Photo: Flickr/Jeremy Bronson
One of the major reasons pundits and fans are calling for Rich Rodriguez’s head is Michigan’s atrocious defence. This season the Wolverines rank 109th of 120 teams in total defence, and 102nd in scoring defence allowing more than 33 points per contest.Michigan might be headed in the right direction, but the football program is a failure until it contends for a national championship. And it won’t compete for a title until it shores up its leaky D.
Rodriguez gets the blame because he is known as a spread offence wizard that’s largely clueless when it comes to defence.
But in his last season at West Virginia, the Mountaineers ranked seventh in the nation in total defence and allowed just 18 points per game. They stifled their pass-happy Big East opponents (three of which were among the top 21 scoring offenses in the nation) with an unconventional 3-3-5 defence, and coordinator Jeff Casteel earned national recognition for the effort.
In 2008, Casteel did not follow Rodriguez to Michigan, and the Wolverines had the worst defence in school history. Rodriguez responded by hiring Greg Robinson – the fired head coach of Syracuse, which deployed one of the few defenses actually worse than the Wolverines’ – to lead the defence. Not surprisingly, in 2009 Michigan’s defence did not fare much better. This season Robinson was awarded even more control of the defence. It did not improve.
Greg Robinson, not Rich Rodriguez, needs to go.
Granted, Rodriguez does need to make some adjustments, too. He needs to move far away from the 3-3-5 defence. What worked at West Virginia won’t work in a conference dominated by power football. There simply isn’t enough bulk on that defensive front to stop the top-15 rushing offenses at Ohio State and Wisconsin. Rodriguez will have to abandon his love for speed and recruit some hulking defensive linemen to adjust his defence.
He should also give his old friend at West Virginia, Jeff Casteel, a call. The Mountaineers will likely finish 9-4 for a third consecutive season. They’re stuck in neutral. Convince him of what we’ve said all along: Michigan is a program on the rise. And they’ll rise even faster with the former defensive coordinator of the year.
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