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Wink Martindale expounds on how he’ll run the Michigan football defense

Michigan football brought in ‘the O.G.’ of the defensive system installed initially by Mike Macdonald and continued by Jesse Minter. Both coordinators learned the system they implemented in Ann Arbor from Wink Martindale when they were under him during their time with the Baltimore Ravens.

Now Martindale is back in college, running the system his proteges thrived with. And though he’s known to be more (self-admittedly) aggressive, he’s more focused on what will work with the players than putting his stamp on things.

He shared more on his defensive approach on the GM Shuffle podcast.

“As a system, it’s very flexible, it’s very player-friendly,” Martindale said. “You know, when you get into the sub-sub stuff — I say it’s a position on this defense, that has a lot of flexibility — and once you understand the concepts, it’s easy to learn the defense. But it’s also different personalities calling the defense. And, I think that at the college level, there’s a lot of more simulated pressures that you see when you’re watching tape that work just as effectively as sending them all. So I think that it’s gonna be a wait and see once we get through fall camp and everything else.

“But let’s make no mistake about it: I’m more aggressive than probably both those guys, sometimes to a fault. Jesse did a fantastic job. I mean, I’m calling him and — now they changed up some terminology because this is the first year we can do the coach-to-player communication. So they changed up some of the names so it’s just shorter one-word names, which is smart. And it helps you right into — when teams want to go fast and play you just say one word.

“But it’s all the players, the vets that are coming back. They know the system. And it’s been really enjoyable. It’s been a lot of fun.”

The knock on Martindale is that he’s blitz-heavy. While his predecessor, Jesse Minter, often shied away from the blitz, fans are worried that Martindale will come in and be a redux of former Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown.

While Martindale will be quick to admit, yes, he does like to blitz, that isn’t necessarily his ethos. Sometimes, it’s all about showing a quarterback a look and then giving him something different — much like we saw happen under Minter and Macdonald.

“Well, I think that, like you already alluded to Mike, when you have free runners to the quarterback, the average fan just says, ‘Well, he’s zero pressure.’ And we don’t, we just attack protections. Well, in reality, I think it changes from year to year, depending on who you have playing for you and who you’re playing against.

“Like, the first year we played (Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick) Mahomes. I think we hit him 18 times, back in 18. And then he got so good at seeing pressures and where they were coming from and changing protections. The last year that we played him, we just did anything that looked like a pressure was simulated, because he — there’s no reason to blitz it, because he sees it. And he throws it quick. So I think it’s not only by percentage-wise throughout the season, but also per game, per quarterback.”

If Martindale does indeed tailor his defense to the players and the system they’re already familiar with (and it appears he has) and shows restraint, then the sky’s the limit for that side of the ball, assuredly.

Story originally appeared on Wolverines Wire