[image via Maize & Blue News]
[Ed. A—Thanks to Orion Sang and The Michigan Daily crew for passing along audio]
How are you enjoying the experience here so far?
“It’s been good. It’s been real good. Everybody here from an administrative standpoint to a player standpoint has been great. It’s good to be—you know, I’m three hours from home, so family comes often. But it’s Michigan, you know. It’s a dream school. But it’s been really good, so I’ve enjoyed working here.”
You were a Buckeye growing up.
“I was. Well, I wasn’t, my father was, so you kind of get born into it, but yeah, I’m familiar with Ohio State. All respect to them and coach Meyer and what they’re doing, but I was excited about this for a lot of reasons. I’m trying to convert as many family members over.”
How about your dad?
“My dad—my dad was here this past weekend to come to the spring game, the spring practice, and he had a good time. He had a Michigan hat on but he had an Ohio State jersey underneath, so I was exposing him a little bit. But yeah, he’s excited. He’s proud. It’s a great program and great school.”
What did you get out last year with Fickell?
“You said how did I?”
What did you take [away]?
“Oh, well, coach Fickell’s a great person, first off. I hadn’t worked with him prior to going there but growing up in Columbus, a lot of coaches I’m close with were close with him. He’s a great human being, man. Great coach, he’s a winner, so I really enjoyed my time there.
“It was tough to leave so soon because you get relationships with these kids, but—and coach Fickell. What did I get out of it? I guess just another perspective, another high-level coach to learn from how to conduct their business, how to run a program.”
Did it catch you off guard? You were only there for one year, like you said. You’re young. Did it catch you off guard when they called you here and said we want you to coach here? Was it something you expected?
“Every year is kind of its own deal. So, I had been at Boston College for five years prior and that was kind of my—I’ve been all over the place as I’ve come up. Did I think I’d be offered a job at Michigan at the beginning of the year? No, but I didn’t think it was something out of the norm.
“And, you know, my relationship with Donnie [Brown], I’ve kept in contact with Donnie. He’s a big part of that, obviously. That’s documented. But, you know, I’m not surprised about much. Every year is kind of unique, and so it was a great situation, for sure. Appreciative of it, but I’m kind of ready for whatever.”
[After THE JUMP: Don Brown on Mount Rushmore, piranhas on a quarterback, and a child care conundrum I am intimately familiar with]
You mentioned Don. How different is he coaching now? Is there a difference?
Is he more intense?
“Nah, he’s consistent. And I learned from him when I was at Boston College being on the offensive side. Not only how he goes about his day-to-day, but how he deals with kids. A lot of times there’s agendas that aren’t always for the kids. Donnie’s all about the kids. That’s why they play hard for him.
“That’s why, as a young coach, you look at him and you admire him because he treated me kind of like that. He showed me love, opened up to me, so Donnie’s…he’s a friend, a mentor, he’s on my Mount Rushmore of great coaches I want to be like one day, and so…I can’t remember your question. I just went off of a—”
Just if he’s different, if you’ve seen him evolve or—
“Ah, yeah, I wouldn’t s—he’s always been consistent. I think every year he’s very self-reflective, he enhances what he does from a schematic standpoint, so I think in that area he’s changed for the better, but overall day-to-day he is who he is. That’s what makes him the best, in my opinion.”
He said this might be his fastest defense ever. What have you seen of the talent level out there?
“Man, I’ll tell you what, I made the comparison of somebody dropping a steak in a tank of piranhas. You see the quarterback drop back and it’s like…man, it’s overwhelming. So, speed is lightning quick, they’re physical, and they’re smart. That, to me, is probably the biggest thing.
“These guys get it. This is a lot of—I think he had two new starters last year. Ten new starters, excuse me. So, a lot of these kids are coming back and they know it. They have a mastery of it and so that just makes them even faster. They’re tough. They take pride in what they do. It’s a great group. A special group.”
Michael Dwumfour is a name we’ve heard a lot about. Your impressions?
“Oh, Dwummie, Dwummie’s an animal. I haven’t seen the development like coach Matty has and the rest of the staff has and coach Matty’s coaching him obviously, but if you’re on the field with Dwummie, you’re gonna know he’s at because he’s always in the backfield. He’s disruptive, he’s twitchy, he’s a great kid and wants to do right. Very passionate. I’m a big fan of his and I’m excited for what’s ahead. Just a playmaker.”
Who else joins Don on that Mount Rushmore of coaches?
“That’s a good question. Okay, Dana Bible. He’s at UCLA now, I think. He’s a guy that’s up there for me. I played for Tom O’Brien. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He’s a marine. Steve Addazio, Boston College. Very close with him and he developed me. Paul Pasqualoni’s a guy that I’ve had a chance to connect with and have a great amount of respect for. Keith Willis.
