Saturday, May 17, 2008

Def. Coordinator Scott Shafer: First year excellence?

Michigan has had only four (4) Head Football Coaches since 1969 (i.e., Bo, Gary Moeller, Lloyd Carr, and Rich Rodriguez). During that time, however, the Wolverines have had twice as many Defensive Coordinators. Nevertheless, outstanding defense has been a hallmark of Michigan teams during this era. The Wolverines' philosophy under the previous three head coaches is that defense wins championships. However, new Head Coach Rich Rodriguez is an offensive guru and does not have the defensive mind-set of the previous three regimes. Therefore, it will be especially important for Coach Rod's Defensive Coordinator Scott Shafer to take care of that side of the ball. Shafer is the first outside hire to be named DC at Michigan since Jim Young was named the DC in 1969 when he came with Bo from Miami (OH) University. The past six Michigan defensive coordinators had all been on staff as a position coach before being elevated to the post of defensive coordinator. One remarkable fact about the Michigan defensive coordinators is that most of them achieved incredible success in their inaugural season in the post. Following is a coach-by-coach look at the rookie season of the Michigan defensive coordinators since 1969 and the high standards they have set for new DC Scott Shafer:

  • Jim Young (Def. Coord.: 1969-1972)

Coach Young came with Bo from Miami (OH) University and inherited a Michigan team that had lost 50-14 to OSU the previous season. After an uneven start to the 1969 season, the defense kicked into high gear by week six. The Wolverines defense only yielded 22 points in 4 games heading into Ohio State week. The contest against the Buckeyes was going to be the big test for Coach Young's defense as Woody Hayes' Buckeyes were on a 22 game winning streak. As everyone knows, the Wolverine defense held the #1 ranked Buckeyes to a mere 12 points and Michigan won the game and went to the Rose Bowl. Bo had a heart attack on the eve of the Rose Bowl game and it was Coach Young who took over the head coaching duties during the 10-3 loss to USC.

Coach Moeller also came over with Bo from Miami (OH) University in 1969. Coach Moeller handled the defensive ends from 1969-1972 and was promoted to Defensive Coordinator when Coach Young left the staff to take the head coaching position at the University of Arizona. Coach Moeller's inaugural season of DC in 1973 was a huge success. The "D" of the 1973 team yielded only 17 points in the season's first two games and then it played three (3) consecutive shutouts (against Navy, Oregon, and Michigan State). This defensive unit only allowed three of their 11 regular season opponents to score in double-digits and a mere 13 points was the most points it yielded in a game. The 1973 team finished the season 10-0-1 mainly on the strength of the performance of the defensive unit. This defense was led by two All-Americans: defensive tackle Dave Gallagher and defensive back David Brown.

  • Bill McCartney (Def. Coordinator: 1977-1981)

Coach McCartney (a Riverview Community High School grad) was merely 36-years old when he took over as the DC in 1977 when Coach Moeller left the staff to become the Head Coach at the University of Illinois. Coach McCartney had been on the Michigan staff for the previous three seasons (1974-1976) as the Defensive End coach. Coach McCartney's 1977 defense held 8 of 11 regular season opponents to single-digits as Michigan amassed a 10-1 regular season record and won the Big Ten title to advance to the Rose Bowl.

Coach Carr (a Riverview Community High School grad) became the DC when Coach Moeller ended his second stint as Defensive Coordinator (1982-1986) to become the Offensive Coordinator (1987-1989). Coach Carr had been on staff since 1980 as the secondary coach. Coach Carr's 1987 defense managed consecutive shutouts (Long Beach State & Wisconsin) in weeks 3 & 4 but it was a long season as the Wolverines labored to a 8-4 record and a 4th place finish in the Big Ten. The saving grace for the season was that the Wolverines were able to pull out a 28-24 win over Alabama in the Hall of Fame Bowl. The defense was led by All-American DT Mark Messner.

Coach Mattison took over the duties as DC when Coach Carr became interim Head Coach in 1995 as Head Coach Moeller suddenly resigned his position. Coach Mattison had been on the Michigan staff as the defensive line coach from 1992-1994. In 1995 under DC Mattison, Michigan ranked 11th in the nation in total defense (286.3 ypg) and 3rd in rushing defense (90.1 ypg).

Coach Herrmann took over as DC two weeks prior to the January 1, 1996 Outback Bowl. Although the Wolverines lost a close game, Coach Herrmann's defense led Michgan to an undefeated season and a National Championship the following season. For his efforts, Coach Herrmann was named the Frank Broyles Award winner given to the top assistant football coach in the nation. The defense was led by, of course, Heisman trophy winner Charles Woodson and All-American defensive tackle Glen Steele. The '97 "D" always came up big at the big moments. Through the first eight (8) games of the season, the "D" did not allow any second-half touchdowns or any 4th quarter points to be scored by its opponents. In fact, the Wolverines defense finished the regular season ranked #1 in the nation in scoring defense having allowed only an average of 8.9 pts./game. The "D" also finished the regular season ranked #1 in the NCAA both in Total Defense and Pass Efficiency Defense.

Coach "E" was the secondary coach from 2003-2005 when Head Coach Carr tapped him to replace outgoing DC Jim Herrmann as the new defensive coordinator. Coach "E" brought an exciting and aggressive style of play to the field and the 2006 Wolverines won the first eleven (11) games of his tenure and were ranked #2 in the nation as a team largely because of the play of the defense. DC English's 2006 defense finished the year ranked #1 in the nation in rushing defense (43.4 ypg), #10 in total defense (268.3 ypg) and #15 in scoring defense (15.9 ppg). In recognition of his efforts, Coach English was named by as the 2006 National Defensive Coordinator of the Year.

New Defensive Coordinator Scott Shafer has quite a tradition of first year excellence to follow. I hope Donovan Warren and the rest of the defense is up to the task. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Def. Coordinator Scott Shafer (center) giving instructions to his charges during Spring Practice by JOHN T. GREILICK/The Detroit News

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