Big Ten: Tony Gibson

Big Ten lunch links

August, 24, 2010
8/24/10
12:00
PM ET
A lot of people won't be happy if the Big Ten moves The Game.

The game is the game because they don't play twice a year. You get one crack and that's it. It can make or break the season. Careers, both playing and coaching, are defined by it because the lack of a rematch raises the stakes. The single game increases the urgency of the present. Then the location on hallowed grounds -- either the glorious Horseshoe or the brilliant Big House, not some corporate event at Lucas Oil Stadium -- adds the perspective of the past. As such, the nature of the rivalry should be protected at all costs.

Opening camp: Michigan

August, 9, 2010
8/09/10
5:30
PM ET
Schedule: Rich Rodriguez and the Wolverines are on the field right now in Ann Arbor for their first preseason practice.

What's new: After losing linebackers coach Jay Hopson to Memphis, Rodriguez promoted Adam Braithwaite to safeties and outside linebackers coach. He also added special teams to the plate of secondary coach Tony Gibson, who will continue to work with free safeties and cornerbacks. Defensive coordinator Greg Robinson will work with the linebackers. There was a lot of talk this spring about the 3-3-5 defensive alignment, as Michigan must replace standouts Brandon Graham and Donovan Warren.

Sidelined: Defensive lineman Will Heininger (knee) is the only player out because of injury, and he might not play this season. Running back Vincent Smith is expected to be 100 percent for camp after undergoing offseason knee surgery. Running back Mike Shaw appears on the team's 2010 roster, although he had some eligibility issues to clear up with summer school.

Key battle: You might have heard, but Michigan's quarterback spot is undecided and Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson resume the competition today. The Wolverines also need to identify a featured running back or two, and Smith, Shaw, Michael Cox and Fitzgerald Toussaint are in the mix. Kenny Demens will push Obi Ezeh at middle linebacker, and J.T. Floyd looks to cement himself as a starting cornerback opposite Troy Woolfolk. Both kick specialist jobs also are up for grabs.

New on the scene: Michigan still needs its freshmen to play, especially on defense. Look out for defensive back Cullen Christian, defensive lineman Richard Ash and linebacker Marvin Robinson, among others. In a perfect world, Michigan could redshirt quarterback Devin Gardner, but if he's the best option, Rodriguez won't hesitate to play the freshman.

Back in the fold: Center David Molk was Michigan's best offensive lineman before knee problems cut short his 2009 season. After a strong offseason, Molk will boost a line that has enough talent and depth to be the team's biggest strength this fall. Receiver Junior Hemingway, who had a strong start last fall before being sidelined by mononucleosis, also returns to the mix.

Breaking out: If Denard Robinson builds on his spring performance, he could be the difference maker for Michigan's offense this fall. Receiver Roy Roundtree could be on the verge of bigger things after leading the team in receptions (32), receiving yards (434) and receiving touchdowns (3) last year. Hopes are high for defensive end/linebacker Craig Roh, who recorded 7.5 tackles for loss as a true freshman in 2009. Safety Cam Gordon was the star of spring practice and could be poised for a big year.

Quotable: "There's a lot of hungry football players up in Ann Arbor, and I think they're as excited as I am to get going. We have some questions, certainly, on both sides of the ball." -- head coach Rich Rodriguez
The Big Ten was the only major conference to avoid head-coaching changes this offseason, but the league certainly had its share of staff shuffling with assistants coming and going. Indiana's hiring of Mo Moriarity as offensive line coach on Monday marked one of the last turns on this year's Big Ten coaching carousel. Wisconsin still needs to hire a defensive assistant, but things are just about wrapped up.

Barring any late coaching changes, here's a look at who's gone, who's back and who's in new roles.

