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Spring Football News: New Defensive Coaching Assignments, Ryan Moves To Mike, And Injuries On The OL

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The last couple days have produced a few interesting bits of news surrounding the football team's spring practice and preparation for next year.


Michigan may have added a coach on the offensive side of the ball this off season, but the Wolverines are seeing the biggest shakeup on the other side of the line.  The full press release:

Feb. 20, 2014

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- University of Michigan head football coach Brady Hoke announced today (Thursday, Feb. 20) the following coaching responsibilities for the defensive staff in 2014:

Greg Mattison - Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers
Curt Mallory - Safeties
Roy Manning - Cornerbacks
Mark Smith - Defensive Line

Additionally, graduate assistants Jerry Milling and Ernie Lawson will work with the linebackers and defensive line, respectively.

"Everyone on the staff and the kids are really excited about these changes," said Hoke, the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach. "Greg and I met and felt this was the best for everyone, including him and his ability to coach a position group and run a defense from the middle. When you look at Mark's experience on the defensive line, then being able to split the secondary, where you have five positions and 20-plus guys, and with the way offense and passing has changed in college football, I think it balances our staff on that side of the ball."

Offensive staff responsibilities will remain the same with the addition of offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.

Doug Nussmeier - Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
Dan Ferrigno - Special Teams Coordinator/Tight Ends
Darrell Funk - Offensive Line
Jeff Hecklinski - Wide Receivers
Fred Jackson - Running Backs

Graduate assistant Kevin Koger will continue to work with the tight ends, while new offensive graduate assistant Michael Switzer will assist with the offensive line.

So, no changes on offense but a big shift on defense where only one coach will have the same unit he did last year (Curt Mallory will coach the safeties this year, after having handled the entire secondary a year ago).

Mark Smith will take over on the defensive line after MIchigan had three different coaches handling those positions last year.  This will be Smith's first year focusing on the defensive line since his time at Indiana State before joining Hoke's staff.  Similarly, Roy Manning moves out to cornerback coach despite having been a linebacker when he played and not having coached corner yet in his career.

The move is designed, in Hoke's words, to help with the evolution of passing offenses.  In Hoke's words: "with the way offense and passing has changed in college football, I think it balances our staff on that side of the ball."  It will also focus Greg Mattison on the linebackers while removing position coaching responsibilities from Hoke entirely.

This is also interesting because of a tidbit dropped earlier today in an interview on WTKA's morning show.  Jake Ryan, who has spent the last three years playing the Sam linebacker spot, will shift inside to middle linebacker.

This is a curious move considering that A) Michigan returns its top three contributors at the interior position from last year as well as promising sophomore Ben Gedeon and B) Michigan already moved one Sam, Brennen Beyer, to SDE while losing another, Cam Gordon, to graduation.

Hoke made it clear that his impetus for the move was to ensure that teams couldn't neutralize Ryan by forcing Michigan to line him up away from the play — something Ohio State and others effectively did to limit his ability to impact the game — while also adding athleticism to the Sam position that will be valuable against passing teams.  Michigan's previous look in the 4-3 under was a heavy one in which that third linebacker was more of a DE hybrid.  This will make the Sam more of a safety and hopefully give Michigan more flexibility in its base defense to attack passing teams.

While Sam and Mike are very different in terms of what they ask a defender to do, Ryan should handle the transition well, and this move will likely give Michigan more size in the middle of the field which should help with rush defense.

The other news was that Michigan's injury situation up front isn't getting any better.  Chris Bryant's career is done because of a shoulder injury while Logan Tuley-Tillman will miss spring camp with a hand injury.  Hoke also further confirmed that Erik Magnuson will miss time this spring.

This is obviously less than optimal for a team that is replacing two NFL draft picks on the outside while also looking to improve from pretty much being the worst thing ever last year.