Friday, January 11, 2008

Change is not always for the better

In reviewing the bios of the new Defensive Coaching staff, it struck me that change is not always for the better. Although the new staff seems competent enough, each position coach is less accomplished than their 2007 counterpart. Following is a brief look position-by-position:

Defensive Coordinator: Ron English (2007) vs. Scott Shafer (2008)

Ron English (39 years old) has been the dynamic Defensive Coordinator for the Wolverines for the past two seasons. He served as the secondary coach for Michigan for three years prior to taking over the defense in 2006. Coach English became the first coach in NCAA history to have two defensive backs earn consensus All-America honors in the same season, since the organization began incorporating both an offensive and defensive team in 1965, as cornerback Marlin Jackson and safety Ernest Shazor earned the recognition following the 2004 season. Coach English is a highly respected coach and he was hired by Louisville to serve as their Defensive Coordinator next season. Coach English is a fiery motivator who always got the best out of his Wolverine defenders during his five-year stint on the Michigan staff.

Scott Shafer (41 years old) was a first-year Defensive Coordinator for Stanford in 2007. Immediately prior to that, he had served as the Def. Coordinator at Western Michigan for two seasons (2005-2006). He also has served as the Def. Coordinator at Northern Illinois (2000-2003). Shafer seems like a rising star in the coaching ranks but he does not measure up to the superstar status already earned by Coach English. The hiring of Shafer may pass muster with the fans discombulated by the breadth of the regime change that has taken place but there is no way this hire would have been deemed acceptable during the Coach Carr-era. The Wolverines seem to be taking a chance on Shafer when they already had one of the best in the game in Ron English.

Secondary: Vance Bedford (2007) vs. Tony Gibson (2008)

Coach Bedford was Michigan's secondary coach during the National Championship season of 1997 and he rejoined the staff last year as the secondary coach after having served the previous two seasons (2005-2006) as the Defensive Coordinator at Oklahoma State. As a player, Bedford had been a four-year starter at cornerback at the University of Texas. Comparatively, his replacement, Tony Gibson, played football at Glenville State College. Gibson later went on to coach the defensive backs at WVU which he did from 2001-2007. Although Gibson played for Coach Rodriguez in college and has coached with him for many years, Gibson's "experience" pales in comparison to that of Bedford who, it should be noted, also coached the secondary for the Chicago Bears from 1999-2004.

Linebackers: Steve Szabo (2007) vs. Jay Hopson (2008)

Szabo was on the Michigan staff for two seasons and has coached football for 39 years. He joined the Wolverines in 2006 after having spent the previous twelve seasons coaching in the NFL. Szabo coached the linebackers for the New England Patriots in 2003 when they went all the way to the Super Bowl. On the other hand, Jay Hopson spent the past three seasons as the Defensive Coordinator and middle linebackers coach at Southern Mississippi. Hopson may be an up-and-comer (hopefully) but he has nothing on the veteran Szabo.

Defensive Line: Steve Stripling (2007) vs. Bruce Tall (2008)

Stripling was on the Michigan staff for three seasons and he coached in the Big Ten for 22 years. Immediately prior to his joining the Wolverines' staff, Stripling had coached the defensive line at MSU for two seasons. His 2008 counterpart, Bruce Tall, is another of Coach Rodriguez long-time buddies. Tall has spent the past five seasons as the Mountaineers spur and bandit safeties coach (2003-2007). Tall's "experience" is no match for Stripling's vast knowledge of the Big Ten trench warfare.

Change means things are different. It does not necessarily mean things will improve. Sometimes it means things will be worse.

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