Birk's Eye View: More from Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Robinson
I wasn’t around in the spring to see new Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Robinson interact with his players or to compare his defense with last year’s Scott Shafer-led unit, but Robinson impressed me as an intelligent coach who knows how to motivate his guys in my first extensive talk with him last month.
I’m sure I’ll write more extensively about him as a coach/person later this year, but here’s a few leftovers that didn’t make it into today’s story on Robinson and Michigan’s new-look defense:
â€¢ There’s not much hybrid about the linebacker-safety position Stevie Brown will play this year. Robinson said he doesn’t call the position “spinner” or anything else. “He’s our SAM,” or strong-side linebacker, Robinson said.
There is, however, new terminology for the defensive line. Robinson calls those positions the quick, power, nose and tackle. The “quick” is the hybrid linebacker-end you’ve heard about (Brandon Herron); the “power” is an old-school defensive end (Brandon Graham); the “nose” is your typical nosetackle (Mike Martin); and the “tackle” can sometimes flex out and play end in four-man fronts (Ryan Van Bergen).
â€¢ Michigan will give up size at some positions, including linebacker, where Brown is just 209 pounds. But that’s a gamble Robinson’s willing to take. “You just try to get the best athletes you can get on the field,” he said. And, “I don’t think we’re going to take a backseat to anybody as far as being outphysicalled.”
â€¢ Most of Robinson’s biggest coaching influences are offensive minds, no surprise considering he began his career on the offensive side of the ball. That’s part of the reason he’s had success as a coordinator, said one of those influences, former Lions offensive line coach Jim Colletto.
“The more you know about the other side of the ball, it’s easier for you to do your job,” Colletto said. “He’s been exposed to a lot of good coaches over the years from the offensive side of the ball and different kind of systems.”
â€¢ Another of those influences, passing game innovator Homer Smith, also spent time with Rich Rodriguez studying his offenses at Clemson and Tulane. “Rodriguez, he’s a pioneer in what he did at West Virginia,” Smith said. “I sat in on his quarterback meetings. He didn’t want to do anything that didn’t work. He gave me several ideas that I was able to use that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own.”
â€¢ Of Rodriguez and Robinson working together at Michigan, Smith said, “I wouldn’t bet against them.”
â€¢ Of his 10-37 tenure in four seasons as Syracuse coach, Robinson said, “When I came in there, it wasn’t the same Syracuse that it was in 1998. No, no, no, it was different. And that takes time to work your way through it. In my heart, what I’m probably most proud of is that football team that’s there today is so much better than the team that I inherited.”
â€¢ He also said he wishes he had one more year with the Orange and wants to be a head coach again one day. “I just think that I can do that,” Robinson said. “I’m not hung up on that, and I hope that someday I get an opportunity to be a head coach again. Yeah, I obviously do, but I don’t live for my next job. I never have. I’m here to do a great job and see if we can play great defense here at Michigan. And I’m excited about being part of that.”