Michigan Wolverines football’s new linebackers coach, George Helow, is nine practices into his U-M tenure and is amped up to be in Ann Arbor.
Helow, who has known defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald for several years, was excited to get the call from him and head coach Jim Harbaugh.
“When I got the opportunity to talk to Coach and get to come here, it was a no-brainer and it was like, ‘Wow, the University of Michigan. Really?’ It was really good,” Helow told Jon Jansen on the ‘In The Trenches’ podcast.
Redshirt junior Josh Ross and redshirt sophomore Michael Barrett are two of the linebackers with the most experience in an otherwise young group. Helow explained that having younger players while installing a new system can sometimes be a benefit, since they don’t have “pre-conceived notions” on how to operate, allowing the new staff to teach new concepts seamlessly.
“It’s been great,” Helow said of working with his position group so far. “There’s a bunch of guys in the linebacker room right now who are young, but everybody’s eager to learn, and that’s what makes it so great.
“We’ve got a bunch of great young men that want to learn, that want to get better, that want to learn the new defense, that want to put in the time, that want to put in the work, that want to be up here, that want to dive into the playbooks, that want to get into the simulator and train every day, that want to watch film, take good notes.
“Whether it’s a guest speaker that we bring in or just a normal meeting, you don’t have to tell them to take notes — they want to be great. That’s the first step to anything, is having the willingness to want to learn.”
Macdonald has said the defense will be “multiple,” and the coaches understandably haven’t given a ton of detail on the exact schemes they’ll be running, not wanting to give opponents any sort of edge.
Helow did, however, provide some insight on the way the new defensive staff is going about their business, stressing how important culture is.
“One thing that we talk about on defense a lot is the culture,” Helow explained. “It’s not what we do, it’s how we do it — it’s the way that you run to the ball, the way that you put on your helmet, the way that you strike blockers, the way that you take angles to the ball, the way that you strike people at the point of attack and you finish in a dominant position.
“Knowing what you’re supposed to do, how you’re supposed to do it, why you’re supposed to do it that way — that’s something that Mike’s done a really good job of.”
While six of the assistants are entering their first season as coaches with the program, traditions remain intact. Michigan is preparing daily for Ohio State, a program it hasn’t beaten since 2011.
“When our guys step foot into the weight room every day, it’s a one-track mindset on kicking their butt and everybody else’s butt on the schedule that we play,” Helow said. “Our guys are mentally conditioning themselves right now to go out there and fight with anybody. It’s something that’s exciting to be around, it’s something that everybody’s buying into and believing. There’s great energy in the building, there’s great effort, enthusiasm. Whether it’s Ohio or any of the other teams, we’re going to be relentless and not be denied.”
With six more spring practices to go before summer workouts and eventually fall camp, Helow likes where his group, and the defense as a whole, is at, and he’s excited for them to grow even further.
“That’s gotta be your goal, you just take a little bit every day and you get better and you focus on that you can control — not other things, don’t focus on things that are outside of our building — and compete and learn things like we’ve been talking about, concepts, not memorizing stuff,” he said. “I’m pleased with it. They’re giving great effort, they’re trying, they’re learning and they’re growing a lot as a group. It’s been encouraging to see.”