DC Greg Robinson Q&A: Full Transcript

U-M defensive coordinator Greg Robinson answers a lot of questions about U-M's defensive schemes, coaches, and personnel.

Question: Can you talk a little about the schemes with us a little bit and how things have changed from last year?

Greg Robinson: "Yeah, we've gone to a 6-2-3 scheme. We're playing with six defensive linemen and it is very aggressive. (Laughter)"

Question: So that's a no?

Greg Robinson: "What did you want to know?"

Question: Why did you go to it?

Greg Robinson: "To the 6-2-3?"

Question: Yeah (laughter).

Greg Robinson: "Shake your leg a little bit there. Really, we're doing a lot of things that we did very similar to last year. I know there has been a lot of talk about personnel and all that but if you remember last year – Craig Roh was what we called a hybrid. Stevie Brown is what we called hybrid. I would say that that still fits very much in what we do. We might have some different terminology that is where I think we can all take in the same language together, but I think you're going to see a lot of things very, very similar. That's what I would tell you."

Question: The things that have changed where did those initiate from? Was it from something you wanted, something Coach Rodriguez wanted, or from your staff?

Greg Robinson: "A little bit of all. I think there are some things that I can see that the staff and Rich have talked about since the time I came that I see real merit to them. We're just working, tying it all together."

Question: Are those some of the things that you haven't done in your past that are new to you?

Greg Robinson: "To be honest with you, there is very little that I have not done in my past. If you go back to when I was at the New York Jets, we ran a 3-3 scheme there with a guy named Jeff Lageman that was a hybrid and when I went to Denver; we were listed as a four man front just like with the Jets, but Alfred Williams we used a hybrid to play a 3-3 combination. Especially when I was at the Jets it was really suited to when we were playing Buffalo. When you were playing these deployed teams that were all over the field, it was to our advantage really to play them that way and we used to play them pretty good. There are things that I've done…I've coached for a while. There has been a lot of time for me to do a lot of things. But at the same I'm open at any time because I do not know that I've ever been in a defense where there wasn't areas altered each year to your personnel or to what the offensive world is doing. You have to do that. You tweak constantly. You do throughout the season because you begin to see what have you more in your talent level and you also say hey, this is what we have to do to defend. That's kind of where I see it."

Question: Is part of it to just get some more speed on the field?

Greg Robinson: "That was the whole thing last year. I was very frustrated as a coach. My last year at Syracuse, I took a running back that had good speed, and I moved him to the position that Stevie Brown played, so that we basically had five defensive backs on the field, because I got tired of trying to substitute with people. It was just crazy. So when I came here it was the first thing that I had talked to our staff about that I would really look for a guy…do we have a guy that maybe has some characteristics that would play like an outside linebacker but have movement like a safety and immediately Gibby (Tony Gibson) talked about Stevie Brown. It did not take me but a few weeks of watching his movement in the winter program to know that this looks like the kind of guy that can do those things. That was the idea. The idea of having a hybrid defensive end that still has linebacker characteristics is just for that. That you have more athleticism on the field."

Question: What went wrong with the defense last year?

Greg Robinson: "I think if you go back and look at all the things that I said to you prior to the season, last spring and summer, I like to think that I told you the biggest concern I had was depth. I said it to you all the time. Quite frankly it is really what came to hurt us. We had inexperience. We had some issues with some personnel and then really that what's it came down to. We did not have a lot of depth. When you're playing with younger players, and I thought there was moments that there we did good things. I can go right along and talk about…in the Michigan State game there was a lot of real good football played by the defense. There were a couple of things there that hurt us. I think inexperience and give them some credit too. Same thing in the Iowa, I thought there was a lot of things that were done well in that game and it really I see two plays glaring that come out in my mind, even though there is a third play that I see, if we had been a little more experienced we'd have done better. I think it was hard because we did not have a lot of depth and we hadn't had a lot of guys that had played. I thought as the year went on…even in the Wisconsin game, I thought in the Wisconsin game there was a lot of good football to play. We were kind of trying to bandage up a little bit too; we were banged up. In Ohio State our guys….they finished the season on a good note, not a great note; we did not win. They did a lot of things well in that game. I do not spend a lot of time looking back on what went wrong other than I go back and look and see what the other teams have done. I know where we broke down. We're working hard right now to get better."

Question: Can you talk about coaching the inside linebackers this spring and how they are doing individually.

Greg Robinson: "I can tell you this, I have coached the inside linebackers a lot in my career and I did not last year because Hop (Jay Hopson) had been doing it and done a good job with those guys and I did not want to break that up. I'm comfortable in there with those guys coaching them and I think it's good because I like working from the inside out as opposed to what I would term the outside in. It kind of just works. You've got the D-lineman and then you work with those guys with you and you got these guys right behind you. You're not coming in from the side so much. I hate to say…what is today practice eight? I'm not prepared to be talking about the level of play of this guy or that guy. It's been competitive at certain spots. Again, we're trying to build your depths. You're only as strong as your weakest link. I know I'm saying things that are cliché but they are true. If the first guy is playing pretty good, you want to make sure that that second guy has some awareness of what's going on as well."

