The Michigan football team has a new vibe, a new feel. This new energy is due in large part to head coach Jim Harbaugh hiring six new assistant coaches.
A major change can be found on the defensive side of the ball. Co-defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald is at the forefront of bringing new schematics, terminology, and a new identity.
“We’re gonna do everything, baby. We’re gonna pattern match, we’re gonna play zone, we’re gonna play man. Gonna have it all,” Macdonald told the media on Thursday.
Macdonald hinted at Michigan looking similar schematically to his previous coaching stops at the University of Georgia and for the Baltimore Ravens. Macdonald aims to have a diverse scheme with different looks that can keep an offense guessing.
“We’re going to be multiple. The best way I can describe our scheme is it’s gonna look like the places I’ve been previously. You watch out Baltimore defense — tell me the times when we look like a 3-4, there’s gonna be a certain percentage there,” Macdonald said. “But there’s a lot of times where we’re going to look like a 4-3, sometimes we’re gonna look like a 6-1, sometimes we’re gonna look like a 6-2. Sometimes you’re not gonna know what the heck it looks like.”
The defense is still getting acclimated to Macdonald’s scheme, and Macdonald is teaching the fundamentals of his coverages before moving onto the more intricate layers.
“The thing about our defense that I think makes us unique is that it is a series of concepts that we teach. For example, there are things where we’ll teach our guys that there’s no even call for involved with those concepts. Teaching this concept today, teaching this concept tomorrow, we marry them together, and there’s gonna be more of that,” Macdonald said “You layer it over time and now that gives you the flexibility to build certain fronts, certain coverages and certain pressures that allow you to, one, do what they do well and, two, stop the offenses that you’re seeing.”
Macdonald has some wiggle room within his scheme to plug different players at various position based on their overall skill-set. Macdonald noted that the defensive roster has players with different skill-sets than he’s had in the past. In short, it sounds like the defense is still evolving based on the strengths he sees from his unit.
“It’s going to be very much detailed to who can do what and the guys we have on the roster. That’s why it’s hard for me to tell you what we’re going to be because we do have different players with different skillsets than places I’ve been in the past,” Macdonald said. “The principles are the same in terms of how you play and how you build out a defense. Right now, there’s no tweaking. It’s expected that you’re going to learn what we’re putting in. Guys are expected to learn all the concepts. Then, when we figure out who’s good at those concepts, not whether or not you can do them, that’s when we start to tailor it. That’s down the road.”
When it comes to the defensive gameplan, Macdonald wants it to be a collaborative process with Michigan’s other assistants, but also feels he’s ready to lead the defense.
“To me, it goes back to preparation and communication. It’s gonna be a team effort when we put together our call sheet and how we want to do it,” Macdonald said. “We’re gonna use everyone’s opinion and what they like and when and we’ll put together a great game plan every week, I can assure you of that. I can also assure you that I’ll be prepared come day one.”