Michigan Football Preview 2017

2017 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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THE WOLVERINE 2017 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 47 But he holds himself and his coaches accountable, too. At the end of the day, he said, they're the ones getting paid to get the results. "Don't blame the player. That's on us," Brown said. "I tell our guys all the time, 'All your mistakes belong to me, because at the end of the day, that's it.' "We're all big boys in here. That's how we make our living. Nobody said it was easy, but this is the greatest profession, career that there is." Another point he often brings up — never forget where you came from, a message he made clear during his Broyles Award finalist speech. "I'm a guy that grew up on 48½ Cherry Street in Spencer, Massachusetts," he said. "My mom made shoes. There were nights she came home and I could smell that chemical they made the shoes with on her clothes, and to be honest sometimes on her breath. My father was a milkman. They did everything they could to make sure I went to college, got a great education. "My mom, she was Irish and tough. A few days, when I wasn't the perfect guy I am now, I had to duck that right hand. I got toughness from my mom, my personality from my dad, and it got me one of the best jobs in the country. I pursue my passion every day." He does it with passion, evident in everything he does, bringing back memories of words a Boston College beat writer shared with Michigan fans when he learned Brown was headed to Ann Arbor: "Get ready for the ride of your life." One year in, the fans are holding on with perma-grins like they're halfway down the first hill in the front seat of a roller coaster. They're ready for more, and given Brown's history, the encores should be every bit as good. ❏ Michigan's Best Defenses Of The Last 25 Years Any list of "bests" is going to be subjective, even those supported by numbers. When it comes to defense, for example, there are several categories, and it's not always clear which are most important. Using stats and the "eyeball test," we rank the Wolverines' five best defenses over the past 25 years, and coordinator Don Brown's 2016 unit is among them. 1. 1997: This ranking shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone given the Wolverines rode this group to the national title, and the yards per game given up were 39 less than the second place team on this list. U-M domi- nated behind its Heisman Trophy winner, cornerback Charles Woodson, and every starter on the defense but one would go on to play in the NFL. Defensive end James Hall led the team with 8.5 sacks, and linebackers Sam Sword and Dhani Jones notched 91 tackles and 90 tackles, respectively. Jones also added six sacks. The defense allowed no fourth-quarter points or second-half touchdowns in the first eight games of the season. The total defense (222.8 yards allowed per game) and scoring defense (9.5 points allowed per game) were the lowest marks by any Big Ten team since the 1985 season. Michigan allowed just 26 points in its first five games. 2. 2016: In Don Brown's first year leading the defense, Michigan's unit ranked first nationally in total defense (261.8 per game), passing yards allowed (142.5), first downs allowed (186 total) and third-down conversion percentage allowed (21.0, first), while they were No. 2 in scoring defense (14.1), tackles for loss (9.3) and team passing efficiency defense (allowed a 94.19 rating). U-M allowed just 28 red zone trips all season, fewest in the nation, and ranked third in the land by allowing just 71.4 percent of those drives to result in points. The Wolverines forced nearly 45 percent (44.5; 5.62 per game) of opponents' possessions to end in three- and-outs, and all 11 defensive starters earned some sort of All-Big Ten accolades. 3. 2006: This group had a chance to finish as one of the best Michigan defenses of all time, but it gave up 42 points in a loss at Ohio State and 32 in a Rose Bowl setback to USC. It held seven opponents to 13 points or less and four to seven or less, and allowed a meager 43.4 rushing yards per game. The team also earned the Big Ten rushing defense statistical championship for conference games by holding opponents to 50.9 yards per game, and led in conference and all games with 3.3 sacks per contest. Four Wolverines' defenders made the All-Big Ten team, including All-Americans Leon Hall (cornerback) and LaMarr Woodley (defensive end). 4. 1995: Some of the same players on the 1997 title team were groomed a few years earlier, including Woodson, All-Big Ten safety Marcus Ray and others. This group boasted a pair of players who would become All-Americans the following year in addition to Woodson — nose tackle Will Carr and linebacker Jarrett Irons — and was very stingy against the run (93.2 yards allowed per game) and overall (284.8 yards allowed per game). The team overall was inconsistent offensively, leading to a four-loss campaign and No. 17 national finish. Opponents averaged 17.2 points per game, but U-M's offensive struggles led to more opportunities for op- posing offenses. 5. 1992: Opponents averaged 14.3 points per game against the Big Ten champs while managing only 90.8 yards per game on the ground. Seven opponents scored 13 points or less. Defensive lineman Chris Hutchinson earned All-America honors, while linebackers Matt Dyson and Shonte Peoples earned All-Big Ten accolades with safety Corwin Brown. U-M tied three games that season, but techni- cally finished undefeated at 9-0-3. — Chris Balas The Michigan defense under Brown finished strong — the Wolverines surrendered just 53 fourth-quarter points all year. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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