Michigan‚Äôs 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: ‚ÄúThey‚Äôre ready to go ‚Ä¶ yeah.‚ÄĚ
VIEWS: Slow the roll on the ‚Äúgreat news!‚ÄĚ replies. Nua told us this fall he wasn‚Äôt 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 they‚Äôll likely need him much more in two weeks against Wisconsin.
Jeter, though, should return, and his presence would be a welcome one. He‚Äôs 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.
‚ÄúFor someone that really didn‚Äôt play a lot of defensive line, Ben did a great job of just hanging in there. Special teams, three technique ‚Ä¶ 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 didn‚Äôt get more run.
‚ÄúSame as everybody else ‚Ä¶ keep attacking, stay on your feet and make plays at practice,‚ÄĚ Nua said when asked what Smith needed to do to see the field. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs done a great job. Scout team, up with us ‚Ä¶ not just Mazi, but everybody on the defensive line is doing a great job accepting their roles each and every day.‚ÄĚ
They‚Äôll continue to ease Smith and fellow frosh Chris Hinton in as the season progresses.
NEWS: Army‚Äôs triple option offense is something Nua is familiar with, having coached at Navy for four years.
NUA: ‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ It‚Äôs a unique offense. It‚Äôs something we don‚Äôt see every day. It‚Äôs such a spread offensive world now that when you see the triple option, it‚Äôs just different. Other than that, it is still football. You‚Äôve still got to have 11 guys to do their assignment and get to the football as hard as they can.‚ÄĚ
VIEWS: That was something Nua was pleased with from his group in the opener, noting the line graded out ‚Äúpretty well.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúI thought they did a great job of running to the ball,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúFor 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.
‚ÄúI wished we‚Äôd 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.‚ÄĚ
This is a different challenge, of course. They have to keep their feet against linemen diving for cut blocks and get penetration up front ‚Ä¶ on the edges it‚Äôs all about assignment football and again, keeping their feet.
‚ÄúShoot, all the coaches here on the defensive staff have seen the triple option many times, especially coach [Don] Brown,‚ÄĚ Nua said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs good to put all of our brains together and help each other out.‚ÄĚ
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 what‚Äôs coming.
‚ÄúThey went for it on fourth and one on their own 25 against Rice,‚ÄĚ Nua noted. ‚ÄúWe all know, this offense they want three yards. Three yards is a win to them. First down is a huge win to them, so there‚Äôs no secret to it. They know it; we know it. We‚Äôve just got to get them off the field as fast as we can and get ball to the offense.‚ÄĚ
NEWS: Michigan had four defensive ends on the field at the same time in its ‚ÄėNascar‚Äô package Saturday, something we could see more of in the future.
NUA: ‚ÄúWhenever coach Brown calls it, we‚Äôre ready to go. It‚Äôs situations. Obviously out there they‚Äôre fast, so third and long situations ‚Ä¶ but again, you never know. Don Brown likes to call it wherever. We‚Äôve just got to be ready.
VIEWS: It‚Äôs not something they‚Äôd call on first down at Wisconsin, for example. But on third and long against a passing team etc. ‚Ä¶ interior pass rush has been a point of emphasis, and that‚Äôs one unique way to improve it.
‚ÄúWhen you realize you‚Äôve got guys that can run and you want all of them on the field, that‚Äôs when you‚Äôre like, ‚Äėwe‚Äôve got to get them on the field,‚Äô‚ÄĚ Nua said. ‚ÄúSo coach Brown does a great job making sure we identify good players, their strengths, design packages to get them on the field.‚ÄĚ
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.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs a stud ‚Ä¶ he‚Äôs done a great job of having a positive attitude and just working,‚ÄĚ Nua said. ‚ÄúThat dude is a worker.‚ÄĚ
It wouldn‚Äôt shock, either, to see more of sophomore defensive end Aidan Hutchinson on the interior in regular situations. He‚Äôs tough enough to engage bigger linemen and make a difference, even if it isn‚Äôt ideal. He‚Äôs go good at anchor and was one of the defensive standouts in his first start.
‚ÄúAidan is a beast,‚ÄĚ Nua said. ‚ÄúHe can play wherever we ask him to play, and he‚Äôs ready to.‚ÄĚ