ILLINOIS

Offensive coordinator


  • Who's out: Mike Schultz (fired)
  • Who's in: Paul Petrino (previously offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach at Arkansas)
Defensive coordinator

  • Who's out: Dan Disch and Curt Mallory both were demoted to position coaches. Disch is staying on staff as linebackers coach.
  • Who's in: Vic Koenning (previously co-defensive coordinator at Kansas State)
Quarterbacks coach

  • Who's out: Kurt Beathard (fired)
  • Who's in: Jeff Brohm (previously quarterbacks coach at Florida Atlantic)
Tight ends coach

  • Who's out: Jim Pry (fired)
  • Who's in: Greg Nord (previously running backs coach/recruiting coordinator at Louisville)
Running backs coach

  • Who's out: Reggie Mitchell (left to become running backs coach/recruiting coordinator at Kansas)
  • Who's in: DeAndre Smith (previously running backs coach at UNLV)
Other moves

  • Mallory left his position as secondary coach to become defensive coordinator at Akron.
  • Special-teams coordinator Mike Woodford was fired along with Schultz, Beathard and Pry.
  • Ron West was hired as a defensive assistant. His official responsibilities have not been announced.
INDIANA

Offensive line coach

  • Who's out: Bobby Johnson (left to become assistant offensive line coach with the Buffalo Bills)
  • Who's in: Myron "Mo" Moriarity (previously served as head coach at Carmel (Ind.) High School
IOWA

No staff changes, but recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson was named tight ends coach. Wide receivers coach Erik Campbell previously had worked with the tight ends, while Johnson had helped Darrell Wilson with the linebackers.

MICHIGAN

Linebackers coach

  • Who's out: Jay Hopson (left to become defensive coordinator at Memphis)
  • Who's in: Quality control assistant Adam Braithwaite was promoted to outside linebackers/strong safeties coach. Defensive coordinator Greg Robinson will take a more active role with the linebackers in 2010.
Other moves

  • Secondary coach Tony Gibson will continue to work with cornerbacks and free safeties, and also serve as special-teams coordinator.
MICHIGAN STATE

Running backs coach

  • Who's out: Dan Enos (left to become head coach at Central Michigan)
  • Who's in: Brad Salem (previously served as head coach at Augustana College)
MINNESOTA

Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach

  • Who's out: Jedd Fisch (left to become quarterbacks coach with the Seattle Seahawks)
  • Who's in: Jeff Horton (previously served as quarterbacks coach with the Detroit Lions)
Wide receivers coach

  • Who's out: Richard Hightower (left to become assistant special-teams coach for the Washington Redskins)
  • Who's in: Steve Watson (previously served as associate head coach with the Denver Broncos in 2008)
Other moves

  • Running backs coach Thomas Hammock was named co-offensive coordinator
NORTHWESTERN

No coaching changes

OHIO STATE

No coaching changes

PENN STATE

No coaching changes

PURDUE

Defensive line coach

  • Who's out: Terrell Williams (left to become defensive line coach at Texas A&M)
  • Who's in: Gary Emanuel (previously served as defensive line coach at Rutgers). Emanuel also was named co-defensive coordinator with a focus on run defense.
WISCONSIN

Defensive backs coach

  • Who's out: Kerry Cooks (left to become outside linebackers coach at Notre Dame)
  • Who's in: Chris Ash (previously served as defensive backs coach/recruiting coordinator at Iowa State)
Other moves

  • Randall McCray, who served as Wisconsin's recruiting coordinator and assistant secondary coach, left to become defensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee. Wisconsin has yet to fill the vacancy.

Big Ten lunch links

February, 26, 2010
2/26/10
12:00
PM ET
I'm chatting at 1 p.m. ET, so join me before it's too late!
Michigan has filled its coaching-staff vacancy by promoting from within.

Head coach Rich Rodriguez on Thursday named Adam Braithwaite as the team's new outside linebackers/safeties coach. Braithwaite, a defensive quality control assistant for the last two years at U-M, fills the vacancy left by Jay Hopson, who left in December to become Memphis' new defensive coordinator.

Hopson had coached Michigan's linebackers, a group that now will be overseen by defensive coordinator Greg Robinson. Braithwaite will assist Robinson with the outside linebackers and handle the strong safeties. Assistant head coach Tony Gibson will coach cornerbacks and free safeties, and serve as special teams coordinator. Gibson previously had coached the entire secondary.

"We are excited to promote Adam to be our safeties/outside linebackers coach," said Rodriguez. "He has been a loyal hard-working member of our staff for several years and knows our system. I believe he will bring a lot of energy both in coaching and recruiting."



