Exit: Brian Smith

Exit: Brian Smith Comment Count

Ace December 8th, 2017 at 5:46 PM

[Bryan Fuller]

Michigan has lost safeties coach Brian Smith after two years on the coaching staff. ESPN's Ivan Maisel reports that Smith, as rumored, will take the defensive coordinator position at Rice:

New Rice head coach Mike Bloomgren is hiring Michigan secondary coach Brian Smith as his defensive coordinator and North Carolina Central head coach Jerry Mack (31-15, four seasons, three MEAC titles) to run the Owls' offense. Bloomgren worked with Smith at the New York Jets a decade ago, and with Mack at Delta State prior to that.

TMI's Steve Lorenz has confirmed the report.

Smith had a solid track record in his two years as safeties coach, getting excellent seasons out of Delano Hill and Dymonte Thomas in 2016, helping Hill raise his draft stock all the way to third-round pick, and getting an early impact from promising youngsters like Josh Metellus and J'Marick "Ol' Woods" Woods.

His departure gives Jim Harbaugh some flexibility with next year's coaching staff. Mike Zordich has coached the cornerbacks, who have been downright great, for the last three seasons; he's also a former All-American and 12-year NFL veteran as a safety, and spent four years coaching the position with the Philadelphia Eagles before coming to Ann Arbor.

Michigan didn't have a wide receivers coach on the staff last year, allowing a grad assistant to handle much of the position coaching. It'd make a lot of sense for them to give Zordich control of the entire secondary and bring in a WR specialist, especially with so many talented young pass-catchers on the roster.

EDIT: I should clarify. A new NCAA rule means Michigan will have a tenth coaching spot beginning in January, so they have two spots open right now. Hiring a WRs coach is very likely to happen. The question may be whether to bring in another secondary coach or, alternatively, a full-time special teams coach. Zordich has had special teams duties since 2016 and there have been some notable issues in the third phase this season. Either way, both the receivers and Zordich should be getting some help in the near future.


Wednesday Presser 10-4-17: Brian Smith

Wednesday Presser 10-4-17: Brian Smith Comment Count

Adam Schnepp October 5th, 2017 at 9:20 AM



Pretty pleased with the progress of your group?

“Yeah, I’m pretty pleased with the progress so far. I think the guys have played well. Gotten off to a good start. Look forward to continuing that this week.”

What kind of a challenge do the MSU receivers pose to your guys?

“Well, they face a good challenge. They’re good, solid receivers. They’re young. Felton’s [Davis] coming off a big game against Iowa and he’s a threat down the field. He’s a tall guy so they can throw him the ball and he can come down and get it so he poses a problem and they’ll spread it around a good bit, so we’ve got our hands full.”

Do you sense a different energy in the building this week or is it business as usual?

“Obviously we had the extra week of practice last week and were focusing on getting better that week. Call it improvement week. We’ve had two weeks waiting for this game to come so everybody’s ready to go.”

[Hit THE JUMP for a bit on improving communication in the backfield]


Wednesday Presser 9-6-17: Brian Smith

Wednesday Presser 9-6-17: Brian Smith Comment Count

Adam Schnepp September 6th, 2017 at 5:00 PM



Your guys played pretty well. Talk about how they played.

“Yeah, I thought Josh [Metellus] and Tyree [Kinnel] both did a solid job just overall. Just running to the football, they were aggressive, and I thought we tackled well, so I was happy with the way they played.”

Assignment-wise did you think they pretty good, too?

“Yeah. Assignment-wise I thought we were pretty clean. Communication, didn’t have a lot of issues that way so we’ve just got to keep it going going forward and maintain that same level.”

Tyree yesterday was talking about some plays where him and Khaleke [Hudson] were able to switch spots. What does that add when you’re able to do that?

“I think it helps out a lot. Having Khaleke, he has some experience playing safety. That versatility, being able to move to different places, kind of helps out the defense as a corps when you can get guys lined up and give the offense different looks. I think that helps out.”

What are the looks that change when they switch?

“Well, it depends. I’m not sure exactly what you’re talking about in that case but there are different situations where we can end up in different positions.”

[After THE JUMP: communication clicking, Josh Metellus’ ceiling, and the bygone era in which Don Brown brought… more pressure?]


Fall Camp Presser 8-14-17: Brian Smith

Fall Camp Presser 8-14-17: Brian Smith Comment Count

Adam Schnepp August 15th, 2017 at 9:59 AM



So how do you like your position group so far?

“I’m pleased with the position group right now. We’ve got some talented young players and it’s coming together well so far. It’s a good safety unit and I’m happy with their progress so far.”

How is Woods looking?

“Woods is looking good. He’s a young guy who came in mid-year. He’s picked up the system well. He’s a guy that studies hard off the field and puts in the time in the classroom and he’s progressed well so far.”
The news came out yesterday that Florida suspended seven players, including their top wide receiver. Does that affect how you prepare in any way to face Florida’s receivers?

