Michiganâs second game of the season is a tricky one. The Wolverines will face an Army team that runs triple option and shortens the game, putting a premium on defense and taking advantage of possession.
Defensive line play will be big in this game. Line coach Shaun Nua talked about the challenge and more.
NEWS: Redshirt sophomore Donovan Jeter and redshirt junior Michael Dwumfour missed all but one play between them in the opener with Middle Tennessee State due to injury.
NUA: âTheyâre ready to go âŠ yeah.â
VIEWS: Slow the roll on the âgreat news!â replies. Nua told us this fall he wasnât going to spill anything about injuries, and he was smiling when he said it. In reality, it would be a surprise if Dwumfour played Saturday. He seemed to reinjure an arm that was in a cast while trying to finish a sack on his first play, and theyâll likely need him much more in two weeks against Wisconsin.
Jeter, though, should return, and his presence would be a welcome one. Heâs one of the bigger, stronger bodies at 290 pounds and was one of the most improved players on the team in the spring and fall. They need him to step up and get some playing time before traveling to Madison.
Junior Ben Mason played much more in the first game than we thought he would, though he did okay.
âFor someone that really didnât play a lot of defensive line, Ben did a great job of just hanging in there. Special teams, three technique âŠ he just did a really good job in there,” Nua said.
But at 270 pounds, he would be pushed around against the Badgers. They need other guys back up to full strength soon. Given the injuries, it was also somewhat surprising freshman Mazi Smith didnât get more run.
âSame as everybody else âŠ keep attacking, stay on your feet and make plays at practice,â Nua said when asked what Smith needed to do to see the field. âHeâs done a great job. Scout team, up with us âŠ not just Mazi, but everybody on the defensive line is doing a great job accepting their roles each and every day.â
Theyâll continue to ease Smith and fellow frosh Chris Hinton in as the season progresses.
NEWS: Armyâs triple option offense is something Nua is familiar with, having coached at Navy for four years.
NUA: âŠâ Itâs a unique offense. Itâs something we donât see every day. Itâs such a spread offensive world now that when you see the triple option, itâs just different. Other than that, it is still football. Youâve still got to have 11 guys to do their assignment and get to the football as hard as they can.â
VIEWS: That was something Nua was pleased with from his group in the opener, noting the line graded out âpretty well.â
âI thought they did a great job of running to the ball,â he said. âFor such a perimeter game, they did a great job of getting upfield and trying to get pressure on the quarterback, and when the ball would come out turn and run.
âI wished weâd batted some balls down for such a quick throwing quarterback, but I thought they did a great job of coming ready to run to the ball.â
This is a different challenge, of course. They have to keep their feet against linemen diving for cut blocks and get penetration up front âŠ on the edges itâs all about assignment football and again, keeping their feet.
âShoot, all the coaches here on the defensive staff have seen the triple option many times, especially coach [Don] Brown,â Nua said. âItâs good to put all of our brains together and help each other out.â
Air Force managed only 168 yards on 49 carries with its option attack two years ago. Brown spent plenty of time then and did again this offseason to prepare knowing whatâs coming.
âThey went for it on fourth and one on their own 25 against Rice,â Nua noted. âWe all know, this offense they want three yards. Three yards is a win to them. First down is a huge win to them, so thereâs no secret to it. They know it; we know it. Weâve just got to get them off the field as fast as we can and get ball to the offense.â
NEWS: Michigan had four defensive ends on the field at the same time in its âNascarâ package Saturday, something we could see more of in the future.
NUA: âWhenever coach Brown calls it, weâre ready to go. Itâs situations. Obviously out there theyâre fast, so third and long situations âŠ but again, you never know. Don Brown likes to call it wherever. Weâve just got to be ready.
VIEWS: Itâs not something theyâd call on first down at Wisconsin, for example. But on third and long against a passing team etc. âŠ interior pass rush has been a point of emphasis, and thatâs one unique way to improve it.
âWhen you realize youâve got guys that can run and you want all of them on the field, thatâs when youâre like, âweâve got to get them on the field,ââ Nua said. âSo coach Brown does a great job making sure we identify good players, their strengths, design packages to get them on the field.â
VIEWS: We like it, especially with the emergence of defensive end Mike Danna as a 262-pound grad transfer end who looked disruptive in the opener.
âHeâs a stud âŠ heâs done a great job of having a positive attitude and just working,â Nua said. âThat dude is a worker.â
It wouldnât shock, either, to see more of sophomore defensive end Aidan Hutchinson on the interior in regular situations. Heâs tough enough to engage bigger linemen and make a difference, even if it isnât ideal. Heâs go good at anchor and was one of the defensive standouts in his first start.
âAidan is a beast,â Nua said. âHe can play wherever we ask him to play, and heâs ready to.â