The division of responsibilities among the defensive assistants is interesting, but Braithwaite, Robinson and Gibson will have to work well together to improve a group that really struggled in 2009. Braithwaite played at William & Mary and worked as a graduate assistant for Rodriguez at West Virginia before becoming defensive coordinator at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia.

Rodriguez interviewed former Marshall head coach Mark Snyder and a few other bigger names for this vacancy. Braithwaite should transition well given his familiarity with the Wolverines personnel.

Spring Q&A: Michigan's Greg Robinson

February, 25, 2009
2/25/09
11:34
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

This is the first installment of a weekly interview series with a Big Ten coach or player that will appear on the blog from now until the end of spring practice.

First up is Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, who joined Rich Rodriguez's staff last month after four seasons as Syracuse's head coach. Robinson has previously served as defensive coordinator for three NFL teams as well as Texas in 2004. He takes over a Michigan defense that ranked 10th in the Big Ten in points allowed (28.9 ppg) and ninth in yards allowed (366.9).

 
  AP Photo/Al Behrman
  Former Syracuse head coach Greg Robinson is looking forward to the new challenges as defensive coordinator for Michigan.
I caught up with Robinson this morning between house-hunting trips in Ann Arbor. 

This is probably a good time to be in the housing market, right?

Greg Robinson: It is. The problem with that is I've got one to sell in Syracuse [laughs]. We're trying to get it all solved.

How has it been transitioning back to a coordinator spot after being a head coach and overseeing an entire program?

GR: It's less to do, but at the same time, you're diving back in full throttle, which has been great. I'm back doing what I know pretty well. 

You were pretty honest after things ended at Syracuse about how the journey for you there wasn't finished, there were still things you wanted to do. Has it been helpful to get back into it, getting ready for spring practice and another season, or is it still a transition?

GR: No, I'm glad that I'm here and I'm glad I was able to do it quickly. I needed to move away from what I was doing. That was frustrating for me at the end because I felt like we were beginning to show what we could be down the road. I knew what was coming back. The core of the team was coming back, and really, the guys who were the biggest players on the team were younger players. 

But getting away from it and getting back in has been very helpful. Being here is exciting, and it's really where my thoughts are now. I work hard to maintain that, but it's moving forward. I can't sit there and dwell on what could have or should have been.

What has your schedule been like the last few weeks as far as meetings?

GR: Most of the time has been spent with the assistants, just kind of pecking away and getting on the same page with things. But also, just getting to know the players, that's the biggest thing. I've had a chance to study some of their film, I've had a chance to visit with 'em and talk with different guys. All that is very important, just establishing relationships, really. I don't know if I've met with every guy, but I've touched base with just about everybody. 

As far as studying the film, anything stand out to you?

GR: I'm just trying to formulate some opinions as far as athletic ability. I'm not worried so much about scheme and those kinds of things as trying to see how people would fit in what we're doing and what we're attempting to do. That's really what it is, trying to get a feel as best you can of what the talent level is and how you can utilize different people. 

You talked last month about not getting too wrapped up in 3-4, 4-3, alignment stuff. Is there a time where you'll start formulate that, or are you going to wait to see how guys look in the spring? 

GR: No, we'll have a plan going into spring ball. You don't just go out there and play. We'll have the ability to be a four-man front and the ability to be a three-man front. I've done that, really, since I was at the New York Jets to the Denver Broncos to the Kansas City Chiefs to [University of Texas] and at Syracuse, where we have had some hybrid-type players who can play defensive end or linebacker. We'll continue to do those types of things. Then, as you get to working with people, you realize some strengths that maybe were unnoticed that you could take advantage of, and then you work hard to work those kinds of things into the scheme. 

Who are the guys you've identified to be the hybrid-type players?

GR: I'm not going to get into all those names right now. We haven't been on the practice field yet. We have some people there, but before I make a commitment of who's what, I want to see them. I don't know if I can get into the personnel stuff. 

You mentioned talking a lot with the other defensive assistants. As a guy who didn't hire any of those guys, how has that process been with a new staff?

GR: I've been very pleased and I feel very comfortable with the group that we're working with. Bruce Tall, the defensive line coach, and Tony Gibson, the secondary coach, those guys have worked together a number of years. Jay Hopson is a guy that's been around their program. I'm very fortunate to have a group of guys who really know football. I like their foundation of fundamentals as well as understanding schematics and things like that. Our graduate assistant group is a good group to work with. Really, I've been very comfortable and I look forward to getting out on the practice field. 

