Former Player Sound-Off: Jon Jansen

GoBlueWolverine's Sam Webb went one-on-one with former Michigan standout Jon Jansen last week to get his take on the 2014 squad. The former Wolverine captain gave his unique take on Brady Hoke's decision not to name captains until after the season, his outlook for this season, and more.

Sam Webb:  Glad you could join us because we need your expertise.  There is a lot of criticism about the line, some of it very accurate and deserved and the guys themselves admit that.  At the same time, they were a young group that was asked to do a lot last year.  How will they benefit this year moving to a zone blocking set up and getting into a refined playbook, maybe cutting down the complexity and everything that they asked them to do last year.

Jon Jansen:  “Going to the first point of narrowing things down, going to zone blocking and making things a little bit sooner.  We used to call it elephant’s on parade.  As long as they all go in the same direction.  They all take the same footwork, you can’t mess things up.  Because if you miss a guy…if I was a right tackle and I missed a guy, I’ve got my guard right in my hip pocket and he hits that guy right in the mouth and I go up to the next guy.  That’s what zone blocking allows you to do.  It allows you to come off the ball, be aggressive.  If you miss somebody, you know there partner is right there.  In this game against Appalachian State that’s where they have to develop the trust that they need as a unit.  Those five guys have to trust that that guy is going to be in their hip pocket and if we go in the other direction, I’m going to be in your hip pocket and if we go the other direction, I’m going to be right in your hip pocket no matter what happens.  I’m going to be there for you.  So you can be aggressive, you can do what you want to do.  If they can do that, they can develop that trust amongst the five of them or whoever is in there.  They’re going to develop a lot faster than people think.”

Sam Webb:  When you watched them last year, did you see failures that were mostly physical in nature or was it more mental mistakes, missed assignments and things like.   How would you quantify what you saw last year?

Jon Jansen:  “To me it was all mental mistakes.  Those guys were going in five different directions.  That all starts in my opinion from the center and quarterback.  I read an article last week that Devin Gardner had never pointed out a MIKE linebacker and to me that is amazing that that was the case.  If he doesn’t declare who the MIKE linebacker is or the center doesn’t declare who that guy is, they have no where to base who is going where or who is doing what.  That’s the center of the defense, so you’ve got to decide who that guy is so you can all go in the same direction no matter what scheme your in, you’ve got to make that starting point.  I think this year having things simplified, having Devin Gardner make some of those calls is really going to help the offensive line know exactly where to go, what direction to go in.  Last year, you watched the Michigan State game, there were times there were guys running absolutely free and it wasn’t because somebody got beat or couldn’t block someone, they didn’t even try to.  It was like the parting of the Red Sea and all of a sudden one of those Spartans would be running through clear at Devin Gardner.  You’ve got to identify who the MIKE linebacker is, identify there responsibilities and they all need to go in the same direction.”

Sam Webb:  You’re a former captain, I’m particular interested in your thoughts in Brady Hoke’s decision to name captains after the season.  What are your thoughts on that?

Jon Jansen:  “Each team is unique and I applaud Brady for trying something different and not really caring what anybody thinks about it.  He is going to do what’s best for the team.  I respectfully disagree.  I think you need to go into the season knowing who your leaders are.  You had a chance from the time that they played in that Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl and lost to Kansas State to figure out who is going to step forward and be that leader on offense, on defense.  If there are two on offense and two on defense, so be it, special teams.  You’ve had now six, seven, eight months to figure out that somebody is going to step forward and lead this team.  In my opinion, I’m a little disappointed that we don’t know who that is yet and we won’t know until the season is over.  At that point, what is the point.”

Sam Webb:  Are these mutually exclusive things, does a guy need to see in order to lead, does a guy need to see in order for guys to follow them?

Jon Jansen:  “A guy needs to…you don’t have to be a vocal leader, there are a lot of different ways to lead.  You don’t have to be a vocal leader.  You don’t have to be a lot of different things, but what you have to do is starting in January you have to be in the weight room.  You’ve got to be the one that is the first one there and the last one to leave.  You’re the one there motivating guys and you’re doing it yourself.  When you get to spring football, you’ve got to be a guy that is out there all the time, making things happen.  Showing guys how it’s supposed to be done and that’s what they need at Michigan.  They need guys, we had a three or four year gap where we lost some of the training that built up over decades of Michigan football and all of a sudden we didn’t have those leaders to show the freshman, sophomores and juniors how it was supposed to be done.   Now these guys are trying to figure out all by themselves and sooner or later somebody is going to be there leader.  I think there are a couple of guys on this team, Jake Ryan being one of them who can go out there and lead by example.  He can also be vocal.  He can do a lot of things.  They need to see guys be consistent and perform on the field.”

Sam Webb:  When you look at this team, you just identified and what you think is going to be an issue for this team not having an identified leader heading into the season.  How much is that going to impact them along the way and how do you seem them faring this year?

Jon Jansen:  “I think there is a little bit of a misconception of what I said there.  They don’t have an elected captain, but there is going to be one or two guys that step up and are the leaders.  You’re going to see it develop over the season and if they don’t have those one or two guys step up, then there are going to have a season much like they had last year where they have no identity.  They have nothing their playing for, playing with and they are going to have to have one or two guys step up and be leaders all season long.  Guys that they look to for motivation, guys they look to when things are tough, they’re always upbeat.  I don’t mean their cheerleaders, but they always believe that no matter what is going on in the game, no matter what type of controversy that the media may develop, they’re always going to come out ahead.  I believe this Michigan team is going to have those, their in the locker room, but they just have not been identified to the media, but those guys in the locker room know who they are.”

Sam Webb:  Do you have a number for the season?  I know I’m kind of putting you on the spot, kind of asking you to do something that I’m not sure if you’ve done it already.  Do you kind of see what the record is this year and how do you think Michigan is impacted by what is going on with Notre Dame with five guys out right now, three of which were going to be starters.  Ohio State loses Braxton Miller, does that impact your outlook for Michigan at all?

Jon Jansen:  “I’ll give you two outlooks.  One from a media perspective, yes I think that having those guys out for Notre Dame is going to impact them.  Having Braxton Miller is going to impact Ohio State’s season.  I think Michigan is a nine to ten win team.  By saying that, I know they’re going to have to go to South Bend, have to go to East Lansing, have to go to Columbus and win one or two of those games.  From a player’s perspective, I don’t care who is out for Notre Dame.  I don’t care at all who the quarterback is at Ohio State.  When I line up against Notre Dame, I’m lining up against more than 100 years of tradition and I’m going to make sure that I put my stamp on that game.  When I line up against Ohio State, the same thing, a large tradition in that rivalry.  I’m going to make sure I put a stamp on that game.  I don’t care who the quarterback is.  Those guys have to believe they are a 12 win team and if not, then their at least going to be in double digits.”

Sam Webb:  As always Jon, appreciate your candor, look forward to hearing you this season and we’ll be in touch.  Thanks a lot.

Jon Jansen:  “Thanks for having me on.  Go Blue!”

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