An indictment of Michigan’s defensive coaching?

An indictment of Michigan’s defensive coaching?

July 9, 2009

This afternoon I happened to be flipping through The Wolverine’s season preview for the 2008 season – notice I said 2008, not 2009 – and I came across this quote from graduated defensive end Tim Jamison:

“That’s one thing I noticed about the new coaches. We’d be doing a drill in spring practice, and they would tell me how I made a great play. I would say, ‘I didn’t use my hands or I stepped with the wrong foot.’ And they would say no, I did great. I am always so hard on myself. I know you can’t be perfect, but I’m always trying to improve the details so that I can be my best and help this team win.”

I try not to read too much into isolated quotes, but this one stuck with me based on Michigan’s historically bad defense last year. The entire article is about Jamison’s desire for greatness and perfection, so his acknowledgement of fundamental errors might be expected from someone with such ambition. But that is not a trait that all players possess. Some players don’t notice – or simply don’t care – when they make mistakes.

Hopefully, the entire team is made up of players who strive to be better. But what if they don’t? It slightly disturbs me that Jamison’s coaches would have insisted that he made a great play when he knows he could have done better. I’m assuming those comments would have come from defensive line coach Bruce Tall or defensive coordinator Scott Shafer, the latter of which is also now departed.

Michigan’s defensive production was not up to par last year. The Wolverines had three senior, multi-year starters last year and the only non-senior (Brandon Graham) was the best player. Two seniors – Morgan Trent and Brandon Harrison – started in the defensive backfield, along with talented but underachieving Steve Brown and former 5-star recruit Donovan Warren. The linebacking corps was admittedly short on talent and experience, but it’s not rare for a team to have one unit lacking those things.

I hope this comment isn’t indicative of Michigan’s defensive coaches in general. Coaches, like Jamison, should strive for perfection; that doesn’t mean they should yell and scream when a kid makes a tiny error, but fundamental errors should be fixed – that’s why they’re fundamentals. I’m perfectly happy with where Michigan’s offense stands, but the jury’s still out on Michigan’s defensive position coaches. I wasn’t impressed with much last year, and they’ll have even less to work with in 2009 now that Terrance Taylor, Will Johnson, Morgan Trent, Brandon Harrison, Charles Stewart, John Thompson, and Austin Panter have headed off to pro football or insurance sales.


  1. Comments: 21381
    Jul 09, 2009 at 5:17 PM

    I'd like to think that the coaching staff knows which players need to be given positive reinforcement, and which ones need negative reinforcement. With a self-motivated (and self-critical) player like Jamison, he may need to be brought up. Others, who aren't so hard on themselves, may need to be given a different type of motivation.

  2. Comments: 21381
    Jul 09, 2009 at 5:40 PM

    I hope you're right.

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