Greg Robinson Presser Notes 4-1-10

Submitted by Tim on April 1st, 2010 at 2:11 PM


Michigan Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson met with reporters for about a half hour today. Notes from his press conference.


  • The defense is moving exclusively to a 6-2-3 (a little April Fools Day humor(!) from Robinson).
  • The "new" defensive scheme isn't that dissimilar to what the team ran last year. With the hybrids, there are a lot of different alignments possible. The only big change from last year is some of the terminology.
  • The changes weren't an all-Rodriguez or all-Robinson decision. Everyone on the staff wanted to see certain things tweaked a bit, and their input went into it.
  • Between years (and over the course of a year), things should always be evolving to match personnel, the opposing offense, and other factors. Coach Robinson is always open to adjustments.
  • As he has repeated many times, Robinson's been around football long enough that there are very few schemes he hasn't tried. He ran 3-3 fronts with the New York Jets and the Denver Broncos. With the Jets, the scheme worked particularly well against the Buffalo Bills, who liked to spread the ball a bit.
  • Robinson's overarching philosophy is to make the defense strong from the inside out. Having strong defensive linemen, linebackers, and deep middle players is important to that. Robinson also believes in the "weak link theory," that the weakest spot on the defense dictates how good a defense can be. Developing depth is very important to eliminating weak links.

Year One To Year Two

  • There was a big emphasis last year on getting more speed on the field (i.e. Stevie Brown playing linebacker). That will continue this year.
  • A few items about specific games from last year. The Michigan State game was a good defensive performance, aside from a couple breakdowns related mostly to inexperience. Same with the Iowa game, aside from two specific things that ended up being big plays for Iowa (and a third, less egregious one). The team played some good ball against Wisconsin, but they were pretty banged up, and had to play through that. The Ohio State game was a good performance to end the season, but not good enough because the team didn't win the game.
  • The defenders are "absorbing" the defense just fine. The offense is adding a few wrinkles, so they're getting tested by some things they have seen before.
  • There's a night and day difference from last spring to now in terms of Robinson's comfort and communication with the staff and players. He knows people's personalities so he can read them better, and the same goes for them knowing him.
  • The outside world doesn't need to hear quotes from Robinson to be confident in the defense - they won't believe it anyway unless and until they see it on the field.
  • There's a good chemistry mix with younger guys (particularly redshirt freshmen) playing with real enthusiasm. When they're surrounded with more experienced guys, it can be a great thing. The team has been putting in the work, and they understand the expectations. This youth movement didn't exist last year.
  • The biggest concern is still a lack of depth. Last year, they didn't have 18-19 guys who were ready to play on defense, but they still had to sub in those seven or eight other guys. Hopefully they'll have that this year, but there are still 15 or 16 defensive guys who won't be here until fall, so you never know.

Coaching and Personnel

  • Though Robinson had input, the hiring of Adam Braithwaite was ultimately Rich Rodriguez's decision. Braithwaite is very experienced, having been a coordinator (albeit of a D-3 school) in the past. He's worked with Rich Rodriguez in the past, and the entire coaching staff has confidence in him. He also will be an exceptional recruiter.
  • Robinson has worked with inside linebackers a lot in the past, so coaching them this year is not a new experience. He didn't coach them last year because Hopson was already in charge of them. As for how they're doing this spring, it's too early (only eight practices so far) to talk position battles or anything like that. They have a couple experienced guys but quite a bit of youth.
  • Losing Mike Martin for the spring will give other defensive linemen more reps, which will hopefully help them be more ready in the fall. Robinson would guess that Renaldo Sagesse and Greg Banks were probably some of the hardest-working players on the team in the offseason conditioning program. Banks is starting to show some true leadership on the team as well. Also on the defensive line, Will Campbell has matured a lot. Last spring he was still like a high schooler - and was probably thinking a bit too much about his prom.
  • Floyd Simmons has been playing a lot at Stevie Brown's old position. Thomas Gordon and Mike Williams are new to that spot, though it is somewhat similar to the role Williams played last year. Jordan Kovacs is still playing that box safety spot.
  • Cameron Gordon is playing a lot at the deep safety spot due to injuries to some other guys. Brandin Hawthorne has been getting some reps there as well. Gordon is raw on defense, but has a natural feel at defensive back, and they hope he can continue improving. He has a defensive temperament and is very tough.
  • At the corner spots, Troy Woolfolk is very comfortable, and is playing well. He's much more settled than last spring, when they had to move him around a bit more. James Rogers has good length, but is somewhat new to the position after switching last year. People forget that JT Floyd is still a young guy who was just a redshirt freshman last year. He put in a lot of work in the weight room, and will have more experience this year as well. Justin Turner is still a work in progress. He's got a prototypical frame for the position, and JT Floyd is helping him learn the position.



April 1st, 2010 at 2:22 PM ^

I didn't realize that GERG was giving a presser today.

Anyway, what, if anything do you all read into the Justin Turner comment? I would have expected him to be tearing it up by now, not be a work in progress.


April 1st, 2010 at 2:41 PM ^

Kid's just a redshirt freshman. Sure, it's a little disappointing that a former 5-star isn't destroying all comers, but there's plenty of time for him to round into a productive player.

