ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Rich Rodriguez has climbed up the ranks of college football because his spread offense has been tough to stop at every level.
At Michigan, though, his defense has stunted his chance to have success.
Rodriguez insisted on Monday that he's sticking with his defensive staff -- led by coordinator Greg Robinson -- and plans to try and spend more time than usual with assistants on that side of the ball.
"I'm not going to be able to wave a magic wand myself and fix some of the issues," Rodriguez said. "Some of the problems are not going to get fixed overnight. We have a lot of inexperienced players playing defensively."
The Wolverines lost 41-31 to Penn State on Saturday night, allowing former walk-on quarterback Matt McGloin to look like a savvy veteran.
"The first thing that was painfully obvious to me after watching the film was that we're just not as fast or as athletic in certain spots as we need to be," Rodriguez said.
After a 5-0 start, this season appears very similar to the last one. That's not good news for the Wolverines' embattled coach.
Michigan (5-3, 1-3 Big Ten) has lost three straight -- heading into Saturday's game at home against improving Illinois (5-3, 3-2) -- after winning the first four games last year and losing seven of the last eight.
Athletic director Dave Brandon isn't ready to share his thoughts on the Rodriguez-led program that has won just four of 20 conference games and 13 of 32 overall.
"I'll comment on the state of the program after the season," Brandon said Monday morning. "I know the coaches and the players are working hard to get better."
The Wolverines seem to be getting worse on defense, giving up at least 34 points in each Big Ten game after opening the season by allowing Connecticut and Notre Dame to score 34 points combined.
"I don't know how much improvement you're going to get during a season," Rodriguez said.
Michigan's secondary was decimated before the season started. Cornerback Donovan Warren chose to skip his senior year to enter the NFL draft, cornerback Troy Woolfolk broke his ankle and other potential contributors either transferred or couldn't get into the school.
The results haven't been pretty.
Michigan's defense ranks 117th in major college football -- out of 120 teams -- against the pass, giving up 290.5 yards a game; 106th in total defense, allowing 440.3 yards a game; 110th in first downs, giving up 184; and teams are averaging 30 points against the unit, sinking it to 89th in the nation.
Defensive end Greg Banks said it's not Rodriguez's fault that he and his teammates aren't getting the job done.
"He's a great coach," Banks said. "It's the players -- we need to take more pride in what he's teaching."