Coaching in Action: Photo Courtesy Gregory Shamus/Getty Images Sport
Originally I wanted to go with "Dr. GERGlove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Suspect 2010 Michigan Defense." But all those Dr. Strangelove titles are overdone, don'tyouthink? Still, the MSPaint possibilities are awesome....
But I digress. This isn't about Peter Sellers or the height of the cold war, this is about football. Michigan football. In particular the 2010 Michigan Football defense, and why, oh why, we should or shouldn't get our hopes up.
As fans, I think we're predisposed to go one way or another leading up to a season. You're either an optimist and see 8 returning starters on defense and say to yourself, "We've got some experience, fewer young guys, there's potential here to be decent." Or you're a pessimist and see the loss of Brandon Graham, Donovan Warren, and Stevie Brown and say, "Oh Christ, were screwed. We lost our three best players to the NFL. Actually, Graham counts as six players because he single handedly carried that defense last year. Hand me that cup of Drano, I'm taking the easy way out." One or the other. Don't sit there and tell me you're in the middle, you're not. You either think the defense will be passable or not. Kool Aid or Drano. The choice is yours.
But before you yell "Hey! KOOOO-LAID!" or reach for that bottle of drain opener, we should probably sit down and look at what we lost, what we've kept, and what we're gaining this season.
The 2010 Michigan Defensive Coaching Staff
Out Going:Jay Hopson, Linebackers Coach - I don't mean to dance on a grave or start singing "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead", but good luck in Middle Back of Some Guy's House Technical State University, Jay. I'm sure he was a nice guy and a dedicated coach, but the results on-field were disastrous. As a recruiter he was never able to deliver on his promised recruiting area (Mississippi) and as a coach he was never able to give us a linebacker that could find his ass with two hands and a GPS. Both Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton have talent, they just to have been coached to bury it in the forest before showing up for football games. If you're asking for a point of comparison, I have two words: "Stevie Brown." If Brown, who was an unqualified disaster at safety, can learn the linebacker position as a seniorand put up an honorable mention Big Ten performance under a different linebacker coach (GERG!), then you know someone was asleep at the wheel. Or a drunk baby. One of the two.
Incoming:With Hopson gone, Adam Brathwaite, a long time Rodriguez assistant takes over the safeties. He won't have any influence on the linebackers, but he does have the responsibility for coaching one of the most critical aspects of Michigan's defense. Brathwaite's been in Rodriguez' hopper for a while and he does have some legitimate playing chops to fall back on ( four-year letterman at defensive back for William & Mary [1997-2001]). But whether he's a good coach or not will have to be determined over the next two years. Keep that Drano handy.
Staying the Same:The Rest of the Coaching Staff. The biggest, and perhaps most important coaching change on the squad is at linebacker. GERG!... er... Coach Robinson takes over the linebackers in their entirety. Robinson worked nothing short of a miracle with Stevie Brown last year and this year gets linebackers as well as his responsibility as the head signal caller for the defense. Everyone points to Robinson's EPIC HEADCOACHING FAIL at Syracuse, but the guy was a monster of a coordinator at Texas and in the NFL. He's got the defensive chops you want, and let's face it there are plenty of guys that are just better coordinators than head coaches. Bruce Tall remains the defensive line coach, and I couldn't be happier. I would like to remind people that as good as Graham was in his senior season, he was Tall's pupil for the last two years at Michigan. You know, the two years when he just wrecked shop. Tony Gibson stays with the corners, which I'm still kind of "meh" about, but Warren was pretty good last year and I think Woolfolk performed better than Trent did in the No. 2 slot, so we'll see. If the secondary slides further, I'll change my tune, but West Virginia's DB's were generally pretty damn good so I'm going with track record over the last two personnel deficient years. Like I said tho, three down years makes a pattern for any coach so this season has to show improvement.
Rainbows or Liquid Plumber?To me, this is mostly WIN with some Clorox mixed in. Gibson was just god awful, at least from the results I saw on field. His "accepting a new position" and Robinson taking over the linebackers will make a huge difference for the team. Why? Even an improvement to "somewhat competent" out of the linebackers probably nets Michigan another win last year and willbe the ultimate determiner of how this team performs. You can't have two senior three year starters suck at linebacker and have any hope of being .500. You just can't. I've got my concerns with the secondary, mostly because of the youth and inexperience, but coaches have make do with what they've got and I'm hoping Gibson and Brathwaite find a way to make these guys appear competent this season.
Overall, there's some consistency here for the first time in three years. All the players know their coaches and the scheme seems to be a streamlined version of what they played last season. No new terminology, fewer complex sets, more time to actually retain and process the information they took in last year and refine it this year. The coaching staff is in pretty good shape, defensively, for the first time in a while. Now they have to prove this optimism is warranted.
I'm breathing a little easier because we're not changing everything, again. What's your take on the defensive coaching staff?