FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Jourdan Lewis says he hasn’t thought much, yet, about what he will feel when he wakes up Saturday morning and is no longer a Michigan football player. His four years as a Wolverine have flown by, bringing with them All-America honors and likely a promising professional career come April’s NFL Draft.
But with the draft so far away and so out of his control, Lewis has a certain luxury this week. Even though it’s his final game, he can put every ounce of his energy into preparing for his last contest, the Orange Bowl against Florida State on Friday night.
Don Brown doesn’t have that same luxury.
Michigan’s defensive coordinator inherited an astonishingly talented group his first year with the team — one that had every single starter earn All-Big Ten honors, but will soon start to dissipate. That’s what happens when you have nine senior starters on defense, and another, redshirt sophomore Jabrill Peppers, who is widely expected to declare for the NFL Draft.
That leaves Brown and the rest of the Wolverines’ coaches to attempt a difficult balancing act during their bowl week practices. They have to go out and prepare for the Seminoles, but they also have to be mindful that many of those players aren’t going to be around after this week.
“Nothing’s more important than the game,” Brown said. “So in terms of the concept, the scheme and all that, you’re kind of doing everything to get ready for the game. But during that process, you’re kind of teaching a lot of guys the game plan.”
Brown said he is trying to give equal reps to the first two units, with some players coming in for spot work when they have a specific job on the play. That gives him a chance to experiment with different players who can do certain tasks with proficiency.
One of those players is redshirt freshman Jordan Glasgow, who Brown has recently been playing at Peppers’ “viper” position. A walk-on to the team, Jordan is the younger brother of fifth-year senior defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow and former Wolverine center Graham Glasgow, both of whom also started out as walk-ons before eventually earning starting roles with the team.
And while Jordan Glasgow’s impact has been made primarily on special teams thus far, the bowl practices gave him a chance to show Brown what he could do on scrimmage plays, too.
“We just kind of fooled with him in the bowl practices, and I’m going, ‘Damn, this guy’s doing things a lot better,’ ” Brown said. “He just has a way. He can rush it a little bit, so I’m sure he has a little of that going. He can cover a little bit. He’s a tough guy. He set the edge on a counter play yesterday. … So, if you keep fooling around with the soup, and you find things that certain guys can do well, just let them do that.”
As it stands, Brown said redshirt sophomore Noah Furbush and freshman Josh Metellus have also been working at viper, with Metellus also in the mix at safety.
These are the types of experiments Brown and Michigan’s other coaches can do during the bowl practices, when there is no immediate need for conclusive roles. Last year, then-quarterback Zach Gentry spent some of those practices working at tight end, eventually switching to the position full-time this season.
That puts a bit of a burden on the coaches to experiment with and identify talent when it shows up, even in limited action, all while prepping for a top-tier team.
“It’s a balancing act, but I think that’s what we get paid to do, is make sure you’re getting ready to do all three things,” Brown said. “That’s what coaching is. You’re multi-tasking all the time. You know, eye on the game, but you’ve gotta have an eye to the future as well, because you’re going to wake up on Saturday morning, and guess what? It’s next season.”