Spielman Calls Michigan D “Worst in History”
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — There have been 106 meetings between Ohio State and Michigan over the last 113 years, but the 2010 game will feature something wholly unique to the rivalry.
At least that’s the way Chris Spielman sees it.
The former Buckeye linebacker hasn’t seen all of the 106 meetings, but he has seen enough in his 45 years to recognize a bad thing when he sees it.
“It is the worst Michigan defense ever in the history of Michigan football, in my opinion,” Spielman said on “The Big Show” on 97.1 The Fan in Columbus Tuesday.
“They are so bad. They can't tackle. In my way of thinking, I don't know how they got this bad on defense. You look at Ohio State, when they lose players, we've had injuries, has this defense taken a noticeable step back? No. It still maintains. It still goes.”
The Wolverines have let everyone go this season. They rank 112th out of 120 schools in total defense, allowing a mind-boggling 445.2 yards of offense per game. By comparison, the Buckeyes are allowing just 241.1 yards of offense per game this season.
“It's not for lack of trying. They have a scheme, but they can't execute the scheme,” said Spielman, who played linebacker for the Buckeyes from 1984-87.
“I'm not a big fan of the scheme because there are a lot of bubble areas to run. They're not gap-sound. They make a lot of mental errors. I think some of it is youth, but some of it's got to be talent, right?”
The 3-3-5 defense brought to Michigan by Rich Rodriguez and now coached by defensive coordinator Greg Robinson has been a disaster this season. Robinson was seen rubbing stuffed animals on his defensive players Saturday as the Wolverines allows Wisconsin to rush for 357 yards and six touchdowns in a 48-28 win at the Big House in Ann Arbor.
“When you have a team like Wisconsin that can line up and run the ball 34 out of 35 plays, 24 or 25 straight times down your throat and you know they're not changing and you can do absolutely nothing to stop it, you have a talent deficiency, and it's clear and evident that they do,” Spielman said.
“(Coach Rodriguez) needs to reevaluate, 'What's our philosophy and what type of player are we going to get?' And they better get on our recruiting high horse and start going into living rooms and getting All-Americans and getting players that fit the Michigan defensive model that's been established over 100 years of talented players, NFL-ready type players who come in, play hard, play it with a level of tenacity and talent, which I'm used to seeing at Michigan.”
Spielman called that game against Wisconsin for ESPN this past Saturday along with Bob Griese, and couldn’t help but notice the lack of talent on defense as he poured over the Michigan roster.
“They had a defensive back (Charles Woodson) from Ohio who won the Heisman Trophy for crying out loud, the NFL MVP. Frankly, they don't have any of those guys on their roster,” Spielman said.
“One kid, the (Mike) Martin kid. Other than that, a lot of guys would be nice little subs at Indiana.”
A big reason for that is the attrition caused by the coaching change when Rodriguez took over the Michigan football program three years ago. The Wolverines have lost a number of talented players on both sides of the ball since January of 2008, including guys like Taylor Hill, Boubacar Cissoko, Brandon Smith, Antonio Kinard, Justin Turner, Vladimir Emilien and Anthony LaLota from the defense alone.
That’s still no excuse in the mind of Spielman for being forced to play walk-ons like safety Jordan Kovacs.
“At Michigan you shouldn't have to play (guys like Kovacs),” said Spielman, who played 11 years in the NFL with the Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills.
“The kid's tough. He plays hard, I love him, he's a battler, he's a warrior, and all their kids play hard. They're Michigan kids, so they're going to play hard. But that doesn't get it done at this level.”
It’s the kind of Michigan football Spielman remembers from the days when he was 2-2 against the Wolverines, despite his record-tying 29-tackle performance in Ann Arbor in 1986.
By comparison, this 2010 Michigan defense has given up 369 points in 11 games. Michigan's 1974 senior class allowed a total of 283 points in their entire four-year career.
“It's a combination of poor recruiting, in my opinion? I think (Lloyd) Carr, to be perfectly honest, left the cupboard bare in his last few years,” Spielman said.
“I don't think they recruited the talent because you look at the upperclassmen that they have. They're all great kids. I had a chance to meet with a bunch of them. They practice hard, they play hard, and they're tough, but it comes down to one thing when you're talking about playing at a high level like Michigan is used to playing at, and that's talent. And they have zero on defense.”
In spite of their deficiency on one side of the ball, Spielman didn’t completely write them off because of how explosive they have been on the other side of the ball this season.
“One word of warning, any time you've got an offense, you've got a puncher's chance. And Michigan has a puncher's chance against Ohio State,” he said.
“A lot of things got to go their way. Ohio State has to throw interceptions, they have to put the ball on the ground.”
They also have to get big plays out of quarterback Denard Robinson , who put up 360 yards of total offense and four touchdowns in front of Spielman during the Wisconsin.
“If anybody is listening over at the Woody Hayes (Athletic Center), here's my warning: You think he's fast. He looks fast on film. You don't know how fast this kid is until you see him play in person,” Spielman said.
“He's the fastest football player that I've ever seen play in person, and that's something that our guys are going to have to adjust to, because their offense is explosive, they can score points in a hurry, and it's going to be a challenge on our defense against their offense.”
Even with their offense clicking, Spielman doesn’t see much hope for the Michigan defense in the future.
“Martin is the only guy that could start at Ohio State - the only guy that could start. He would roll in there. He's a good player. But other than that, these guys would be excellent special teams guys,” Spielman said.
“Everybody is saying, 'Well, they're all young, they're all coming back.' Well, yeah, they're all coming back. It's the worst defense in the NCAA that they're all coming back (to). Is that so exciting for you? It's bad.”
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