Rays of Light: Coach Search Still Narrowing

Former Michigan standout and Big Ten Network analyst Marcus Ray breaks down his role in the Wolverines' coaching search, shares his thoughts on reports that Jim Harbaugh has already decided to stay in the NFL, explains the difference between "spread to run" and "spread to pass" attacks, and much much more.

Sam Webb:  Let’s start with what NFL people are saying about Jim Harbaugh.  He’s definitely not coming back.  He’s not going to Michigan, he’s staying in the pros, what are you hearing about that and what are you think about the sentiment that is coming from the NFL circles?

Marcus Ray:  “I’m not going to say that that’s entirely accurate.  I think it probably has fluctuated, different conversations.  Honestly, when I used to coach I had a motto that I  used to say the conversation changes every seven days and I think that is probably how that is moving and shaking in San Francisco and throughout the NFL.  I don’t think anyone truly knows the answer to that one, but there are some closer to Jimmy than others.  I don’t think he has been as open and as honest about it as he may not be sure.  I think that is about as accurate as it is going to get with Jimmy.  We’re not going to know how much interest he has in it, until he says it.  Everything else to me is chasing ghosts.”

Sam Webb:  What is the role or the influence (of the “advisory board” you’re on)?  Is it just a consulting thing?  What role do people on that conference call play.  Is it just hey, this is how things are going, we just want to keep you abreast or what do you think of this guy or what do you think of that guy.  How does the process work?  I’m not asking you to share the details of what was said or who it was said about. I just want to get a better idea of what the board’s role in the process is.

Marcus Ray:  “It would be like this Sam, if I was getting ready to buy a house, obviously I would go get a real estate agent and that’s what I think Jim Hackett has done.  That would be the equivalent of his search firm.  Then when it was trying to really shop around and look at different types of homes that you want.  Real estate agent is going to take you around to do that.  Then what you’re going to do is grab a small group of friends, people close to you, people that really know what you like, people that probably know the area, people that can help you when you drive by the house and say, hey Marcus what do you think of that house over there.  Hey, I’m thinking about this house versus this house, what do you like about this and what do you like about that.  This is what I’m considering, what do you think?  The real estate agent has a job, but then the people close to you can give you their opinion if you ask them.  It is just more so, our role is to listen, to ask questions, to be in the know about the process and to feel comfortable that things are going to be done differently than they were seven years ago, four years ago.  So the due diligence is done to find the right guy and solve Michigan’s problems and to actually let us know what he thinks the problems are that need to be addressed.  There are certain factors that play into hiring a coach.  He runs that stuff by this group and then he has other people that he talks to about other stuff.  It is more of a like I said, one of those groups of friends that you go put in a car and drive them by the potential houses that you’re thinking about buying and then you get our take on it.  You make like this house on Sam Webb Street and then somebody else, one of your friends may say, I don’t know about that house, that’s cool but what about this.  That house might need a new roof.  The last owner didn’t stay there very long.  It is just one of those things where Hackett has Michigan guys that he reached out to and he cares what that group thinks.  In no shape or form (am I saying I’m) in the search committee.  It is not like that it is more of an advisory board.  Hey what do you guys think about this, do you have any questions, here is my thought process, this is what I’m thinking, this is how I’m going about it, what do you guys think.”

Sam Webb:  Philosophical question, vision question if you will.  I had an opportunity to sit down at the bust and one of the great benefits of this year’s bust was you had players in the crowd dispersed among the fans… and the alums that are sitting out there and you get a chance to talk to the guys about what they think and what their concerns are and some of the concerns that maybe they shared with Jim Hackett.  You’ve got a lot of guys that for instance as far as concerns go, a lot of guys came in to play in a pro style smash mouth attack and said that was one of the concerns that they expressed to Jim Hackett.  In your estimation what role does scheme play in the search?

Marcus Ray:  “I think it does matter.  I don’t think Michigan is looking just for an offensive minded guy or defensive minded guy because I think we’ve seen both sides of that in our own house.  You’ve seen an offensive-minded coach with Rich and how the defense was lacking or you never could get the continuity with the ability that you wanted defensively.  Brady comes, he is focused on defense, stopping the run, then a power team, power run downhill wants to be crossed and commit to the run game.  The offense really didn’t do to hot and the defense was alright during Brady’s tenure.  Offense was okay, it had its moments.  I think he looking for the best of both worlds.  To be honest, when you look at certain guys in the NFL, and compare them to college, it is two different games.  It is two different games in the NFL as far as the offenses that they run or an offense that you see in college.  I think he is considering everything but I would say that Michigan is looking for the best of both worlds, not just a super offensive minded guy versus a super defensive minded guy.”

Sam Webb: There are variations of the spread.  Are those variations important, are they noted, are they notable or are all spread seen as equals as they are compared to traditional downhill pro style attack, or are traditional downhill pro style attack looked at in the same light as maybe a spread attack that is a spread to run attack?

Marcus Ray:  “I’ll give you an example of two different type of spread offenses.  You have Ohio State spread offense which is called a power spread, meaning they spread you out to run the ball inside and they make you defend the entire field, run game and pass game.  If you want to run that type of offense you’ve got to have weapons of mass destruction all over the field.  That means you’ve got to have a quarterback that can run it and throw it, a running back that can get downhill like you saw in the championship game and you have to have guys on the perimeter that can go vertical and catch intermittent route.  That’s very similar to what Urban Meyer ran at Florida and that’s why Dan Mullen is running it at Mississippi State, but then there is a spread like West Virginia or Texas A&M where they will spread you out or the University of California where they actually play basketball on grass, where it is tempo, it is dink, dunk, dink, dunk screen.  Those are variations of the spread.  It doesn’t really matter what type of spread we’re talking about it.  It is more about who’s getting results on offense.  It is not what they run, it is how effective they run it and do they have defense to compliment their style of play.  So when you see a 59-0 win for Ohio State over Wisconsin, you’re looking at a great defense by a spread to run team and most importantly you’ve got to have the pieces in place to run that but I don’t know…”

For much much more listen to the interview in its entirety below.

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