Perhaps the biggest storyline of the Michigan Wolverines offseason was the complete overhaul of the defense, headlined by new coordinator Mike Macdonald. They project to take a similar form to the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL, who run a base 3-4 but operate out of a variety of looks.
Installation time is mostly over as Michigan prepares for the season opener against Western Michigan on Saturday. It’s time to execute. It is game week now, which was kicked off by Jim Harbaugh’s Monday press conference outside of the football facility.
A reporter asked Harbaugh about the differences between Macdonald and his predecessor, Don Brown. Michigan’s head coach did not compare and simply stated what they hope to be this season.
“No real catchphrases or things we’re espousing,” he told reporters. “We just want to play good defense. We’re doing the same thing Western’s trying to do. You want to have a quick outcome, the best outcome in your favor. Sometimes you want to play a cover, sometimes you want to simulate a blitz. All different things you’re trying to get done. You’re trying to stop them, try to keep them from getting points on the board, creating field position.”
Macdonald has never called plays before, but Harbaugh feels like the spring and fall camps gave him enough of an idea of the type of playercaller he has in Macdonald. The first-year coordinator will also be down on the field for his first taste of game action.
“I got a good feel for that. Got a good feel for that,” Harbaugh said. “Feel like he’s ready. In fact, we’ve had a ton of situational calls where we didn’t script it. Especially in fall camp. We’ll see them in every situation. It wasn’t able to be scripted the night before – just was on him. He’s come in well-thought-out and come in quick. Got good adjustments, talked about the communication. When your players are communicating, when the players know the calls, know the adjustments, can execute them quick, that’s all of the good studying and good coaching.”
Communication and culture have been two of the biggest improvements mentioned by many in the building throughout the offseason. The way that players are talking and connecting on the field is being noticed by outsiders, as well.
“I think the thing that strikes me and the thing I’ve noticed early on – just really anybody who’s come and watched our practice, former players – is the amount of communication,” Harbaugh said. “Communication on the field, also on the sidelines. Guys coaching guys, guys talking. Guys spitting out the calls. That’s been tremendous. Something I think is a consistent thing that we’ve seen throughout spring ball and training camp.”
Everyone will get their first sampling of this supposed improved communication and new defense on Saturday. Kickoff for the contest against WMU is set for noon eastern and will be broadcast on ESPN.