“So, I mean, may be a big mountain. How many people on there? But just as a young coach…coach Mattison, after a year of being around him, that guy is amazing. You think about how much he’s accomplished. So, I could go on and on.
“Coach Harbaugh, Jim Harbaugh, he’s a great coach that I’m fortunate to be around, so you’ve got to soak it up. Those are just a few names. I’m sure I’ll forget some guys, but those guys are guys I admire.”
We hear your name a lot with recruits on the recruiting trail. What’s your philosophy when you go into somebody’s house?
“Well, my philosophy is how would I treat my younger brother? So, my younger brother is 11 years younger and what I mean by that is you’ve got to be honest with people, but you also want to try to appeal to them in a way that they feel that you’re going to do what’s best for them, and you mean it.
“I think you have to mean it. I think any coach in college sports has an affection for kids, an appreciation for [them]. That’s why they do it. So, when I recruit, man, I treat them like they’re my own.
“Doesn’t mean I get ‘em all, but I can tell you tons of kids that I may not have gotten to commit to the school I’ve been at but I’m still in a relationship with because of the relationship that you build. So, I think you go about it that way, it makes it more pleasurable a) because it does take a lot of time and energy, but the other part is I think it’s the right way to do it.
“You know, being a Division III coach, a IAA coach, Division II coach, in order to do your job you’ve got to do more than just wear a jersey logo and think you’re going to connect with people. So I learned young that hey, it’s about the person and connecting. That’s my philosophy on it.”
Along those lines, we’ve heard a lot of people talk about Partridge that way. Have you guys talked about that, about that philosophy, when you’re out on the road?
“Absolutely, man. Chris—so I’ve known about CP from being at other schools. He has a great reputation. But being around him, that was one of the first things I asked him when I first got hired because when I first got hired we were on the road. So, yeah, that is his philosophy. He is relentless in how he prepares for families when they come and how he interacts with them throughout the week, so we definitely—I’ve learned a great deal from what he’s done and I feel like he’s definitely an elite recruiter and an elite coach. He’s a great coach, too.”
How is he doing taking over the safeties?
“Oh man, he’s a beast. The thing about Chris, he was a head coach prior to being here, [and] a really good one. He’s a hell of a special teams coordinator, because I’ve coordinated special teams in the past and it’s not easy when you’ve got all phases and then you have to get kids engaged and then you have to coach the coaches. Chris has done an unbelievable job, man.”
What in particular has he done to help improve the safeties?
“Well, the safeties, I think he’d be better served to talk about the details of that. I just know that when he’s in the room, kids listen. From a special teams standpoint, because he’s the special teams coordinator, I’m working with him to help him. Some of the things he’s doing, I think it’s elite, so he’s a hell of a coach.”
Will you be going to Paris?
“You know what, I planned on it, but here’s the deal: I’ve got a two-year-old and a three-month-old and my wife is the Long Ranger, so I wanna go but she wouldn’t be able to go so I—”
You just got Husband of the Year.
“Well…not yet. I’m still gonna see if my mom—I’m workin’ the details.”
Oh, you just wanted it to sound—
“Yeah, it’s on record. But I’m hoping to go, so we’ll see.”
Outside looking in, maybe you heard about the Rome trip last year. What were your impressions of Jim taking the team and doing this?
“I think it’s awesome. I think it’s a guy that’s taking advantage of his opportunity to impact people. People have opinions about that, people think it’s a waste of time. I think it’s a great team-building activity and it’s a great cultural activity. Like as a player, I never had a chance to go anywhere. You’re kind of handcuffed, and I’m not trying to—college athletes and scholarship athletes especially, they’re very fortunate. Like, you get your tuition paid for. I’m not saying that, but there’s a lot of time that you can’t do things that normal students do so when you leave football or when football leaves you, sometimes people have a hard time adjusting because they haven’t had that experience.
“I’ve seen here everything from the Impact program to Coach taking kids across the world to try and prepare you on top of being an elite athlete. You can do both, so I think it’s a trend that will probably catch at other schools. I know a lot of schools scoff right now but honestly, if they had the ability to do it they’d probably do it. And if I had a son—er, I do have a son. When he gets old enough, I want him to be around somebody that’s going to take care of him in all totality, you know what I’m saying?
“I want to go to Paris really because of the team element. I’m a new coach. Even if you’re an older coach, those times are special because come fall that relationship’s got to be like this [/interlocks his hands], so it’s a great opportunity for me to catch up.”
The dealmaker is getting your mom.
“Yeah, my mom or my mother-in-law. Maybe I’ll have you call her or somebody. [people laugh] It’s tough but hopefully it works out.”
We know your angle now and it’s a good one.
“That’s right, keep that on there.”