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Mike Macdonald seeks to uncomplicate how Michigan plays defense

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The Wolverines defensive coordinator does not expect fancy terminology for players, either.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 30 Ohio State at Michigan Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines shook up their defense this offseason with the hiring of coordinator Mike Macdonald to lead the room. Not much is known about the look that Michigan will feature, but the assumption is that they will be a base 3-4 look with some multiplicity in the fronts and schemes they use.

For example, a player like Aidan Hutchinson could rush the passer from a three-point stance or a rush linebacker spot. In some defenses, including the one that Michigan is transitioning out of, that might come with some sort of fancy name or terminology.

Macdonald does not want or need the name. He does not even want it to be that complicated.

“The number one thing they do is really what a d-end does,” he told the media on Thursday in Ann Arbor. “The guys playing on the edge of our defense, whether you call him a linebacker, whatever you want to call him, some fancy name, everyone has some fancy name for some outside backer. Look, man, set the edge, make sure you rush the passer and when we ask you to drop, don’t screw up. We’re not splitting atoms. There’s a certain temperament, intensity and violence we expect them to play with. I think we’ve got a really strong group of guys that we’re asking to do that and have that skill set.”

The Baltimore Ravens, his former employer, had a pipeline of defensive talent for years that may have made a transition in philosophy easier on players. Michigan does not have that luxury with a lot of question marks on the roster leading into camp. Macdonald still does not see that as a limitation.

“I think that’s the misconception,” he said. “You look at the Ravens defense and what Wink has been able to do and the rest of our staff the last few years. You’re like, man, guys are flying all over the place. That’s kind of what we’re trying to create here. I think the secret sauce is that it’s really not that complicated. Again, just different concepts layered together. We’re trying to create complexity to an offense. Really trying to make the offense’s life a living nightmare.”

To fully capture and execute Macdonald’s vision for Michigan’s defense, they will have to recruit to it. Macdonald also spoke Thursday about the types of players he expects to bring in with him on the job.

“We want big, fast, aggressive, smart football players,” Macdonald said. “Across the board. That’s what we’re looking for. Again, let’s not overcomplicate it. There are exceptions to every rule with the height and weight requirements and stuff. You have different characteristics that you’re looking for. If a guy is just a complete baller, we’re going to make some adjustments in height, weight, and stuff we’re looking for. That’s it. The best, biggest, fastest football players that we can find.”

The Wolverines open up 2021 fall camp on Friday in Ann Arbor. They will go through 25 practices leading up to the home opener on Sept. 4 against Western Michigan at Michigan Stadium. Macdonald said the plan is to have the entirety of the defense installed within the first 10-12 days of camp and to go through repetitions from there leading up to the season.