan for it.

Want to submit a mailbag question? Join us on our Victors Club messageboard or in our weekly chats held every Monday night at 9pm.

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