As far as Rich, how have those discussions gone and where are you two in terms of philosophy?

GR: We spent a lot of time talking about those things early, when I came in. I have a good feel for the things he believes in as a defensive football team. I don't think we're very far off in anything philosophically. I can adapt to anything that he has interest in. Philosophically, we're on the same page. The things that are really important to him, I feel very comfortable that I can satisfy those kinds of things. It comes down to effort, philosophical-type things.

As we've talked, I know that there's nothing that's a red flag where I say, 'This is something very different in the thinking.' I just go about my business. 

Has it been similar to working with other head coaches? 

GR: I haven't been on a practice field [with Rodriguez] yet, but I've been very fortunate. I worked for Mack Brown, I worked for Dick Vermeil, I worked for Mike Shanahan, I worked for Pete [Carroll], I worked for Terry Donahue. No one was exactly the same as the other. Worked for Monte Kiffin. Rich has his way, but I know this: he's a good football coach. And I don't mean just as an offensive football coach. I like his style as a head football coach. Just being around him here, the things I was expecting to see from him, I'm seeing first hand. 

Every relationship is a little different, but I look forward to developing our relationship as time goes on here. 

When you looked at your options after Syracuse, was he the biggest reason that drew you to this job? Or
was it just Michigan and the tradition and being in the Big Ten?

GR: It's really all of the above. I had avenues that I could have really looked into that didn't necessarily appeal to me that might have been very appealing to other people. I could have gone the way of the NFL, I could have stayed in college. But I saw this opportunity was here and I weighed it. I've competed against Michigan, from way back in the 80s to obviously the [2005] Rose Bowl a few years back. I know what this program is all about. I know the history and the tradition of the program.

On top of that, it was Rich Rodriguez coaching here. I respect Rich, and on top of that, I like him. I thought, 'I'm going to contact him because I think that this is a good situation that I think I can do well in. It can be a wonderful situation for my wife and I, because it's a great program with a fine football coach.'

You mentioned last month about building the attitude on defense. Are there things you do early in spring practice to form it? What needs to go into it?

GR: I would never imply that I'm trying to make something different than what things were. I'm just going to coach defense the way I know how to coach defense. I know this: This defense will not be outhustled. We will fly around, we will hit, we will play together as a group. You'll sense an enthusiasm about them that they really enjoy playing together. As we get to know the athletes that we like, their talents, we'll be a very tough defense to deal with.

I know you don't want to get too much into personnel, but overall it's still a very young team at Michigan. You lose some guys on the defensive line. As far as working with young guys, what are the pros and cons being a new coordinator to the program?

GR: I just think in all cases, be it the secondary, the linebackers and the D-line, you have to walk before you can run. We have to establish a fundamental foundation. That's paramount. And I take great pride in going back to my days at UCLA and Louisville. I was coached by Jim Colletto as a position coach, who was at UCLA from way back with Red Sanders and Tommy Prothro. It was always about fundamentals. Jim was a great coach of fundamentals, and I was raised that way.

I spent eight years in that UCLA program, and I really believe that's a foundation in anywhere I've ever been that we have to be fundamentally sound in the way that we play the game and how we function. The fundamentals are really important. We have to emphasize those this spring. At the same time, you want to give them some tools to use as far as schematics are concerned, where you can tax the offense.

We want to put the offense on their heels, but you've got to be careful because when you have young players, they can only absorb so much at a time. That's something you have to have a feel for and see where you're at and keep stepping back as a staff and evaluating where are we at this time and go from there.

Does this situation remind you of other ones you've been in before in terms of coming in to a team that struggled the year before and wants to get back to what it's known for doing?

GR: My last experience before Syracuse was at Texas, and that's exactly what the situation was. At Texas, they had kind of grown stale and year before I got there, they struggled on [defense]. In Kansas City, I was walking into a situation that was similar to that as well. In Denver, they were the worst defense in the league when I went in there, and in two years, we were the No. 1 defense in the AFC.

They're all different, but I do think that this one is a situation where it just didn't click. That's really paramount for us as a staff defensively to get on the same page and get rolling.  

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