When Michigan plays at Indiana on Saturday, there will be plenty of familiar faces among the Hoosiers’ coaching staff, but there will be no time for a good-natured reunion.
Mike DeBord, a former Michigan offensive coordinator, is now the Indiana offensive coordinator and he hired former Michigan quarterback Nick Sheridan as quarterbacks coach and Mike Hart, the Wolverines’ all-time leading rusher, as running backs coach.
While all three have strong connections to Michigan, this is about business on Saturday.
“To be real honest, we haven’t talked about it as a group,” DeBord said on a conference call. “When you get into a season and you get into game preparation, we’re in a routine we’re following. All the coaches, obviously have talked about their defense (but) we don’t have the time to sit around and talk about old times. When Nick and Mike came here I obviously told them why I wanted them here, and it went back to those Michigan days.”
And the reminiscing ends there.
“It’s definitely business,” Hart said, who coached against Michigan when he was on the Eastern Michigan staff. “It affects everybody else on the outside than it affects us.”
Sheridan said too much is on the line to think about their college playing days.
“We care about our players here and are focused on the players here,” Sheridan said.
In preparing for Michigan, the focus of those three is the Wolverines’ top-ranked defense that continues to shut down teams in the second half and shut them out in the fourth quarter.
Hart singled out linebacker Devin Bush.
“Obviously, it’s a a great defense,” Hart said. “Devin Bush is special. He strikes you at the point of contact. As an overall defense, that front seven is really special. Rashan Gary, Maurice Hurst in the middle, they’re just tough. They run after the ball.”
DeBord said he looks at Michigan’s defense and sees no drop off at any position.
“First of all, 11 great players on it, that’s where it starts,” DeBord said. “They’re not that complex in the secondary — they play a lot of man 3 or man coverage. They’re very well coached when you watch their techniques.
“The complex part of it is up front. They’ve been in four-down stuff, but of late they’ve been in three down. They give you a lot of different looks and a lot of different pressures. They’ve got some great players, and they also have a great scheme. I think (defensive coordinator) Don Brown is a great football coach and he has a great staff.”
Sheridan said there’s a balance across the board from the front to the back end of Michigan’s defense.
“They play together as a unit,” Sheridan said. “The secondary and the front complement one another. They play tight coverage, and there are no easy throws. They have a front that gives anyone in the country problems. Just collectively, both in the front end and the back end, they do a great job playing together. The numbers would echo that.”
DeBord hired Sheridan and Hart in part because of their Michigan pedigree, but he also had kept track of their coaching progressions. Most recently, DeBord worked with Sheridan the last two years at Tennessee and was on staff when Hart was playing, and he always admired his competitiveness as a player.
As he builds the Indiana offense going forward and prepares for Michigan’s defense this week, DeBord feels good about the staff he has helped assemble.
“I want people around me I can trust,” DeBord said. “I believe in loyalty, and in this business you always have to have people loyal to you. I love coming to the office because of our coaches we have here.”