“Well, right now we’re just focusing on trying to get better. We’re at a point where that’s a few weeks in the future and we’re just trying to get better from the standpoint of our assignments, getting guys lined up—you know, we’ve got a lot of new guys in there—and focused on getting better.”

How much has Tyree Kinnel been able to really embrace that leadership role?

“He’s embraced it. It’s something that we’ve been talking to him about, stepping up and being a leader in the group, and he’s done a good job of that so far. He’s a guy that communicates well back there. He knows the system well. He’s been in it for a year and he’s the most experienced guy, so he’s done a nice job taking some of the younger guys under his wing and showing them the right way in how we do things and how we practice. He’s a good example for them.”

[More after THE JUMP]


Spring Practice Presser 4-11-17: Brian Smith

Spring Practice Presser 4-11-17: Brian Smith Comment Count

Adam Schnepp April 12th, 2017 at 2:00 PM



Newsy bits:

  • Tyree Kinnel has been playing free safety and Josh Metellus has been playing Rover (strong safety). If the season started today, those are your starters
  • Rotating guys is always an option; Kinnel and Metellus played both positions last year (and Metellus played some VIPER, too)
  • The biggest challenge for Smith this spring has been getting the safeties to “open up and communicate.” The natural ability is there, but their communication skills (i.e. getting everyone lined up) are being refined.

How enjoyable has it been for you this spring with all the new faces you’ve had to coach and get used to?

“It’s been really enjoyable. Like you said, we’ve had a lot of new guys in the room, a lot of young guys that don’t have much experience, but they’re eager to learn. They’re starting from square one so they’re listening to everything you tell them. They’re holding on to it, so it’s been good so far.”

Who has stood out?

“Well, from the safety position, I think J’Marick Woods has had an outstanding spring. He’s kind of earning his nickname; we call him Woods because he brings the wood. He’s a physical player, he’s a hitter…I mean, he’s what you look for back there. He’s got good range and some other things he needs to work on still, but he’s shown a lot of potential and enthusiasm for the game.

“Jaylen Kelly-Powell, he’s done a nice job. He comes in from a good high school program. He’s been well-coached. He’s really technically sound for a young defensive back. His man-to-man skills are definitely there. They flash. He’s done a nice job so far.”

For Khaleke [Hudson] and Josh [Metellus], for them to be kind of moving back and forth between safety and that VIPER position, does that help them or does it hurt them not being able to focus on one spot?

“I think it helps them. After last year having a whole season under their belts just playing one position for Khaleke, now having to play another position, I think it gives him a better understanding of the defense. You know, once you play different positions, things start to make sense and they come together. You see the big picture. I think it’ll help them definitely in the long run. I think VIPER’s a good position for him with his physical traits, Khaleke, and I think he’s done a nice job so far.”

[After THE JUMP: the differences between a Rover and VIPER, and what the staff looks for when recruiting those positions]


Wednesday Presser 11-16-16: Brian Smith

Wednesday Presser 11-16-16: Brian Smith Comment Count

Adam Schnepp November 16th, 2016 at 2:15 PM



What did you guys learn from last game in your group, specifically?

“In our group specifically, we’ve got to tackle better. Fundamentals of the game, that’s what it comes down to a lot of times in those situations, the fundamentals of the game. You’ve got to be sharp, and that’s something that we definitely have to focus on going forward, as we do every week.”

In terms of the secondary and your position specifically, Delano [Hill] left the game. What’s his status? Has he been practicing fully this week?

“Delano should be fine. He left the game at the end there, but he’s doing well. He should be good to go this week.”

The grind this time of year, can you see guys wearing down a little bit and what’s the message to them?

“The message is just to prepare like we do always. I think we’ve done a good job in preparation throughout the whole season, and we don’t want to lose any of that. Every week, just keep preparing like we’ve been and take it to another level each week.”

Tyree Kinnel’s been getting a lot more action. Can you talk about his progression and what you’re seeing out of him?

“Yeah, Tyree, he’s played well. He’s come a long way. This is only his second year getting in there and getting in the mix, but he’s been doing a good job on special teams and when you do a good job on teams we trust you more to get in there on defense. He’s done a nice job with that.”

[More on Metellus, Hudson, and Indiana’s offense after THE JUMP]


Wednesday Presser 9-7-16: Brian Smith

Wednesday Presser 9-7-16: Brian Smith Comment Count

Adam Schnepp September 8th, 2016 at 11:30 AM



What did you think of the secondary and how they played?

“I was happy with the group as a whole with the way they played. I thought Delano Hill had a good game. Obviously had an interception returned for a touchdown, but he was solid in his coverage. He did a nice job. Didn’t make any mental mistakes, and I was happy with the way he played.

