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Wink Martindale not married to heavy blitzing: ‘I think you change every year’

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — With Don ‘Wink’ Martindale coming to Ann Arbor to run a defense that was patterned after what he ran in the NFL, there are questions as to how similar — or different — it will be with the Michigan Wolverines compared to the Baltimore Ravens or New York Giants.

Many fear that, given how much Martindale tended to blitz this last year in New Jersey, that it will be a return to the Don Brown-style of play, where it was somewhat boom or bust — with the final two-plus years of his system being more bust than boom. However, Martindale says that fans shouldn’t have to worry too much about that. How much he decides to send extra men into the offensive backfield is entirely situational and he’s not married to the idea of blitzing heavily on a down-to-down basis.

“I think you change every year,” Martindale said. “When you go back and look at what you’ve done, and it all depends on the personnel you’ve had. Like in New York, for example, they talked about I blitzed so much — there’s a lot of games where we hadn’t blitzed, in whatever that situation was. I think it changes every year.”

One reason why he may not have to is because he has a tandem at defensive tackle which may be the best in all of college football in Mason Graham and Kenneth Grant.

When you’re able to get consistent pressure up the middle and have adequate edge rushers, it allows a defense to not send extra help in order to get to the quarterback. Last year, the Wolverines had solid edge rushers in Jaylen Harrell and Braiden McGregor, but they weren’t on the same level as say an Aidan Hutchinson or a Kwity Paye or even a Chris Wormley or Taco Charlton. But given that the interior was so dominant, it allows for the edges to make plays perhaps more than what they might otherwise.

That’s not to say the aforementioned duo weren’t stellar players — they were — but similar to last year, trotting out Derrick Moore and Josaiah Stewart (who are up-and-coming in their own right) becomes a little more daunting for an offensive line that has to worry about the two athletic big men in the middle.

Martindale says he’s pretty excited to inherit both, noting they’re the types of players you can build a defense around.

“Every year, no matter where you’re at, you break your entire defense down and start building the foundation from the ground up again,” Martindale said. “You can’t just pick up from where you were the year prior. So I think the foundation, to have those two to start with, would help any defense out — at any level.”

Spring ball kicked off on Monday and will continue into late April with eyes on the spring game on April 20.

Story originally appeared on Wolverines Wire