Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Mailbag: Is Brennen Beyer any good?

I just have a question about Beyer, is he any good or is he just serviceable? In my eyes yes he has been good and he has been doing a great job for Michigan this year. The reason why I ask this is because my wife's uncle does not think he is any good and believe that he should have gone and played at a MAC school playing tight end instead of going to Michigan to play DE or LB. He is basing this off of watching Beyer play at Plymouth and using his football knowledge of being a QB at Ferris St back in the early 80's. This is a conversation that he and I have been having since Beyer's freshman year and it's kind of getting annoying now and I wanted to get your thoughts since you watch the film of these kids and have a better grasp of things since you are a coach.
I have that same question about Beyer. I have not been shy about questioning Beyer's talent since he arrived at Michigan as a defensive end . . . and immediately earned playing time as a backup SAM linebacker in 2011. Naturally, the first thing to look at would be his statistics:

2011 (Fr.): 11 tackles
2012 (So.): 19 tackles, .5 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble
2013 (Jr.): 22 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 pass breakup, 1 interception returned 7 yards for a TD

In the 2013 season countdown, I said "Beyer's next big play will be his first." He obviously took that personally because his first two games this year - against Central Michigan and Notre Dame -  included 2 sacks and 1 forced fumble. Since those two games, he has notched 16 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 pass breakup while starting either at SAM or strongside defensive end. Let's be honest - those numbers are pretty paltry for a season-long starter.

For comparison's sake, let's look at Craig Roh, who played at Michigan from 2009-2012. Roh was a starter from his freshman year at various positions, including outside linebacker, weakside end, and strongside end. He was not chosen in the NFL Draft and latched on to the Carolina Panthers' practice squad. It's tough to pick his worst year because his statistics were fairly static throughout his career, so we'll take his average stat line: 37.5 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks.

In one year as a starter and two more years as a frequently used backup, Beyer has 52 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks. If Roh is the standard for being an average starter, then Beyer falls noticeably short of that level.

Beyer could almost surely have gone to the MAC and had some success there, either at defensive end or tight end. He probably wouldn't be lighting the world on fire there, either, but he would have some decent statistics. Should he have done so? That really depends on what the kid wants out of football. I think Michigan needs players like Beyer to be backups, journeymen, special teamers, etc. You can even get away with guys like Beyer starting, and Michigan has done fairly well defensively with him in that role. But in his third year, I think we can fairly conclude that Beyer is a supporting cast member at best.

In summary, you're both right. Beyer would have been able to rack up better stats and maybe gain more notoriety by going to the MAC. At the same time, he's doing okay for himself at Michigan, and lots of people would rather be mediocre players at Michigan than standout players at, say, Eastern Michigan. There are plenty of guys who would have been better off at a MAC-level school by most standards (Mike Jones is, Richard Ash and Jordan Paskorz could be, etc.), but big programs all have guys like Beyer.


  1. Roh's junior stats weren't that much better than Beyer's stats are this year.

    And Roh almost certainly saw a great deal more snaps, and had the added benefit of playing those snaps from one position that happened to be next to Mike Martin. I think the stat comparison sells Beyer short.

    1. I don't know that Roh saw a great deal more snaps. He was the SDE, yes, but Beyer started at SAM early...and when the team would go to its nickel package, he would play DE. Even so, I'm not sure how the stat comparison sells him short when I used THREE YEARS of Beyer data just to match up with an average year of Roh.

      By the way, assuming Beyer continues on his current pace, he'll have 26 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks to end the year. So again, add 6 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and double the sacks, and he might get up to arguably Craig Roh's least productive season, at least in regard to tackles.

  2. What is the point of this column, just to trash players?

    1. The point is to examine the talent on the field. In this case, Brennen Beyer.

  3. I was not impressed with Beyer his first two years and never understood how he got so much PT or why Mattison always sung his praises. But I have to admit he made a pretty big jump towards respectability this year. Filling in for Ryan earlier in the year, though clearly not a playmaker, he played better in space than previous years. He is a bit over-matched at 5-tech right now, but he probably spent the off-season trying to keep weight off for SAM rather than put on weight for DL. Anyway, I think SDE is his most natural position on defense and he seems to have room on his frame to put on weight this off season. I could see him being a quality SDE next year if that happens.

    All that said, the coaches made a big error not sticking him at TE from the beginning in my opinion. Beyer looks pretty strong and aggressive to me and I think he would have made an above average blocker. Don't know about his hands but he runs pretty well too. Although when he signed at UM, I remember being more impressed with his highlights at TE than DE. UM has desperately needed a decent TE the last couple years and it's a shame that Beyer was not groomed there. Oh well.

  4. I like this kind of post, and I like the idea of comparing to Roh as an average player. Also agree with the conclusion that Beyer is a solid depth player - he's helped on D, but he probably could have helped more at TE.

    I'm not impressed by the statistical comparison though. Perhaps stats are all we have but I think if you're comparing you should at least do an apples to apples comparison of their junior years. The stats we have are obviously limited, so we can't do anything on a per down basis, but from what I recall Roh played almost every down, while Beyer has been a rotational guy (last year with Frank Clark, this year with Heitzman and Wormley). Point is, the comparison is probably not quite fair to Beyer. There's depth on D now, and there was none when Roh was around.

    Beyer deserves credit for moving around from position to position. This is something that held Roh back too. He also deserves respect for our coaches playing him at each of the 3 positions. He's got some ability, obviously.

    It is rather uncanny how similar Roh and Beyer's careers have played out.

    Now for a slight tangent:
    It's worth noting that average players like Roh get a ton of hype after their freshman and sophomore year and people expect them to be all conference players just because...well, they're fans. Most of these guys don't turn out to be the best-case scenario.