With their last game being a loss and a big one at that, 62-39 to their biggest rival Ohio State, the defense is looking to make up for that mistake in their bowl game against Florida. Defensive coordinator Don Brown especially as he took full blame for the loss in Columbus.
Now that the focus is on Florida, Brown was asked how it felt to have the second-ranked defense in the country and what it could take to jump back to first. Michigan starting defensive end and captain Chase Winovich chimed in real quick to question the reporter.
“I thought we were first,” Winovich said.
Winovich is correct as Michigan is currently ranked first in total defense, allowing 262.5 yards per game, six yards less than the next best team at 268.
Brown took the bait anyway and answered the question with class.
“We have high expectations,” Brown said. “In ’16, we were first. In ’17, we were third. So, you know, it’s kind of a rite of passage when we’re in a room as a full defense, those expectations don’t change. The faces change, coaches, players. But we all just kind of take our turn representing Michigan the best way we know how and to the best of our ability. And at the end of the day, really, you’re just trying to win the next game. And then after the season, you look up at the end of it and see where you are, evaluate your statistics and how they fit in with where we’ve got to improve and so forth. But at the end of the day, each guy knows in that room that expectations are high and best effort has to be guaranteed.”
Safety and team captain Tyree Kinnel added more to what Brown had to say about the defense as a whole.
“Like he said, expectation,” Kinnel said. “It’s an exciting feeling for yourself, knowing that you’re one of the top defenses in the country. It also comes with hard work. It also comes with a team effort. Coach gives us a great game plan every week and the players got to go execute it as best they can. So it just draws down from practice during the week and executing, and then finalizing it on Saturday in the games. So it’s a great feeling to be one of the top defenses in the country.”
Brown went into detail on what he liked about Florida and what they have done since playing them last September.
“Well, they’re a really solid offensive football team,” Brown said. “They have two outstanding tailbacks. I think the line is vastly improved from a year ago. Tight end’s better. He’s a year older. There is familiarity with us and Florida obviously, so, you know, I think he’s done a great job of giving them an identity, you know. They run the ball extremely well, first and second down. They’ll keep you — usually, on third down, there’s a demarcation line. It’s usually around third and three, third and four, where he’ll mix run and pass all the way up to seven. So, you know, that’s a challenge for us, moving forward and making sure that we are making the proper calls so we can defend the run and defend the pass as you’re chasing the quarterback around on third down. So I think he’s done a great job of taking advantage of their strengths and the improvement of the quarterback, Franks, is marked. You know, he’s done a good job of taking him from Point A to Point B.”
Brown was asked to compare Florida to a team that they have played this season and Brown saw multiple teams inside the Florida team.
“Indiana, kind of a cross between Indiana — there’s some similarities with Ohio State in the run game because there’s some power elements, even out of the one-back set,” Brown said. They’ll play some multiple tight end looks, which very similar to Nebraska. So there’s some crossover. We see 10 or 11 spread offenses a year. Now, there’s spread offense with a toughness element. There’s spread offense with finesse elements. They have a toughness element out of their spread. So when you combine that with the ability to throw the football around, they do a good job with the screen game and getting the ball out for the quarterback. So there’s some definite crossover for us.”
Winovich was asked what he thinks he will be able to exploit in Saturday’s game and Winovich played around a little bit in his answer.
“Well, I’m obviously not going to reveal what we’re going to exploit in their protection,” Winovich said. “But I think more so, just focus on them. I think they definitely improved from the last time we played them, and they’re tough and they’re a big group of offensive linemen. I think, just like most teams are, some of these guys, you look at them and say holy cow, just, I don’t know, whatever. But yeah, so it’s like anybody. Just each individual person, going through this process of scouting, from the offense to defense, everybody has their kind of tendencies of how they like to set, how they disguise their passes. Does this team do max protection? Do they do a lot of play action? How do they create these opportunities? So that’s what it’s all about for me is just being able to decipher when it’s run and when it’s pass and the faster I get acclimated, because most of the time when you’re in a game, you can kind of feel it out towards the end.”
Kinnel is excited for Saturday’s matchup against the wide receivers that Florida has.
“They’re fast,” Kinnel said. “As an offense, as a whole, they seem like they play a lot tougher than they have in the past. So you know they’re going to bring their A-game and they’re going to play really hard. The receivers give us a challenge because you know they can line up in the backfield. They going to be inside, they going to be outside. They have a lot of options, a lot of deep threats, a lot of short threats. So it’s going to be exciting. I can’t wait. I can’t wait for Saturday.”
Viper Khaleke Hudson also gave credit to the Florida offense and expressed his excitement for Saturday’s game.
“Like Coach Brown said, they have great backs, they’re fresh, they’re powerful,” Hudson said. “They can do it all. They can catch out the backfield and, you know, it’s going to be a fun challenge for us to stop those guys. We’re going to come in, we’re going to do what we do, and we’re going to try to get the win. The tight end group, they’re a lot better than the last time we played them. They move like receivers, they play fast. They improved in blocking and fitting in with their scheme, it’s going to be a great game on Saturday. Can’t wait.”