I think we saw enough inexperienced defenders last year that it's OK if he gets some experience before being thrown into the fire.


April 1st, 2010 at 2:51 PM ^

What good does it do for Greg Robinson, on the day of practice #7 of the spring, for him to tell reporters that "OMG JUSTIN TURNER IS TEARING IT UP. GIVE HIM THE HEISMAN!!"

Ever heard of motivation? Everyone is a work in progress. GERG said nothing bad about Turner at all.


April 1st, 2010 at 2:27 PM ^

I dont agree with saying the defense played well against Michigan State and Iowa. You can't just say "yeah they played well, except for those devastating big plays that cost us the game." It just doesnt work like that.

Kilgore Trout

April 1st, 2010 at 3:11 PM ^

I have to ask, why do you bother to read and contribute to the comments? I kind of figured the entire point of this blog is for speculation and opinions about something we're all interested in. If you are only interested in what the coaches say or think, just stick to the MSM beat writers and you'll get your fix. No need to tear everyone down who has an opinion.


April 1st, 2010 at 2:28 PM ^

Justin Turner really seems to be an enigma. I think most of us were hoping that he would come in as a freshman ala Woodson and be serviceable if not an all-big ten freshman type of player. Hopefully he will develop into a starter before the year is out as JT Floyd doesn't seem to have the athletic ability that you would like to see from an above average CB.


April 1st, 2010 at 2:43 PM ^

Ideally, most freshman have time to develop in practice and sit behind vets and we don't have to hear about how quickly or not they develop - just if they're ready by their 3rd year on campus.

Because of the team's deficiencies we're judging people unfairly. If we expect DBs to be like Woodson, everyone is going to be a disappointment.

We should hope but not expect true freshman to be impact players.


April 1st, 2010 at 2:55 PM ^

First off, the practice reports regarding JT Floyd indicate a significant improvement in strength and conditioning this winter, and that's he stepped up his game considerably. So, your assumptions, made off of his 2009 performance as a redshirt freshman who was injured, are unfortunately outdated.

Second, Turner came into camp out of shape and late. Since then he's gotten into shape and reportedly was great during winter workouts.

Oh yeah, he's a redshirt freshman.

Enigma? Come on.


April 1st, 2010 at 3:17 PM ^

Should be taken FWIW. Everyone is "improving" "stronger" "working hard" around this time of year.

Fawning praise is the baseline. When its not happening we should worry a bit. I'm thinking of Forcier, Turner, Ezeh, Mouton, Shaw and all the WR as guys who I would have liked to hear the coaches raving about but didn't.


April 1st, 2010 at 2:31 PM ^

...his prom too much last spring. One year on a college campus can do wonders to a young man's opinion about the relative importance of what's going on at his high school.


April 1st, 2010 at 2:43 PM ^

I think the whole comfort-level and communication with the staff and the players will really help. That, and actually having more depth and talent to work with will work wonders.

Defense will be better in the fall. Can see it already.


April 1st, 2010 at 3:05 PM ^

I think the D will be ok this year. More comfort between coach and players....but I just think thye're going to have more options this year.

And, I dont worry about Turner. Wouldnt do any good if I did. He'll end up being a player for us.

I just think it comes down to the coaches having more options with the personnel and using said options.

I dont think the D needs this major jump in production for Michigan to have a winning season. A little improvement will go a long way. And it sounds like its on the right path

Very interested in seeing some of these kids play on the 17th


April 1st, 2010 at 4:41 PM ^

I'm actually starting to think that this defense will be able to improve next year. I was skeptical after we lost our best three players but this defense is going to be very fast and have a lot of hard hitters it seems.


April 3rd, 2010 at 11:30 PM ^

our best players (Graham, Warren, and Brown).

Someone described our defense last year as a stout line, Brown, Warren, and the prayers of Michigan fans everywhere for the other five guys.

Obviously, opposing offensive coordinators don't call plays randomly, they seek to find weak links. If we can close those holes, maybe the 11 guys will have better outcomes over the course of 60 minute games.

Blue boy johnson

April 1st, 2010 at 8:36 PM ^

Best bit of coach speak from Gerg,
"one thing you never now is the unknown"

Towards the end of the interview, I felt Gerg was suppressing his positive feelings for the young players on this team. I think he likes his chances with these kids.

I thought Gerg speaking about Banks was one of the most revealing parts of the interview. Paraphrasing: "Banks has shown true leadership and wants to be part of something special".

Gerg certainly comes across confident, experienced and able to handle whatever comes his way.


April 1st, 2010 at 9:08 PM ^

...account of the presser.

"I was very frustrated as a coach," Robinson said of the 2009 season. "At Syracuse (Robinson was head coach) I moved a running back to defense, using five DBs. It's the first thing I talked about with this staff."

"I'm not prepared to talk about this guy here or that guy there," Robinson said, emphasizing that the Wolverines have completed just eight spring practices. "We're trying to build depth. We're still young in a lot of spots. (But) I didn't need a decoder ring this year. Knowing the players is a big difference."

Robinson said tackle Will Campbell, end Ryan Van Bergen and Cameron Gordon, who was switched from receiver to safety, have shown vast improvement during spring drills.