Questions arise on UM's defense


Much of the attention paid to the Michigan Wolverines this fall has been on their offense - particularly the players they have and the players they don't.

And on Saturday UM coach Rich Rodriguez said his offense, which is learning a new spread-option scheme, scored a "few touchdowns" in the team's 100-play scrimmage.

So what does that mean for the defense, which is returning seven starters from last year?

"There were too many big plays on offense for me to be happy [about the defense]," Rodriguez said.

The coach said his offense completed some long pass plays that were cause for concern on defense. Rodriguez said "at this point the defense should be ahead of the offense," but sometimes coaches on both sides of the ball put in schemes or formations their counterparts aren't prepared for.

"I'm sure my offensive coaches didn't share information with my defensive coaches on what formations they were putting in for [Saturday]," Rodriguez said.

West Virginia ran a 3-3-5 defense under Rodriguez, but new UM defensive coordinator Steve Shafer has said his defense will feature multiple fronts, beginning with the traditional 4-3 look. Rodriguez said perhaps the biggest hurdle for the defense right now is grasping the terminology used by the new coaching staff.

Rodriguez said on Saturday that returning starting linebacker Obi Ezeh made some big plays in the scrimmage, as did fifth-year senior linebacker John Thompson and junior safety Stevie Brown. Also signaled out for his leadership and play throughout the spring has been returning starting cornerback Morgan Trent.

Rodriguez said his linebacking corps is deep, with six talented players to fill three starting spots. Ezeh is the Wolverines' top returning tackler with 68 stops last year, and Thompson had 29 tackles in 2007. Other linebackers fighting for spots who were listed as "key returnees" by UM's media relations staff include senior Brandon Logan and sophomores Marell Evans and Jonas Mouton.

KOGER MENTIONED: Rodriguez also spoke about Whitmer tight end Kevin Koger, who will play for Michigan in the fall.

Rodriguez said Koger was one of the first tight ends he and his staff evaluated when trying to piece together West Virginia's 2008 recruiting class, and was excited when taking the UM job to learn that Koger was committed to the Wolverines.

"[Koger has] a great family, [is] a great athlete, and we're excited to have him," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said UM will probably play more freshmen in 2008 than in future years because of the program's low number of players, and said "Kevin is one of those skill guys on offense that's going to get a chance."

BACK ON OFFENSE: Rodriguez said the offense only committed one turnover on Saturday, an improvement from earlier in the week when the coach said there were several miscues.

He said the Wolverines have installed about 60 percent of their offense thus far, but won't have 80 percent installed before spring practice concludes on Aug. 12.