Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mailbag: Could Desmond Morgan play fullback?

Desmond Morgan + truck stick = fullback?

With all of the linebackers Mattison is bringing in, where does a kid like Desmond Morgan fit in?  Do you think they are going to run a 3-4 in the future or do you think he might be able to fit in as a fullback in the future?  I know it's crazy but just think if you had a fullback who could throw the ball..... what kind of trick plays you could run.... or just having him as the protector on punt formation... Just seeing what your thoughts were on where he might end up.  Thanks, Andy
Without hearing a plan come directly out of Greg Mattison's mouth, it's difficult for me to say with any certainty what type of defense Michigan will run in the future.  If the rumor is true that Will Campbell has made the switch back to defense, then I would say that's a good indicator of intentions to run a 4-3 type of defense.  After all, there wouldn't really be a need for so many defensive linemen if Michigan were only going to use three of them at any given time.  New recruits have also reported that head coach Brady Hoke was selling a 4-3 defense.

I said in a previous post that I think Michigan will run a defense that looks an awful lot like Greg Robinson's in 2009.  That's with Craig Roh as a rush linebacker, plus a NT, a 3-tech DT, and a 5-tech strongside end.  The biggest difference between Michigan 2009 and Michigan 2011, I'm guessing, will be the use of a nickel corner in obvious passing situations.  Whereas Robinson used converted safety Steve Brown as a three-down linebacker, a guy like Courtney Avery might be able to play over the slot receiver, replacing a linebacker less gifted in pass coverage.

As for Morgan himself, I expect that he'll stay at linebacker.  I think he's perfectly suited to be a middle linebacker in a 4-3.  And as far as I know, none of the coaches have mentioned to him the possibility of moving to offense.  My assumption about why Hoke and Mattison are pursuing so many linebackers comes down to this: the linebacker play at Michigan has been quite putrid for a few years, and the fact that nobody really challenged Mouton or Ezeh for most of that time doesn't bode well for whoever's behind them on the depth chart.  Demens did a pretty nice job taking over at MIKE, and I'm not convinced that J.B. Fitzgerald can't be a solid player.  But Fitzgerald is a senior and his chance to impact is dwindling.  We haven't seen much of the guys behind them.

The fullback position might be a bit overblown by Michigan fans, too.  Al Borges has shown a propensity for using two tailbacks in the backfield at the same time.  Think Bo Jackson and Marcus Allen if you're old enough, Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams if you're not.  When the latter pair played for Borges at Auburn in 2004, Brown ended his season with 913 yards and 8 touchdowns.  Williams had 1,265 yards and 12 touchdowns.  This is going to be a different style of offense than we saw Michigan use in Lloyd Carr's last few years.  Instead of big bruisers like Kevin Dudley and Obi Oluigbo, this is probably going to be more B.J. Askew.  The only fullback Michigan offered in the 2011 recruiting cycle is Trayion Durham (since committed to Kent State), who's a pretty nifty runner.  I wouldn't be surprised to see a kid like Stephen Hopkins or Michael Cox play "fullback" while Michael Shaw or Fitzgerald Toussaint plays tailback.  That would give Michigan's backfield a nice combination of size and wiggle.  Additionally, John McColgan could return for a fifth year, and there's a fullback from Traverse City named Joey Kerridge who should be coming to Ann Arbor as a walk-on.

Regarding fake punts and trick plays, I don't think Desmond Morgan playing linebacker would preclude him from being the upback on punts.  In fact, that would probably be a great place for him.  As for running trick plays out of the regular backfield . . . it would be possible, but I don't know that I've ever seen a fullback throw a pass before.  If you're using a fullback, he's typically about four yards behind the line of scrimmage and in a blocking position.  Handing or tossing him the ball and expecting him to get a throw off from the fullback spot would be a tall order.


  1. Recruiting for depth means more competition and you aren't screwed when an injury hits. On the downside, its far more difficult to make projections 3-4 years out. No one knows how things will play out with all these LBs (and potentially Clark and Willingham too). But given all the attrition we've seen, I wouldn't assume that Morgan is destined to be a career back-up either. It's not like he's behind a bunch of 5-stars either. There's a good chance he becomes the starter at MLB at some point.


    The 2 RB offense is an interesting concept. I don't remember how that worked with Auburn, but it seems pretty unorthodox. It seems like it just makes it easier to put more defenders in the box. That said, I like the idea of someone like Vincent Smith or Mike Shaw being put in motion to shift between slot WR and RB, creating defensive mismatches along the way.

  2. @ Lankownia 8:21 p.m.

    It doesn't necessarily mean it's easier to put more defenders in the box. It just means you have more weapons to defend. Why put in a fullback like McColgan (who's not much of a running threat) instead of putting in a guy who can block a little bit but who can also run the ball, like Rawls or Hopkins?

    It's not so much motioning between WR and RB (although that's a possibility, I guess), but using split backs, I-formation, or the offset I.

    Also, having two tailbacks in the backfield wouldn't be an every-down sort of thing. It would be a package used occasionally throughout the game.

  3. Point taken regarding a FB vs a 2nd RB. Obviously, it helps to make everyone a potential threat. But my thought was in relation to a 3rd WR - which at least forces the LB to step away from the OL if not substituting a LB for a DB.

    I guess the question that comes to mind is why do so many teams use a FB or even 2 TEs, while a 2-RB offense or package of plays is somewhat uncommon?

    Just to be clear, I have no problem with 2 RBs. I see novelty as being advantageous. I just don't see the inherent benefits of formations like split backs. Isn't the threat of a FB plunge up the middle just as significant as a 2nd RB getting the ball when offset by diminished blocking ability?

  4. @ Lankownia 12:24 a.m.

    The FB vs. two RB thing is just a matter of preference. Like I said, it's a package. You come up with some plays where maybe the other RB's block isn't quite so important or where the presence of one RB might occupy a linebacker that you want to expose in coverage.

  5. Sounds fine. RR did some of this as well and I sometimes wondered why we didn't see more of it.


  6. @ Lankownia 1:07 p.m.

    Yeah, I would have liked to have seen more 2-back sets from Rodriguez, too. He wasn't nearly as creative offensively as I expected when he was hired.

  7. I watched Morgan play this year while he nursed a shoulder injury that kept him from playing defense, so he only played quarterback. IMHO, he would be a pretty decent fullback with his athleticism and his "truck stick" ability (he didn't try anything else, he just ran everybody over), but I haven't seen him try to block and that seems like it's pretty important...