Griese Sees Reason for Excitement at U-M

Former Michigan quarterback and current ESPN analyst Brian Griese spoke exclusively with GoBlueWolverine recently to share his thoughts on the Maize & Blue's outlook for 2013. Griese discussed the growth of Devin Gardner, the nuances of the pistol offense, Greg Mattison's defense, and more. **Video included**

Sam Webb:  We’re here with Brian Griese, a guy that I go way back with, the great work he does with Mott Children Hospital back in Ann Arbor and his career there goes without saying.  Brian you’re analyst now, so I want you to analyze Michigan post Denard Robinson.  What do you expect to see from the Maize-N-Blue?

Brian Griese:  “I’m excited Sam, I really am.  I did two games last year.  I did the Northwestern game, which was probably one of the best games in all of college football last year – the overtime game.  Then I did the Iowa game, so two games that Devin Gardner played a significant role in.  I’m excited to see Devin play.  I don’t think you could have asked for anything more from a student-athlete, from a selflessness standpoint, from an academic standpoint – having graduated.  From a standpoint of waiting his turn, doing what he needed to do for the team.  I’ve got a lot of respect for what he’s done and he hasn’t really even taken the reigns yet.  It is going to be exciting to see his development and I think the most encouraging thing with respect to him is his level of intelligence and his thirst for knowledge and learning the game.  I’ve had a chance to talk with Al Borges a little bit about his approach.  It’s been really impressive.  All that being said, it is not a guarantee for success but certainly, he has the elements in place to do something really special.”

Sam Webb:  You mentioned waiting his turn and we know that in your career at Michigan.  You played some early in your career, but really you took the reigns later in your career.  You’ve been through that, you know what that is like.  Just talk about that from his perspective, because one of the things he said was it took some maturing on his part to learn to wait his turn because he’s always been the guy.

Brian Griese:  “I think you’re not ready as a freshman even if you…look at Johnny Manziel, who is a tremendous talent, athlete and has won the Heisman Trophy and has done so much already, still has some maturing to do.  You can’t expect an 18 or 19-year-old kid to make all the right decisions.  I really think Devin, his character in being the guy that likes to joke around in the locker room is who he has been for the first two to three years.  You can do that at certain positions, you can’t be that guy as quarterback.  I think his teammates understand that he is a fun loving guy and likes to have a good time, but they also now after those last five games he played in last year understands that he has a business side to him as well.  That is a really powerful place to operate from when you have both of those.”

Sam Webb:  From an Xs and Os standpoint, you played the game, you see the game.  We heard things about potential with Devin Gardner.  You see in the pros guys like RGIII and Colin Kaepernick, they do a lot of stuff with the pistol.  Kind of school our fans on what the differences are.  How does the pistol differ from the spread and why has that been so effective?

Brian Griese:  “The pistol was made famous by Coach Ault at Nevada.  He wanted to maintain without getting into too much detail, you wanted to maintain the element of the power running game from the home position for a running back, which the home position is right behind the quarterback.  So you could get the ball deeper to the backs, so he had better vision at the line of scrimmage to make the cutback on the traditional power play.  You also gave the quarterback an opportunity to facilitate his drop a little bit quicker and get rid of the football quicker from the line-of-scrimmage.  It was a really innovative approach but maintaining the power running game.  The spread is completely different.  The spread, you’ve got to have a mobile quarterback, you’re quarterback is always looking at the line-of-scrimmage and the run game is predicated off of his decisions.  Not so much in the pistol format.  They are very different.  Colin Kaepernick just so happens to be one of the better athletes playing the quarterback position in the NFL and his skill set in my opinion is very different than RGIII.  Both of them are very different from what you are going to see from Devin Gardner.  That might have been a long story short.”

Sam Webb:  That was great because that’s what people kind of ask, not to say that Michigan is definitely going to be doing that.  But assume for the sake of argument that they did… it sounds like what you’re saying is the pistol is much more married to a traditional pro style offense than a spread would be?

Brian Griese:  “Yes.  It is closely related to what a traditional pro style is.  I think you’re going to see Devin Gardner a lot under center quite honestly.  I think you’re going to see the elements of play-action.  If you get in the pistol formation, you don’t want to lose the athleticism that Devin Gardner has, but reality Sam is that the backup quarterback situation is kind of…if it was me and I was Al Borges, I wouldn’t be running that quarterback.”

Sam Webb:  I think he is probably thinking like that.  If he had plans on doing that, maybe he has tempered those a little bit, maybe it will be very, very limited.  Now you actually have some tailbacks it seems that they will be able to rely on this year.

Brian Griese:  “Right.  I should ask you.  Derrick Green is he going to play this year?”

Sam Webb:  I think he is judging from their level of excitement.  You’ve seen plenty of highly touted freshman come in.  You got to wait until you see what they do under the lights.

Brian Griese:  “We’ve seen it in the SEC a lot.  Last year with the two guys, (Todd) Gurley and (Keith) Marshall at Georgia.  You got T.J. Yeldon at Alabama that come in as freshman and contribute in a big way.  Hopefully Derrick Green can do that a little bit for Michigan.”

Sam Webb:  Let us flip to the defense side of the football.  You’re one of the guys who over the years I really relied on your opinion on what it takes to have a winning defense.  You were excited when you heard about Greg Mattison and it seems like that excitement has definitely been proved warranted with what they have done thus far.  Injuries though, Jake Ryan in particular that injury was really harmful for Michigan  What do you see on the defensive side of the ball for them?

Brian Griese:  “That was so unfortunate with Jake and who knows when he will be able to come back this year.  Maybe he’ll be able to contribute in some way, shape or form in November and around the bowl game.  I was very excited and I think everybody in Michigan nation can now see why I was so excited about Greg Mattison.  If you had a chance to sit in a meeting room with him and understand and listen to his passion and how he teaches the game, you would be excited to.  Now, I’m really looking forward to the second year and him implementing his system.  The younger players that have an opportunity to learn how to play in that system.  Guys like Ondre Pipkins, they need some guys on the interior defensive line to really step up and that’s when you start to have really good defense when you control the line of scrimmage.  You need four really nasty guys up there.  Some of these recruits that have started to come in, need to start growing into that role.  From that standpoint, I’m looking forward to that front four, in my opinion has to be dominating.  Then on the back end of the secondary I think they have the returning starters in place that they could be really good.”

Sam Webb:  Your colleague, Kirk Herbstreit was speaking to a contingent of Buckeyes, said book your tickets to Pasadena.  Basically saying the league was won and over.  I got to ask you, I know you wear the impartial hat now at ESPN, is Herbie onto something, do you think he is right in his prediction?

Brian Griese:  “No.  He couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Sam Webb:  I like it.  Brian I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what great work you’ve done back home.  Put sports aside for a moment, the amount of time and effort, money that you’ve put into fundraising for Mott Children Hospital is amazing.  Just talk about all that you guys have done and what you guys were able to do this past year.

Brian Griese:  “We had another very successful year.  I’m not aware of other former players that come back in the mass that Michigan football players come back for this type of event to raise money for the Children Hospital.  I hope that it can be a model for other schools.  We raise now on average over a million dollars a year.  Every time we come, we’re raising money for Children Hospital, for Charles Woodson Clinical Research Fund, as well as for the Congenital Heart Center at Mott.  It is a passion of ours.  We care about our university, but we also care about our community and kids.  It is emblematic of what a Michigan Man is all about.”

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