The Dichotomy between Offense and Defense

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The relationship between offense and defense is well documented. Few defenses are able to play at a high level if they are constantly on the field because of an unproductive offense. At the same time defenses are often at the mercy of their offense where field position is concern. If an offense put their defense in bad spots by turning the ball over or failing to convert on 4th down, the defense is at a distinct disadvantage. Over the last year, Brady Hoke has introduced a new line of thinking where the relationship between offense and defense is concerned. Two comments made by Hoke highlight his line of thinking and the philosophy as a whole. The first was made by Hoke while the coach of San Diego State and was directed towards Oregon. In an interview with San Diego columnist Tim Sullivan Hoke declared:

“Right, wrong or indifferent, when you’re zone blocking all the time — when you’re playing basketball on grass — you practice against that all spring, you practice against it all fall and then you’re going to play a two-back team that wants to knock you off the football. I don’t think you’re prepared.”

Hoke made similar comments during Big 10 Media Days 2 weeks ago:

“I can tell you, and I’m a defensive coach, that when your defense plays against a pro-style offense all spring long, and they play against a pro-style offense all fall camp, you build a toughness and an edge because the schemes themselves are different … And this is a physical football league. It’s a physical offense, with people who run the football. We think we can play better defense by the fact of how we do things on the offensive side of the ball because they feed off each other.”

Hoke’s point is simple yet intriguing. The offensive scheme that a team uses helps dictate the level of preparation for the defense. Two aspects of Hoke’s comments are worthy of further examination. The first concerns the result of a defense practicing against an offense that utilizes zone blocking a majority of the time. The second concerns defenses who play against basketball on grass i.e the spread being unprepared to handle downhill running teams. These comments have led many members of the Michigan faithful who have watched Michigan struggle mightily on defense over the last 3 years to nod their head in agreement. After all Michigan has been gashed by downhill running teams for most of the last 3 years. Is there validity to Hoke’ comment is the question. Are teams that primarily use zone blocking and play “basketball on grass” less prepared defensively? Is the reverse also valid? Are defenses that practice against a pro-style scheme and primarily drive block less prepared to deal with spread teams?

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My Favorite Michigan Memories

Technically I have been a Michigan fan my entire life. Even before I was aware of what football was I was donned in Maize and Blue, much to the dismay of the Spartan side of my family (who make up a higher percentage than I like to admit). While I technically was a Michigan fan from birth, wore Michigan apparel, and rooted for Michigan when they were on TV, I did not become a true fanatic until 1997. 1997 was the first year I followed every game intensely and could actually rattle off the names of a majority of the team. My fanaticism only intensified in 2001 after my family moved from Michigan to Tennessee. My arrival happened to coincide with the year Michigan played Tennessee in the Capital One Bowl, which Michigan promptly lost 45-17. Suffice it to say the week after that bowl game was not a pleasurable experience. Nothing tests your fan hood like being banished to a state far away from your home team. No one I knew talked Michigan sports, there was no mention of Michigan on the radio or in the newspaper, Michigan was too far away to attend any spring games or games in the fall. If I wanted to read or hear anything about Michigan I was forced to go online which is what first brought me into contact with Michigan recruiting coverage and UMGOBLUE.com. This site along with streaming WDFN online were my lifeline to all things Michigan related.

Top 3 Michigan Memories

#1 Michigan vs Penn State 1997 (W 34-8) – The game itself was memorable enough, from Glen Steele’s sack to start the game to Chris Howard running over the Penn State defense. What I remember most is running around the house the next day after seeing Michigan ranked #1 in the country.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YFOcfwWgqc[/tube]

Part 2

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No Man Is More Important Than The Team

Let me preface this article by saying at the outset that this piece is not about rehashing or re-prosecuting Rich Rodriguez. No one wants to move forward and concentrate on the present and future more than I do. With that said, it is critical to take a look at the past in order to provide perspective on the current situation and what to expect in the future.

Several of the comments made by Brady Hoke (watch video) during last week’s Big 10 Media Days highlight an issue that has received little attention. While much has been made over the issues that led Dave Brandon’s decision to remove Rich Rodriguez, one factor has largely gone unmentioned by the mainstream media. While the sub .500 record, annual losses to Ohio State and Michigan State, and embarrassingly bad defense all played a major role, the single biggest factor was likely Rodriguez putting himself and his coaches ahead of the football program. This is not to suggest that Rodriguez did not care for his players. Contrary to popular opinion Rodriguez is not an uncaring individual or an evil person. Throughout his 3 years at Michigan, Rodriguez displayed a high degree of concern for both his players and their families. The attention and support given to Brock Mealer by the football program is just one illustration of who Rich Rodriguez is as a person. Going above and beyond for several of the families at Motts Children’s Hospital provides yet another example. Juxtaposed to the selfless Rich Rodriguez is the football coach who was as interested in selling himself and his system as anything else. Rodriguez’s approach in public appearances and recruiting was grounded in self promotion. From the pep rally designed to garner support for the coach instead of the team, to public events and fund raisers with fans and alumni where Rodriguez sold what he, his system, and his coaches could do for them and the football program. A similar approach was used in recruiting where kids, especially on the offensive side, were primarily sold on the advantages of playing for a “master of the spread.” While academic prowess, personal development, and the University as a whole was used a recruiting tool, those attributes served as tertiary pitches to recruits. Kids were sold less on the University and what a Michigan experience could do for their lives going forward and more on the ability and personal profile of Rodriguez and his staff.

The way Rodriguez approached his job is something that must have weighed heavily on the mind of Dave Brandon when it came time to make a decision. Above annarbor.comeverything else Rich Rodriguez was in it for himself, ahead of the University and ahead of his players. Having a coach who put the players and the University above everything else was something that likely influenced both Brandon’s decision to remove Rodriguez, and who Brandon decided to pick as the next coach. While Jim Harbaugh and Les Miles were both contacted by Brandon, neither coach ended up taking the job. Like Rodriguez, both coaches project the image of a coach bigger than the program at their respective schools. Neither coach showed a willingness to put Michigan above themselves or their careers. Harbaugh’s interest in the NFL was well known even before Michigan made contact. Miles showed only a passing interest in the job, taking the interview with Dave Brandon on advice from his agent. This is not to suggest that either coach was unworthy of the job or unable to succeed at Michigan. There are many coaches who have succeeded while running their program on a cult of personality. Coaches like Steve Spurrier and Bobby Petrino have always put themselves out in front of their programs and each has enjoyed a high level of success. The critical thing to understand is the thought process the guided Brandon’s decision and what he was looking for in his next coach.

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