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Michigan 'D' plans on dealing FSU dose of 'senioritis'

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.  — Florida State co-coordinators Randy Sanders and Lawrence Dawsey are extremely familiar with Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown’s work.

They faced his Boston College defenses in conference play before he was hired to coordinate Michigan’s defense this season. They see his hands on every bit of Michigan’s defense, and while it looks familiar, it’s also awfully good.

Michigan’s defense is ranked No. 2 nationally, yielding an average 252.7 yards a game, is second in scoring defense (12.5 points), first in pass defense (135.9) and 13th against the run (116.8). Michigan plays Florida State in the Orange Bowl on Friday night.

“It’s ridiculous what they’ve accomplished,” Sanders said Wednesday of the Wolverines’ defense. “(This is) probably one of the better (defenses) I’ve faced in my 28, 29 I don’t even know how many years I’ve been coaching.

“But to play a team like this with 10 seniors starting on defense and the only junior is Jabrill Peppers, that’s pretty unusual. In the late '80s, early '90s, you might play a team that had 10 seniors, but I can’t remember the last time we played a defense with 10 seniors starting.”

Sanders said the biggest difference between Brown’s defense at Michigan versus Boston College is the secondary.

“They play a little more man-to-man than what they did at Boston College, but there was still a lot man-of-man at Boston College,” Sanders said. “He’s probably doing what he really wants to do, but he has the players to be able to do it with now.”

Dawsey said the biggest difference is Michigan’s experience.

“The personnel is real special,” Dawsey said. “They’ve got real special personnel. The whole defense is really good. You look at the front, the linebackers, we spent more time watching the secondary, but they've got NFL guys. No doubt about it. They've got guys that will be playing on Sunday if they stay healthy. If you look at (Jourdan) Lewis, you've got Peppers right there, and these guys get up in your face. They're playing man-to-man. It's not like giving them a chance to get free releases on the zone and just reading the zone. You've got to be able to mix it up with their guys because this is going to be a physical football game.”

UM players can't shake questions about Peppers

Conversely, because Brown has faced Florida State, the Michigan defensive players feel they’ve had an advantage in game preparations.

“We've watched a lot of Boston College tape, just similar fronts, similar schemes,” Michigan senior nose tackle Ryan Glasgow said. “Yeah, (Brown) talks about it. He talks about defending Florida State in the past. He realizes that it's kind of a different offense than last year, different dynamic, different quarterback, some new offensive linemen, so we're preparing for it as if it's like a new game, but just taking what he knows from the past and trying to apply it.”

Senior defensive lineman Chris Wormley likes the advantage Brown brings.

“He’s faced them multiple times, so I think he knows what (FSU) coach Jimbo (Fisher) does and what he does well and what we can exploit,” Wormley said. “It’s a good thing to have coach Brown on our side.”

The Cook threat

Florida State running back Dalvin Cook is ranked seventh nationally in rushing and has gained 1,620 yards this season and run for 18 touchdowns, one short of his total last season.

Brown is more than aware of the threat Cook is and said Michigan’s defense has to be smart about how it balances stopping quarterback Deondre Francois and slowing Cook.

“Let me tell you something — every time 4 (Cook) has his hands on the ball, I can't breathe,” Brown said “I'm 61 years old, and I just (he inhaled at this point), and then we get him on the ground and you move on to the next play and start breathing again. But he's a very, very good player. I would say if he's not the best, he's one of the top three players that we've played against, will have played against all year, and I have great respect for his toughness, as well.”

Harbaugh recruiting success?

The Orange Bowl is in south Florida, a recruiting hotbed and a strong show in the game could turn heads either way, to Michigan or Florida State.

Dawsey said he’s confident Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh will have success recruiting Florida?

Oh, he's going to have success,” Dawsey said. “Harbaugh has had success everywhere he's been. He came by and did a great job recruiting in this state, even some guys that we wanted. They want to come in here and make a statement and try to get more kids to come there, and we want to stop them.”

Florida State always has the weather trick under its recruiting sleeve.

Harbaugh: Negative recruiters manipulating young players

They need to go up there right now in December, go up there in January and see what it's like compared to down where it's 80 degrees,” Dawsey said, smiling. “It's lovely, lovely.”

Extra points

Michigan cornerback Jourdan Lewis said he plans to play in the Senior Bowl although he has not yet formally accepted the invite.

… Linebacker Ben Gedeon said Drake Johnson and Joe Hewlett have been playing the role of FSU back Dalvin Cook in practice.

… ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said after Taco Charlton’s performance in the Ohio State game, his NFL stock took off. “I hope he’s right,” Charlton said. “I go out there every day to try to prove my point that I believe I'm one of the best pass rushers in this country. That's something I was able to prove the last couple weeks and especially the last game. It's something I'm going to try to prove this week, too.”

… Freshman linebacker Josh Uche (of Miami) has been “nicked up” Brown said. “This has been bad for him because he’s obviously missing all this work. He’s athletic but now he’s going to be behind the eight ball a little bit, but we’ll have him ready to go in the spring.”

Quotable

Don Brown on his Michigan defense heading into the Orange Bowl: “I like our guys. We have a style we play. The whole key for us, there’s gonna be no easy throws. Every throw you make you’re gonna have to earn it because we’re gonna play the game right here. Don’t think we’re some slow Midwest team that’s coming in here to play. Our guys can play. We’ll play with tremendous technique and fundamentals. Our guys have been in the soup a little bit and know how to play.”