Quarterback Tanner Morgan and running back Mohamed Ibrahim took questions from the media after Tuesday’s practice, and the No. 21-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers’ opponent for Saturday’s season opener was a natural topic of conversation.
Morgan has a lot of respect for Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown, who is in his fifth year with head coach Jim Harbaugh. “They’re very aggressive, and very well coached,” he said, describing the Wolverines’ defense under Brown. “They do a lot of things very well.”
Aggressive seems to be the word most commonly associated with Brown’s style of defense. His defenses annually rank among the best in the country, fueled by a philosophy that emphasizes cranking up the pressure on quarterbacks and smothering receivers in tight man coverage.
Brown will need to replace five starters from a season ago, in addition to a presumptive starter at cornerback in opt-out Ambry Thomas, but at Michigan the cupboards are well stocked.
Morgan, who was a true freshman and did not see the field when the Gophers last played Michigan in 2017, cited the Wolverines’ speed as an aspect of their defense that stands out, but stressed that the team is excited and embracing the challenge.
Ibrahim expressed a similar sentiment about the Wolverines’ defensive front, which returns all four starters on the defensive line. He too pointed to their aggressiveness as a unit, but also made note of the fact that Brown utilizes a variety of defensive alignments.
“They switch up their looks, so you have to take every play for what it is,” Ibrahim explained. “You can’t just think that if they start off the series one way, that they won’t finish it a different way.”
Head coach P.J. Fleck said in Monday’s press conference that the team spends the Tuesday of each rivalry week covering the history of the trophy that will be on the line, and Morgan made clear that the team is well aware of what is at stake against Michigan.
“Obviously the Little Brown Jug is important, with the history that it has, the incredible history tied into the trophy and tied into the game.” Morgan said. “Any time you have an opportunity to play for something like that, we cherish it. And that’s something that’s so great about playing in the Big Ten, with the traditional classic trophy games that have so much history.”