When Greg Robinson came to Michigan last season after his previous job as head coach at Syracuse, he immediately became part of the upheaval that has come to characterize Rich Rodriguez’s tenure as head coach.
It was a season full of struggles on defense, and the Wolverines finished in the lower tier of every Big Ten statistical category. During the second half of the season, Robinson refused to speak with the media. His first meeting with reporters since then yesterday was abounds with questions about possible improvements on the defensive side of the ball.
“I don’t know that the outside world needs to be confident,” Robinson said of his defense this upcoming season. “You might want to be, but you know what, you’re not going to be confident until you go out there and see a group play well. I can sit here and say all this and say that, but I think that every year is different.”
And according to Robinson, the biggest issue was the Wolverines’ serious lack of depth.
“If you go back and look at all the things I said prior to the season last spring and summer, I like to think that I told you the biggest concern I had was depth,” Robinson said. “And I said it to you all the time. And quite frankly, that’s really what came to hurt us. We had inexperience. We had some issues with personnel. We just didn’t have a lot of depth.”
Despite the unit’s troubles, Robinson specifically referred to losses at Iowa and Michigan State as examples of the defense’s improvement.
But even in those games — which were both lost in the closing moments — inexperience and a shallow depth chart, according to Robinson, were the main reasons for defeat.
With a full season under their belt though, defensive players are beginning to look more comfortable in his system, which would presumably give the Wolverines more options at each position.
“I think our guys are absorbing fine,” Robinson said. “As the offense comes at us with another wrinkle here, another wrinkle there, it’s testing us, which is good.”
FORMATIONS THEY ARE A CHANGIN’: Last week, Rodriguez announced that the Wolverines will increasingly work out of a 3-3-5 set, with slight tweaks to Robinson’s hybrid system from last season.
But Robinson was quick to point out that the new defense was more of an adjustment than a change in philosophy.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever been in a defense where there wasn’t areas altered each year to your personnel or to what the offensive world is doing,” Robinson said. “You have to do that. You tweak constantly, and you do it throughout the season.”
Scheme changes, especially those as slight as the team’s recent implementations, are also nothing new to Robinson who referenced his time in the NFL to justify his idea of an ever-changing defense.
“There’s very little that I haven’t done in my past,” Robinson said. “If you go back to the New York Jets, we ran a 3-3 scheme … When I went to Denver, we were listed as a four-man front, but we used a hybrid … I’ve coached for a while, and there’s been a lot of time for me to do a lot of things.”
STEVIE AND THE SECONDARY: One of the more important positions in Robinson’s scheme has been the hybrid spinner position, which last year was filled by departing senior Stevie Brown.
As one of the positions in Robinson’s defense that requires the most athleticism, Brown will be hard to replace, especially with an inexperienced secondary.
So far this spring, sophomore Floyd Simmons has been taking reps at the position, along with redshirt freshman Thomas Gordon and junior Mike Williams. After a much-maligned season at safety last season, Robinson feels that Williams’s athleticism is well suited to move to the spinner position.
At the safety position — which is even less experienced with Williams’s departure — Robinson also said he was impressed with the development of safety Cameron Gordon who moved from the wide receiver position this offseason.