Michigan cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich said the Michigan defense scheme is “business as usual for sure”, which means man to man defense will be at the forefront. As it should be.
Michigan’s defense was lights out for much of the season, turning in dominating performances against Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Penn State, allowing just 27 points during that stretch.
But the last two games of the season didn’t end in dominating fashion for Michigan, they lost to Ohio State 62-39, and to Florida 41-15.
Safeties coach Chris Partridge has said those losses have made him coach harder than he has ever coached before and that he’s going to make sure the scoreboard in Columbus doesn’t look the way it did in November ever again.
Defensive coordinator Don Brown has conveyed the same kind of message at Partridge, and the coaching staff is being proactive, they aren’t sitting on their hands and sticking with the same exact script. The defense is adding wrinkles to their scheme.
“Like coach (Jim Harbaugh) tells me all the time, ‘more is more, you can’t have enough answers’,” Brown said. The bread and butter of the scheme is and will always be press-man coverage. The scheme is going to stay aggressive, linebackers will be asked to blitz and cover, cornerbacks will be allowed to get their hands on receivers and jam them at the line of scrimmage.
However, if the bread and butter isn’t working in a game, Brown is putting his players in a position to go with a Plan B, or even a Plan H. Brown didn’t say a lot about the new wrinkles, but what he did say indicates they added a little more zone to be used when necessary.
“We’ll never be a true zone team, but I think we’re playing some things that we feel really good about,” Brown said. “We’ve got about nine different ways to come get you now in coverage. I’m excited about where we’re at.”
Quantity isn’t what’s important in a scheme, it’s quality and effectiveness, and with the likes of Brown and his defensive assistants, Michigan could wind up having quality and quantity on that side of the football this season.
Brown is high on his unit at the moment, saying “I don’t remember a secondary and back seven integrated in coverage playing as solid as this group, I’m just sayin’. As physical and as mistake free as this group in a spring.”
There were questions about whether Michigan would have any shift in defensive philosophy following a couple disappointing showings. And while a philosophy shift wasn’t necessary, finding more answers to problems was an important task to tackle.
Zone coverage isn’t always the answer, neither is passing every down on offense, but you have to have the ability to mix it up in a moments notice or there’s a good chance you’re going to lose.
The Michigan defense should have a chip on their shoulder all season, as should Brown. The unit has something to prove, and whether they slay the Buckeyes in 2019 remains to be seen, but adding different concepts to the defensive playbook is a positive development. We have no idea precisely what Michigan added, are there more traditional zone looks, zone blitzes? Will more man-dime packages be utilized if the linebackers are having trouble covering receivers?
There are many questions, not a ton of answers divulged to us by design. What we do know is Michigan has about 9 different ways to come get a team in coverage now, and Brown is excited about it.
Harbaugh is right, you can’t have enough answers, more is always more in that regard.