“Dymonte Thomas, he did a good job. He’s been a steady player for us all camp, and it was good to see it come to fruition at game time. I was happy with those two guys and then Tyree Kinnel. He came in and did a nice job. Young guy, hasn’t had much experience, but I thought he did a pretty good job coming in. And he was confident, and he helps me be confident to put him in the game when he plays the way he does. I was happy with the way they played.”

What did you have Jourdan doing on a day where he wasn’t going to play just to keep him involved? Can he pick things up from the game on the sideline?

“Well, I work more with the safeties, so I’m kind of more focused on them. I think Jourdan’s done a good job working trying to get back and he’s done a nice job with the younger guys pitching in. Him not being in there, he can give them lessons from the sideline. Having him around has been good?”

What are things that you saw during camp with Dymonte and Delano, because they’ve been essentially backups—they’ve had spot starts, but for them to take those leadership roles. Did you see a flash where they were prepared for that? It’s a different role, a different mentality, right?

“Yeah, I mean, being a starter, a lot of times you’ve got to lead by example. I thought they’ve done an excellent job coming to work every day, bringing their lunch box, and just having a workman’s mentality. Delano, all camp he was one of the leaders as far as reps in practice. And just leading by example, I think, sets the tone for the young guys. We’ve got a lot of young guys in the secondary and they’re learning from them and the example they provide on a day-to-day basis.”

Khaleke’s [Hudson] still a safety, correct?


Jim had spoken highly of Khaleke, I remember, on national signing day and since then. What have you seen out of him? How is he adjusting and keeping up with the older guys?

“Yeah, Khaleke came in as a freshman, didn’t know much. Played running back in high school, kind of an option running back, and you could see the maturity that he has for a young guy coming in. He’s really learned a lot over the last couple weeks. I’ve been happy with his progression from where he started to where he is now. Just got to keep going every day, getting better, and just learning the game, the safety position. But he’s done a nice job so far. I’ve been happy with his progression.”

[After THE JUMP: on Hudson, Metellus, tempo, and mechanics]


Spring Practice Presser 3/17/16: Brian Smith

Spring Practice Presser 3/17/16: Brian Smith Comment Count

Adam Schnepp March 18th, 2016 at 4:00 PM


[Isaiah Hole/247]

What led to the decision to come here?

“It was just a great opportunity to work with coach Harbaugh. He’s had a lot of success everywhere he’s been, so honestly I just wanted to be a part of that and learn from him. And also the chance to work with coach Brown, who I’ve worked with before and I’ve played with. It was a chance to meet up with him again and work side by side, so I couldn’t pass up that opportunity.”

Difficult transition at all going straight to Florida like that and not even knowing any of the player’s names at this point, it’s such a quick decision?

“Yeah, I mean, everything happened fast. The whole process, just learning names out on the field the first day. But like I said, I’ve worked with coach Brown before in the past so that made the transition a lot easier for me. But just spending extra time trying to get in the playbook myself, learning it along with the players, was a fun process.”

What was Jim’s pitch to you coming to Michigan?

“Well, he didn’t really have to pitch too much. Michigan kind of speaks for itself. It’s a great university and they’ve had a lot of success in the past, and just the opportunity to be here I couldn’t pass up.”

More enjoyable to play for coach Brown or to work with him?

“Well it was great to play for him in that defense that he has. It’s changed a little bit over the years but not much. It’s still the same philosophy, so as a player you love that style of defense.”

We’ve heard a lot about the front seven in his defense. How does that impact the back four?

“He always does a good job stopping the run and it makes teams one-dimensional, so it helps us out.”

MGoQuestion: What are the characteristics of the ideal free and strong safety in this defense?

“Well, we like guys that have length, that are athletic, that can play man-to-man. You know, those are some of the things that we look for. At the end of the day, football players- guys that are football players, tough, [and] love to play the game.”

[After THE JUMP: it’s a press conference of course Jabrill comes up]


Spring Practice Bits

Spring Practice Bits Comment Count

Brian March 1st, 2016 at 11:24 AM

Mission accomplished. They spent fifteen frickin' minutes talking about practice (practice!) on Sportscenter.

I mean, there are many missions. But this is one mission.

Also, Dick Vitale is there, I guess? He's putting it on periscope? This makes as much sense as anything else Harbaugh-related, which is complete sense and no sense all at once?

Also in brilliant moves that someone will try to ban. Player hours are limited. Coach hours are not. So why not maximize your ability to instruct by taking advantage of the latter:

That is twice the individual attention for each player. That might not be practical for every practice but when they're not in pads it's an obvious win, except I haven't heard of anyone else doing this so it's apparently not that obvious.

