Michigan defense is back to basics

Michigan defensive players Desmond Morgan, Jordan Kovacs and Kenny Demens talk about the defensive focus on pursuit drills and playing as a cohesive unit against the Boilermakers Saturday.

The Michigan defense may have turned the corner in its strong showing at Notre Dame. And they owe all the credit to fundamentals as the Wolverine coaches stressed pursuit drills and simplifying the game plan before facing the Irish.

"I say during the week we worked on our footwork a lot, kind of slowed it down and worked on our basics," said sophomore linebacker Desmond Morgan. "I think going back kind of helped us, once we had our fundamentals underneath us, it helped us play much faster. It helped us make better reads and things like that.

"I think beforehand we were doing a lot of running, as opposed to shuffling and playing slower and seeing what you saw. Before we were kind of making the initial read and kind of running at it. Sometimes we were getting sucked up in there and things like that. It was kind of killing us."

Michigan senior safety Jordan Kovacs leads the team with 30 total tackles on the season. The team captain said the emphasis on pursuit drills helped the defense going in to the Notre Dame.

"We did more pursuit drills and drills like that the week before the Notre Dame game than we had all season," said Kovacs. "It really emphasizes guys flying to the football. I think that did help us. I think we did get more players to the ball."

Michigan senior linebacker Kenny Demens said the effort versus the Irish gave a "glimpse" of what defense can become.

"I feel like that game and that week of preparation, we saw glimpse of us," Demens said. "We can become a great defense. That's what we want to do. We want to keep striving. Keep preparing and not look back."

Morgan said the Maize & Blue defense turned the corner versus the Irish. He said the defense "clicked" and felt more comfortable going into Big Ten play.

"I think we just became more comfortable with each other," Morgan explained. "I think as went to that game especially, we knew where each other was going to be at a lot of the time. We felt like we were at the right spot at the right time. Whereas opposed to previous games—we had hesitation and things like that. I think during that game it kind of clicked for us a little bit. And just being comfortable with playing with one another."

When the Michigan defense travels to West Lafayette this Saturday, they will face Purdue, the top scoring team in the Big Ten at 42.5 ppg.

If the defense is going to stop the Boilermaker offense, the Wolverine defense needs to keep up its pursuit of the ball, said Kovacs.

"It's going to be a whole team effort," Kovacs stressed. "When you got a team that runs a lot of jail break screens—they try to get the ball to their playmakers in space. It's going to come down to getting the guys the football. It's about getting as many guys to the football, and hopefully somebody brings him down." Plus, he added, "Maybe some guy can get a helmet on the ball and get turnovers that way and make plays that way."

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