Stripling Talks about Transition NFL Analyst Josh Turel spoke with new Michigan defensive line coach <b>Steve Stripling</b> after Michigan's final spring practice on April 16. In this GBW exclusive, Coach Stripling touches on several topics, including how his transition has proceeded, which players have improved, and how his relationship with his new players is developing. <br>

On Feb. 16, the New York Giants of the NFL hired Michigan defensive line Coach Bill Sheridan, and the search for his replacement began immediately. Michigan fans could assume the least likely spot for his successor would be rival Michigan State. However, on Feb. 25, defensive line Coach Steve Stripling traded in his green and white for a new start with the Maize and Blue. The 28-year veteran, who specializes in pass-rushing technique, offered the experience and motivating capability needed to improve a Michigan defensive trench that struggled last season to get pressure on the quarterback. Following Michigan's final spring practice, caught up with Coach Stripling to see how his transition has been, which players have improved and how his relationship with his new team is developing.

Stripling, who served as defensive line coach in East Lansing for two seasons under Spartan Head Coach John L. Smith, commented on the move. "Well there's not a whole lot of difference," he said. "I think the biggest adjustment was getting on the same page, whether it's terminology or getting to know the players. You know I got here and jumped right into spring ball. I didn't know the players very well and they didn't know me so we called it just getting on the same page, getting to know each other, learning each others terminology and working together." Once he was settled in, Stripling went right to work during spring practice. In the first workout the media were allowed to attend, it was obvious Stripling was determined to develop pass-rushing skills along the front. A variety of drills were set up, which were run at very intense levels. "I like to teach aggressive football and the players like to be aggressive," said Stripling of his coaching style. "There are times where you want to have fun, but then if there is drill work where the tempo is not such, then if I pick it up, they should pick it up too."

Since that first day of spring practice, the attitude of the players has been distinctively different and things are clearly improving along the defensive front. "So far this spring it's been unbelievable," senior defensive tackle Pat Massey said. "When you look at us at the beginning of the spring to the end of spring, we made significant improvements, and that's due to him (Stripling)." When asked if his players have adjusted well to the changing schemes, styles, and moving back to a 4-3 front, Coach Stripling replied: "Yes, because I think the kids are older and they're more experienced. We ask them to play a lot of different styles -- there is some attacking and there is some reading, so the experience helps. That's what you're trying to do in spring ball: get as many reps as you can, and get that experience."

As to which players have been the most impressive thus far, Stripling named a group of returning starters. "Well I think there's three returning lineman, and naturally if you talk about impressive, (Gabe) Watson's an aggressive kid if he does it every snap," Stripling said. "Then you have (Pat) Massey, who as a senior has also gotten better every day. Then there is (Lamarr) Woodley, who is a young guy but has tremendous potential." The new coach is hoping Watson can increase that inner desire to reach his full potential this season. "If he spends every day from now until next fall camp waking up and saying that I'm going work to be better than I was yesterday, then he's going to be a fantastic player," Stripling said.

Watson has welcomed his new position coach with open arms. "Well, at first I was joking about it, telling other guys we had a Michigan State coach here, but he's a cool guy," Watson said. "It seems like he cares a lot. He asks you how your family is doing, and he's tried hard to learn about everybody. He had meetings with me and my dad so everyone could get closer with him." Fellow defensive tackle Pat Massey has a similar fondness of his new coach. "He's a fun guy, he likes to have fun," Massey said. "He has no problem joking around in meetings, but he definitely gets after it. He knows what we have to do and he knows what we have to do to get better. He's determined to get us there."

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