Roster items. Blake Bars and Damario Jones are off the roster and have left the program. Per Rivals, Bars is off to law school. Not sure what Jones's next stop is, but he announced he would grad transfer on Twitter. Pretty sure that the only player to leave the program without a degree this offseason is Brian Cole.

With those departures Michigan stands at 86 scholarships accounted for, plus walk-ons-you-really-expect-to-get-scholarships Kenny Allen and Ryan Glasgow. If Dytarious Johnson does end up enrolling they'd be at 87. I think that's pretty unlikely, as I can't remember a player who couldn't sign a letter of intent who managed to get to Michigan without a pit stop at a prep school. So Michigan needs to lose one more guy before fall.

There were a number of position switches and number changes:

  • John O'Korn is wearing #8, so he doesn't conflict with Peppers.
  • Chase Winovich is now listed as a defensive end(?!) because his career is designed to be that of an itinerant laborer. That may be a misprint or misunderstanding; Sam Webb tweeted that he was playing SAM. More on that in a bit.
  • Freddy Canteen spent all his time at WR. This kind of bouncing back and forth without seeing the field is usually not a good sign for a player's future playing time. See: Ross Taylor-Douglas.
  • Mason Cole took the first snaps as a center, with Newsome at LT.
  • As Harbaugh mentioned earlier, Khalid Hill is playing FB and Zach Gentry is playing TE.
  • Ty Wheatley Jr. is still a tight end. He is less enormous.
  • Ahmir Mitchell is starting as a WR.

A coach roster item. Harbaugh confirmed the Brian Smith hire and said he'd coach safeties with Zordich remaining with cornerbacks. I was kind of hoping for that Viney dude but you have to let Don Brown make that call.

Cease ringing the Drake Harris injury klaxons. He missed practice today… with norovirus. He should be good to go for the next one. Webb says he's up to 185; was listed at 174 last year. (The roster as a whole has not been updated with new weights, thus the absence of a "phonebooks are here!" post.)

What is a linebacker, anyway? I'll be really interested to see how the defense configures itself during the spring game. Reports that Winovich is playing SAM don't mesh with the expectation that Taco Charlton will play WDE and Peppers will still be a nickel. Or, you know, something else:

Those in possession of MGoCookies for remembering stuff will remember that a recent recruiting roundup pointed out that MI LB Antjuan Simmons was told he was being recruited as a SAM and then compared to, yes, Jabrill Peppers.

To me this implies that Michigan will be altering its defense to look more like the OSUs and MSUs and PSUs of the world. Those teams mostly run "quarters", which means they have two deep safeties. Varieties of this defense that roll the safeties close to the line of scrimmage often have a coverage-oriented linebacker called "star" who walks out over the slot. That's usually the strong side, thus he is a SAM linebacker… but not the kind of SAM linebacker Jake Ryan was. Same hybrid space player, different system around him?

O'Korn hype unabated. But first let's just marvel at this:

Ken Mastrole, a quarterback coach who has worked with Rudock and O’Korn, has described O’Korn as having “off-the-chart physical intangibles"

There is a reason the "intangibles" section of every preview is a picture of a cat.

Anyway, that's from an Angelique Chengelis article featuring O'Korn's parents:

“He’s been chomping at the bit, there’s no doubt,” his father, Gary O’Korn, said this week. “He had the right attitude coming in — ‘This isn’t taking a year off, this is a year to prepare.’ He’s done well and Michigan demands that. That’s not something you really have a choice, but mentally this was where you decide, ‘Am I going to go through the motions or put myself in position to get serious?’”

By all accounts it is the latter.

Important hair update. Reuben Jones is coming for De'Veon Smith's crown:

Etc.: Dan Murphy article comes with Nick Baumgardner picture that captures his soul.


Brian Smith to Coach Defensive Backs

Brian Smith to Coach Defensive Backs Comment Count

Seth February 25th, 2016 at 6:06 PM

It appears Michigan has tapped Philadelphia Eagles asst LBs coach Brian Smith to fill the vacant secondary coach spot opposite Mike Zordich.

Sam seemed pretty certain last night:

And various media have picked it up this evening.

Quick bio: Don Brown brought in a familiar face. Smith played for Brown as a defensive back at UMass then coached linebackers under him before jumping to the NFL with Eric Mangini's Jets. Smith shifted around positions there under Rex Ryan (offensive quality coach, defensive quality coach, asst. DBs coach). Chip Kelly--who has a history of looking to the Northeast for his coachin talent--made Smith the Eagles assistant (to the) linebackers coach last year. He's only 36, which is very young I say. Quite young. Spring of his youth.

Quick react: Unlike the last time a linebacker coach moved to the secondary, at least Smith played defensive back (cornerback and safety) and has some history of coaching the position. This may be a return to his natural habitat. It does appear to be a Don Brown hire all the way--his former player (when Don was the DC at UMass), and a guy Brown as head coach elevated to coaching before losing him to the NFL.