Opinion: Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Robinson beat Charlie Weis the last time he saw him and now, he's trying to do it again
It’s a different team now, a different color on his shirt, a different stadium he’s in and a different job he has, but there’s going to be one familiar thing to Greg Robinson on Saturday.
His opponent across the sideline.
The last time Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Robinson saw Notre Dame and its head coach, Charlie Weis, was on Nov. 22, 2008.
He was still the coach at Syracuse then, although he already knew his tenure would be short lived. Robinson was fired earlier in the week. Yet his players, the same ones who led the Orange to four losing seasons while he was there, rallied around him. And when quarterback Cameron Dantley threw a touchdown pass with 42 seconds left, it secured an upset.
“I knew that we were getting better,” Robinson said of that day. “I was very pleased that we could go win that game and to go win that game at Notre Dame on Senior Day, there were a lot of things about it that made it a big win.
“But really, I was glad for our team as much as I was for anything else that they were able to experience that and put that in their cap.”
It secured the biggest win for Robinson at Syracuse. His players surrounded him as he was interviewed on TV, screaming “He’ll always be our coach. He’ll always be our coach.”
He wasn’t. A few months later, he’d be in Ann Arbor, learning new players and teaching his same scheme. Yet memories still went back to that day.
“It did for a period of time once the season was over and even when I came here to Michigan, there were a lot of Michigan people here who had seen the game or whatever,” Robinson said. “But since we started the season and now that we’re preparing, nuh-uh.”
Not only was it big for him, but crushing for Notre Dame. A win over the Orange would have all but secured a New Year’s Day bowl berth. Instead, the Irish ended up in Hawaii on Christmas Eve playing a WAC school, Hawaii.
And upset or not, Robinson knows he has to at least tweak his successful plan from a year ago. Notre Dame changed. The Irish are more talented, as sophomore wide receiver Michael Floyd didn’t play in that game. The Irish are also a year older.
And Robinson is somewhere else, now in the Big Ten instead of the Big East, when he
was pulled out of a meeting to chat this week.
In the meetings he was putting together his game-plan, one Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis is at least moderately concerned about as he called Robinson one of the better week-to-week gameplan coaches around.
But Robinson has his own issues, namely a Notre Dame offense he stifled once before.
“They’ve got a lot of ways to come at ya,” Robinson said.
The Irish offense will test a Robinson defense that played well but still made mistakes against Western Michigan. And if Michigan is going to beat Notre Dame, it has to limit an Irish offense that can spread the entire field out and hit multiple options: the receivers Floyd and Golden Tate deep and tight end Kyle Rudolph over the middle.
“It opens it up for other guys,” Tate said. “And that’s a good thing, two or three threats that if you double coverage both of us, you’re going to open up the run game because that’s four guys you’re taking out."
Robinson, though, has done it before, figured out how to out-think and outcoach the former New England Patriots play-caller. If Michigan is going to win Saturday, he’s going to have to do it again.
And then, he’d give Michigan its biggest win in a while, same as he did at Syracuse.