Rays of Light: U-M’s Hybrid S&C Program

In the second part of our series former with Michigan All-American and current Big Ten Network studio analyst Marcus he discusses the advantages that will come with Michigan having a full time special teams coach and how the philosophy of new strength & conditioning coach Kevin Tolbert is a combines the approaches of Mike Gittleson and Mike Barwis.

Sam Webb:  We know that Michigan had its share of issues on special teams last year obviously and one of the things that we’ve been talking about, the benefits of having a full time exclusive special teams coach.  I know that’s how they do it in the pros, do you see that having tangible benefit in college as well.  We know most teams don’t do it that way, but is that kind of a concept that could be advantageous for Michigan?

Marcus Ray:  “I think it could be advantageous for Michigan because when you get a new staff with an NFL coach, because that’s what Harbaugh is.  He’s coming directly from the NFL, so he has an NFL mindset on how he wants to run things and I can see him going exclusively with one coach being the special teams coordinator and he coaches all the special teams.  Now the position coaches will help coach it up, but it’s a little different when it is not that way because let’s say if you coach the running backs and you’re not a coordinator then you may be in charge of the punt team and then you’ve got to assign other assistant coaches to help you with the punt team.  That’s how college coaches kind of set up now but I can see this working for Michigan because when you get a special teams guy coming in that’s what sends you to the pros anyways.  Your best players aren’t going to want to play special teams.  When you’ve got a guy that does it and that’s his area of expertise, not only will you get the best guys on special teams, they’re going to go all out because they love it and then you know special teams is how you make it in the NFL for the most part as a young player.  That’ll give some guys a chance to go out there and it’s almost like making the team.  If you’re on the travel team, punt team or kickoff, it’s not punishment, it’s a reward.  It is actually like that’s just as valuable as offense or defense.  I think it is going to be very valuable from the standpoint that the position coaches can solely say, you know what I’m coaching the wide receivers and I’m just going to coach the receivers and I’ll help out on the punt return team but that’s not my baby.  So the majority of your time is going to be game planning, skills, drills and developing talent when the one special teams coach, his job is to coordinate all schemes, all personnel and that’s his baby and you just help him out.”

Sam Webb:  I’m not asking you to confirm anything, but the Detroit News reported that Kevin Tolbert is back in town and he is a disciple of a guy that molded you in Mike Gittleson who has been around.  Can you give us for people who aren’t familiar with Kevin Tolbert or Mike Gittleson’s philosophy, can you kind of give us a synapse of what should be expected of what their philosophy is and what the strength and conditioning program will look if indeed what everyone expects to happen actually happens.

Marcus Ray:  “I think Kevin Tolbert, first and foremost deserves the position.  He’s worked his butt off for years.  I remember when he came to Michigan in the late ‘90s/early 2000’s was a speed guy.  Speed is really Kevin’s deal, but working seven or eight years under Mike Gittleson, I had the fortune of working with Kevin.  He’s a great guy, he knows his stuff.  He doesn’t take a lot of mess from anybody, works hard, and cares about the kids.  Kevin spent time at Michigan before because he loves Michigan.  He loves being here and I can tell when I worked with Kevin and Mike that Kevin had that feeling like, man I would love to be strength coach at Michigan one day.  It just did not play out like that at the time, the way we all left, but being that Kevin had a chance to go out west to Stanford and learn and still have a job and work with a strength coach that won a national award in 2011.  Kevin has been around enough at the college level and the pro level to learn and to take over at Michigan for his first head strength and conditioning coaching position at a major university.  Now before he came to Michigan, he was at Miami.  He helped Butch Davis rebuild the Canes.  After they came off the probation and then right at the late ‘90s they caught fire and the program was back and Kevin Tolbert was a part of that.  He’s a guy that’s going to show up every day, push the kids.  You should see the best of both worlds from Mike Gittleson and Mike Barwis.  I’m talking about combine, high level NFL testing kind of training and then the old Mike Gittleson football ready training.  I think these kids will get the best of both worlds with being trained as a football player and trained to test well once they leave.  Because believe it or not the more players you put in the NFL, makes your program more attractive to high level players coming out.  It only makes sense.  You can’t sell a player to the NFL in recruiting if you aren’t putting guys in the pros, how are you going to base that.  Are you going of ten years ago, 15 years ago with Charles Woodson or Tom Brady? No.  You’ve got to put guys in the pros now if you want to recruit more pros.  You’ve got to produce them and then the future pros will come and then they’ll see guys running a 4.3 or jumping a 40 inch, or they’ll see Harbaugh developing another Andrew Luck recruit.  When you start putting all that together than that train almost becomes unstoppable.”

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