Question: Is it fair to say, you said that you are trying to build depth that that is still going to be a pretty big concern for you even coming into the fall, depth?

Greg Robinson: "I will say this; we're still young in a lot of spots. You look at the backend. You look at the linebacker spots. We obviously have Jonas (Mouton) and Obi (Ezeh) coming back and Fitz (JB Fitzgerald) and Kenny Demens has played a little bit and Kevin (Leach) and it looks that way. Up front, a lot of those guys have played. We're developing the guys behind them. Mike Martin out, you hate that he's not out there but at the same time it's getting some other guys a lot of work and hopefully you gain from that. I'd like to think that we're improving but I'm not really worried about that right now as much as just going to day to day and keep the pedal to the metal."

Question: How have you seen the position that was manned by Stevie Brown last year; how is that looking?

Greg Robinson: "It's been interesting. I look at Floyd Simmons, who got a lot of work practicing, played a little in the games but Floyd was there all season for us. Thomas Gordon is new to that spot. Mike Williams, we moved him over there and there are some similarities of what he'd been done. He has an awareness. I think we are making progress there. When you're talking about young players who haven't played a lot in the ballgame itself you really do not know how they are going to handle an environment…we come out the first week against Connecticut and it looks different than what we showed them on summer film or whatever in training camp of what Connecticut was last year. When the new things happen are they adaptable. Mike Williams obviously has more experience that is something that time will tell. That's the thing you never know, it's the unknown with guys who have very little experience."

Question: Jordan Kovacs isn't in that mix at all?

Greg Robinson: "No, no, no. He is still basically playing the position that he played last year."

Question: With Williams, why does that position maybe suit him better?

Greg Robinson: "I think he can play physical. We just needed to put somebody who had played a little bit there. Jordan had played on the other side and so I think he'll be fine playing it. Mike is a physical guy. We'll see how the rest of that comes out."

Question: Cam Gordon, you have got him at free safety and has had most of the snaps with injuries; how is he progressing?

Greg Robinson: "When you say most of the snaps, he's getting…now we got a couple of guys banged up that we've even had to move Brandin Hawthrone there too, which he had played in high school some. Cam, it is a good move I think. I think it favors him. He's raw, but he's the kind of guy you like working with and there is some natural feel for the game back there that has been good to see. Knock on wood, you just want him to continue to improve. He instinctively shows that he has good feel and that's important at the safety position. He also has a defensive temperament, which we knew from the scout team last year that this was a tough guy and he's already shown that. We've been glad that we made that move that Cam come over to the defensive side of the ball."

Question: Do you feel a difference that the guys are trusting and more comfortable in your system and know what to expect in the second year?

Greg Robinson: "I suspect you should probably ask them that. It's easy for me to say, but I do not want to speak for them. I think our guys are absorbing fine. I think just as the offense keeps coming at us and keeps coming out with another wrinkle here and another wrinkle there, it is testing them, which is good. The right answer to that is that I do not know that I'm one to speak for them; I think you have to ask them."

Question: What about you having a second year working with a lot of the same guys; what benefits do you see?

Greg Robinson: "It's night and day different. I do not need my decoder ring any more. I always tell them that I did not wear my decoder ring today that I did not know we were in period three or that we meet at this…I didn't know. I needed somebody to guide me along. It's totally different in that regard. Working with the staff in talking our language this is the same, we're just comfortable more even than we were a year ago. I thought we worked very hard together to try to make the transition smooth. Knowing the players is a big difference, them knowing me. I think they know where I'm coming from and how to read me. I think all of that is no question…I benefit from it."

Question: What was the decision to promote Adam (Braithwaite) as opposed to hiring from outside?

Greg Robinson: "I suspect that is Rich's answer. He hired him. Yeah he asked me what I thought and he had me and a couple of other guys involved in talking to other people. Adam's good. Adam has been a defensive coordinator. Yeah it was a division III football program, but he's coordinated football before. He's worked for Rich away from here. He's worked for Rich here. He's knowledgeable. I think on the recruiting side of it, it is already apparent that he is not going to miss a beat in that area. He's had to recruit from the bottom up in the sense, he's been down there in division III football trying to find football players where you have to dig and scratch and do everything you can because he's been very diligent in that area. I think Rich was very comfortable with that as well knowing that it would be great when you add another really good recruiter. The coaching part of it, when I came in here it was interesting to me the confidence that the staff had in Adam as a guy that could do work for you and trust him with this and that. It proved out last year."

Question: You talked about feeling more comfortable yourself; are you seeing any of that in the sophomore quarterbacks that your defense is going against when you scrimmage?

Greg Robinson: "You think we're comfortable with them? It's a lot like last spring. Those guys are doing good. Come on. They are not experienced quarterbacks. They still have got their work in progress. I hate to be talking for them. I can tell you this. They're improving, I know that because they challenge us every day.'

