Michigan Daily Sports Editor Kyle O’Neill is not a collegiate athlete, nor is he a collegiate coach. But he was a starting wide receiver for his winless team at Garber High School, was third in Bay County in receptions his senior year and claims to know something about the game of football. So each game, we’ll let him and his 5-foot-10, 158-pound frame break down why Michigan either succeeded or failed.
1. LaMarr Woodley is one of the most exciting freshmen to ever wear the maize and blue. His size is ridiculous, and his instincts for the position of defensive end are almost pro-like (evident in the Minnesota game against scrambling quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq). But he is 0-for-2 on open-field tackles on quarterbacks. He whiffed on Iowa’s Nathan Chandler, leading to a touchdown. Then he let Orton escape a big loss with a quick side step. Luckily, Orton hit defensive back Leon Hall in the numbers, saving Woodley’s misplay. This isn’t a callout on Woodley, but he needs to do what he’s good at when he gets in those one-on-one situations: Breakdown like he did against Abdul-Khaliq and react to the quarterback’s movement instead of trying to deliver a diving blow that is easier to avoid.
2. I’m pretty sure Joe Tiller would give anything to have Michigan’s receivers in his offense. Not to say that Terry Malone is a wrong fit for the trio of Jason Avant, Braylon Edwards and Steve Breaston, but the spread offense was designed for a trio like this. Speedy Breaston running underneath, Avant using his strength over the middle and Edwards just being Edwards 15-to-20 yards deep would probably give Tiller everything he’s ever wanted.
3. This is the most talented Michigan secondary I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t sure how they would handle the spread. They stopped it in straight-up man coverage – something not easily done when safeties are blitzing. Corner Leon Hall and safety Willis Barringer are making unbelievable strides for being thrown into such a hectic environment.
Explanation: A team will traditionally live and die by the blitz. Michigan just lived by it on Saturday and showed a lot of faith in its secondary by doing so. As seen here, Michigan attacked Purdue’s spread offense with no safeties more often than not. In doing so, Purdue’s offensive line was confused on how to react to seeing eight defenders or just three defenders in the box. On this Ernest Shazor sack, Michigan was originally in a dime package to take on the five-wide-receiver set the Boilermakers put on the field. When Purdue shifted into the formation shown above, the Wolverines went into a man-to-man defense and brought an almost goalline-like to the front. Right before the ball was snapped, linebacker Pierre Woods (who dropped into coverage), hit defensive end Rondell Biggs on the side, essentially telling him to move to the left. When Biggs did this, Purdue adjusted by having tight end Garret Bushong take on Woods, slot back Charles Davis handle Biggs and both Kelly Butler and Nick Hardwick take on Norman Heuer. The confusion of four Boilermakers taking on three Wolverines left Shazor free to blitz untouched and knock quarterback Kyle Orton to the ground. What made this so effective was that Michigan knew how Purdue was going to shift – as shifting is something that has made Joe Tiller’s offense so successful. When the Boilermakers would shift, Michigan adjusted with them with no delay. Orton would try to adjust off that shift with another one, but in doing so, the play clock became his enemy, and he would use a timeout or run the called play against a defense that was prepared for it.