English Plans Unselfish, Attacking Defense

In PART THREE of GoBlueWolverine's feature on Ron English, we learn more about the origins of his defensive philosophy, his thoughts on the coach/player relationship, his keys to success, and much much more.

For those that missed parts one and two of GoBlueWolverine's feature on Ron English, click the following links:
Ron English Anxious to Put Stamp on Defense (Part 1)
Ron English Says, "The Best 11 Will Play." (Part 2)

When the news of Ron English's appointment as Michigan's new defensive coordinator became public, those that follow the Maize and Blue immediately began speculating about what his impact might be. Based on what is already known about him after his three previous seasons in Ann Arbor, many believed that increased aggression would be a key component of whatever system he implemented. English confirmed those beliefs in parts one and two of his conversation with GoBlueWolverine, but the question now is what stops that from just being talk? In order to gain an appreciation for how he plans to achieve his goal, you must first gain an understanding for the tutelage he has received.

When listening to English discuss defense, two components for success are mentioned over and over again; the coach/player relationship, and increased aggression as a byproduct of having total knowledge of one's responsibilities. That philosophy was honed under some of the most reputable defensive minds in football, some of which will be right down I-94 in Detroit this year.

"There have been a lot of guys that I've learned from," English explained. "Lyle Setencich is one, Phil Snow is one, Rod Marinelli is one, Donnie Henderson is one, and Kent Baer is one. If you look at the group of guys that I just mentioned, they've played for Rose Bowl championships and two of those guys have Super Bowl rings, so I understand defense."

English has drawn upon his experiences with each coach to develop a style that he feels will be successful. While it's conceivable that watching the defenses these coaches utilize could give some idea what a "Ron English" defense might play like, the first-year coordinator discouraged comparisons to the "Tony Dungy" system that Marinelli and Henderson employ, or any other system for that matter.

"I don't want to do that to this group of guys," English said. "I don't want to compare them to anybody. What they need to do is worry about being themselves. I think the characteristics for any great defense are all the same. What you see when you watch great defense is guys getting to the ball, guys striking with violence once they get there, guys that know exactly what to do, and guys that are excited to play. Everybody knows great defense when they see it."

If Michigan is to have one of those great defenses, English feels his ability as a motivator will be one of the key reasons why. One of the most valuable lessons he learned from coaches like Marinelli was the importance of relating to players. Since arriving in Ann Arbor, that has been one of his more noted strengths.

Coaches travel different routes on their journey to achieve the ideal relationship with their players, but along the way, they all have to answer the same questions. Can they be close to the players, but still command their respect? Can they be honest, stern, and sometimes belligerent, but not have their messages lost in delivery. According to English, the answer to both of those questions is yes. Many of the young men he has dealt with, whether they were his own players or those from a totally different position group, have come away valuing their interaction with him. In his role as coordinator, he believes that interaction will be even more essential. That is why he's practically certain he will move out of the booth this upcoming season.

"I'm sure I'll be on the field," he said. "I think that's where I need to be. I want to communicate with the defense and be able to look into their eyes and have them look in mine. I think there's something to that. I think that the players and coaches are intertwined. I've always believed that. There are some players that don't believe that and there are some coaches that don't believe that, but that is far from the truth. We all need to perform for each other. The best defenses have guys that have a lot of respect for each other and care about each other. But I use caring as an action word. We have to prove that by playing for each other in this sense; we have GOT to be violent, we have GOT to play fast, we've GOT to be accountable in the sense that we know exactly what we're doing … each guy. If we do those things, we'll be good."

It's apparent that English's approach will do as much to address the hearts and minds of his players as it does their technique. He is of the attitude that if the players believe in what their doing, and believe they're being made better, they'll run through a brick wall for you. For English, instilling that type of mentality is one of his foremost goals. As the leader of the defense, that all starts with the tone he sets … and he is not shy about mentioning exactly what that tone will be.

"I think we need to get tougher," said English. "I don't think that we're necessarily a really tough team, particularly mentally. I think we need to be more confident in what we're doing. That's my job. I need to prepare these guys so that when they go out there, they can be confident in what they're doing. If I do that, we'll be fine."

For those that missed parts one and two of GoBlueWolverine's feature on Ron English, click the following links:
Ron English Anxious to Put Stamp on Defense (Part 1)
Ron English Says, "The Best 11 Will Play." (Part 2)


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