Checking in with ... Michigan's Scott Shafer, Part II
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Here's the second half of my interview with Michigan's new defensive coordinator Scott Shafer.
How would you describe your philosophy on defense, and how have the guys responded to that so far? Did it come right away or was it a while?
SS: The biggest thing we've focused on is controlling the controllables. As much as schemes are important, what's more important is the way we approach a daily practice, a daily meeting, a daily lifestyle. We always talk about controlling your attitude, controlling your effort and controlling your enthusiasm. Regardless of your ability level, those three things, those three core values within the framework of our characteristics as a football player are the things we really push hard on. At times, early on they looked at us cross-eyed because we were asking a lot of 'em. They'd do something they thought was pretty good and we'd be taking the approach that it's not as good as it can be. So really, more than anything, [we're] focused on controlling the things they can on a daily basis and understanding that we're looking for them to play the best football of their careers here. The only way to get to that point is to have your coaches push you and as an athlete, relish those opportunities that coaches throw out in front of you, to be pushed harder than you ever have.
When did you see guys responding to those expectations from you and the other coaches, or is it still to come?
SS: There were glimpses of that, that you'd look at each other as a staff and say, 'OK, that was pretty good.' And then there's other times. They say conditioning can make a coward out of anyone, and there are times where you can see that come out. But the good thing is they kept coming back day after day, wanting to be better, wanting to become a better player. They're ready for us to start coaching them the way we finished up spring. I feel like there's a real positive air about the kids that's exciting for us as coaches.
As far as the linebackers, are there some young guys in the mix there? Will there be a lot of competition there or do you feel somewhat set?
SS: If you look across the board, we have two seniors, John Thompson and Austin Panter are two kids we have high expectations for, but they're going to be competing against guys. Obi Ezeh is ready to fight for the starting Mike [middle linebacker] job with John Thompson. Marell Evans and Jonas Mouton are two kids, they're going to be battling as well for that outside linebacker [spot]. Those are the five kids that know going into it, they're going to have to fight for playing time, five for three positions. And they're going to have to learn two positions at times. There's a lot of similarity in the positions, so that's not going to be a real concern. Going into it, those are the five guys we're focused in on.
And with the secondary, I'm sure you're excited about the two cornerbacks [Morgan Trent and Donovan Warren]. Is safety a little bit less of a certainty?
SS: I think we can have a good secondary, I really do. Stevie Brown, he's a real underrated player and he's really bought into the defensive package and likes what we do. Brandon Harrison, he had a little shoulder surgery and he's fine, he's stronger than he's ever been. I'm excited to see him on the field. Charles Stewart's a senior and he's had a great summer. He just looks good. I walked by him the other day. It's his senior year, and there's something to be said for the seniors. With Harrison and Stewart, you have two guys that are in their last go-round and I think that those two kids are really looking forward to showing up. The opportunity that's in front of them hasn't been there, as far as fighting for a starting position. And then at the corners, Donovan Warren and Morgan Trent can be good corners in this conference. And then Troy Woolfolk is a guy that had some real good interceptions in the spring, especially the second half of the spring. Things started to really click for him. And then we'll see what the young kids do.
I know you guys are focused on yourselves, but in terms of being ready to go by Aug. 30, is there almost a greater sense of urgency there just because the offense will be making such a big adjustment?
SS: I know it sounds cliché, but if I were to focus on anything other than ourselves, I wouldn't be practicing what I'm preaching to the kids. The focus as a coaching staff, starting with me on the defensive side, is the same as the kids - control the controllables. Put together a great practice plan, put them in good situations that give them a chance to learn as well as they've ever learned and get as much in as we can before Utah. That will be the approach that we take every day here.