Question: Talk about the cornerbacks a little bit, JT Floyd, Troy Woolfolk, Justin Turner behind them and how they're doing?

Greg Robinson: "Troy is comfortable at what he's doing. Up to this point in spring he has played very well. He plays like Troy. He works hard to make the pass coverage and he's not shy when it comes to making tackles. Behind him is James Rogers who moved over late last fall to the defensive side of the ball, so he's a work progress. But he can run, he's got length and he understands about being a receiver. We're trying to convert him. JT Floyd, I think JT was a redshirt freshman last year away from home. I see him more comfortable. I think the weight room has really helped him. He looks better. He looks thicker in his uniform. His movement is good and he acts much more like an experienced football player. Justin Turner is a work in progress. He's got a prototype frame and I just think that he is growing. I'm glad JT Floyd is acting like an experienced football player because I think that helps Justin."

Question: How much help do you think you'll get from guys like Renaldo Sagesse and Greg Banks; guys who weren't starters last year but did play?

Greg Robinson: "First of all I would rate those two guys right at the top of the list and you'd have to go to Mike Barwis to get the straight scoop on it. In my opinion, those two guys worked as hard as anybody in the offseason program. You see a difference with them. The thing I see out of Greg Banks that I had never seen since I've been here, even though he is a likeable young guy and his teammates really like him, but I see true leadership out of him. It is not just I'm a senior I'd better start talking now I think he means it from the bottom of his heart. He's been around here and he wants to be a part of something special and he knows that he has got one last try. That really jumped out at me, seeing him in that way and he looks comfortable doing it. It's not often but when he does everyone hears him I think."

Question: You've lost three guys who were three of your better guys on your defense last year that struggled; how do you maintain confidence, why should people be confident that this year the defense will be much improved?

Greg Robinson: "Well I do not know that the outside world needs to be confident. You might want to be, but you're not going to be confident until you see the group go out there and play well. I can sit here and say all this and say all that. I know what you're going to say, you're going to say just what you said; you lost three of your best players and how is it going to happen. Every year is different. There is experience in that group. There are a number of guys that are older. We have some young guys that were redshirts or that were redshirt freshman last year there is that enthusiasm that you can sometimes get from those kinds of guys that is difference than having the experience. As long as there is enough experience around that that's a good thing and I notice that. We have some guys that have a little bounce and they're having fun playing football. They're puppies and we're on them, but I see them coming along and I like…the atmosphere is good. That's all I can tell you that on our practice field, and I'm just talking about our football team and I know you're not asking me about that. I can tell you that there is a bounce at our team. They're hard at work. They understand the expectations and I do not see them cringing at all. I see them coach me coach, coach me. That's a good feeling. The relationships with the coaching staff and the players I think is very, very good. Those things go a ways in the development of a team or a defensive team specifically. You have to count on that. You have to count on that sometimes of these guys are going to get better. That's what we're trying to get done this spring."

Question: Did you not see that bounce, did you see guys cringe last year?

Greg Robinson: "I do not know that. I did not know them as well. I did not know them as well. I can speak specifically for the defense now. Stevie Brown was a heck of a guy. Brandon Graham, a great guy. I just did not know him. When I was here, my head was swimming just like some other new guys especially in the spring. I just know my comfort level. I do not know if we had the youth movement as much as I see right now. Maybe we had some other guys getting reps or whatever, but I see a lot of younger guys that I like what I'm feel from them."

Question: You talk about improvements; who in your eyes have improved the most from last spring when you saw them?

Greg Robinson: "We're only in practice eight and I'm trying to…we did not have Cam Gordon. We were moving Troy around. It was about practice eight that we said wow, we've got a problem here. We've got to get Troy here at safety. Troy looks very comfortable right now. He looks like an experienced football player there. Last spring, he was kind of doing this and then all of a sudden he's doing this and he was trying to absorb it. We lost a player and all of a sudden we have to get him back out on the edge. So I see him. I think Craig Roh; he did not have spring ball last year. He's in spring ball, he's come on. Obviously Ryan Van Bergen, Ryan's a good football player, we know that. You talk about Banks and Sagesse, I see guys who are more comfortable. They've got a little bit of swagger to them. Will Campbell, he is in his second spring. He knows what it is all about. He's different than he was last spring, oh yeah, oh yeah. He was still thinking about the prom. He's different now. They all got work ahead of them. I'm not trying to anoint anybody, but I see these guys are further along. Ezeh, and Demens, and Mouton, all those guys, Leach, they're more comfortable – they're just further along."

Question: How about your biggest concern is in the middle of the spring?

Greg Robinson: "My biggest concern is what I told you. I do not know…I think you got to play 18 or 19 players. I do not know that we really felt good playing 18 or 19 players last year, but we played them at times. Because to try and play at the tempo that we want to play, you've got to have that and that's what we're striving for right now. We got a lot of guys in there right now that are fighting for spots. We have how many new guys coming in, 15 or 16 new guys coming in, in the fall. So you do not know if you are going to get to count on that. It's not that easy."

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