The Michigan Wolverines fell off a cliff on the defensive side of the ball over the last few seasons of the Don Brown era, which saw them completely bottom out in 2020. Head coach Jim Harbaugh completely overhauled his defensive staff as a result, which is now being co-coordinated by Mike MacDonald and Maurice Linguist.
Not much is known about the system that Michigan will run, but it is expected to adopt the style that the Baltimore Ravens ran with MacDonald on staff. This likely converts Michigan to a base defense that features three-man fronts and aggressive pressures from all over the field. What they hope it will also do is build in some versatility so that when offenses zig, Michigan can zag.
Richard Johnson, formerly of SB Nation, wrote a freelance piece for Five Thirty Eight about Michigan’s recent downfall defensively and how Linguist may impact what they seek to do on that side of the ball moving forward.
“They had a system down that they felt strong about and playing a lot more man-oriented, and that’s definitely going to be a part of what we do,” Linguist said. “But there’s layers to having a great defense and just the perspective that we’re going to be bringing in. You don’t have to just live in one thing to be successful.”
Linguist told Johnson that his Powerpoints he is bringing with him from the Dallas Cowboys only feature changed logos. Much of the terminology and things they seek to do will remain the same.
“At the end of the day, you’re asking yourself, are we putting the kids in the best position to be successful?” Linguist said. “Are we asking guys to do things that they’re capable of doing? And then do we have answers for whatever the situation that may arise? So that’s kinda the perspective that you approach anything that you do — we just happen to be doing it with football.“
MacDonald is expected to call the defense while Linguist works to tighten things up in the secondary. There has not been a ton of feedback to come out of Ann Arbor since spring practice began, but the changes have been received positively so far. But there is a ton of work to still do.
Johnson’s article dives deeper in to how Michigan got to the point where an overhaul was necessary, so it is definitely worth a read in what has otherwise been a light offseason for football content. Some of you may welcome that, but others might be interested in learning about some of the other details.