Michigan Football Preview 2015

2015 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 38 of 163

THE WOLVERINE 2015 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 37 to go back to Miami under a young coach named Schembechler won out. Hanlon calls it the toughest coaching deci- sion he had to make, but it paved the way for all that followed. The upward-bound coach and Anne had two boys (Scott and Mickey) already, and daughter Kelly's birth pulled Hanlon away from the practice field in his time at Oxford. But when he first went there, the family hadn't moved yet, and Hanlon lived in a vacated girls' dormitory. "We were like a couple of brothers when I first went to Miami," Hanlon recalled. "I had no car, so Bo picked me up in the morning, and we went to breakfast. "We'd go to the office and work, maybe go out to have a bite to eat at dinner time, and go back to the office and work until 9:30, 10 o'clock. He'd drop me off at my dorm, and go, then we'd do it all again the next day." The Move To Michigan The talent-rich Miami staff — includ- ing the likes of Schembechler, Hanlon, and future head coaches Gary Moeller, Larry Smith and Jim Young — was going to make its mark somewhere at the top level of col- legiate football. As success grew at Miami, it received feelers from a number of bigger schools, including Wisconsin. "When they started talking about Michi- gan, that was a whole lot different," Hanlon assured. "Michigan was, and still is, one of the prime jobs in the country. We really were hoping we'd get a shot. "The other thing was, we knew Ohio State so well, and knew what you had to do to combat them. That was part of the whole thing." Michigan athletic director Don Canham be- lieved in Schembechler, and a new era began. Hanlon laughingly recalls the coaches' caravan getting lost on the way to what Woody Hayes referred to as "That School Up North." When the group did arrive, those in it discovered a world of opportunity, and more than a few areas of needed upgrades. "We walked into our room and there were some rusted metal lockers," Hanlon recounted. "And there were 2-by-4s bolted to the wall, with nails in them. That's where we had to hang our clothes. I thought, you've got to be kidding me. This is big time?' "But everything else was big time. The way they treated us, what they wanted to do to make things better for the players and the coaches. It sure improved over the years." Michigan football improved almost in- stantly, and dramatically. The Wolverines had won a single Big Ten championship in the 18 years prior to Schembechler's arrival. The new crew matched that in '69 alone, pulling off the monumental 24-12 upset of the No. 1 Buckeyes to claim the title. They nailed down nine Big Ten crowns in the first dozen years in Ann Arbor, and 13 over Schembechler's 21 at the helm. At Schembechler's right hand stood the ever- feisty Hanlon, who appeared almost ap- proachable compared to his hard-edged boss. "Jerry and Bo, when it came to the line- men, it was good cop, bad cop," All-Amer- ican lineman Dan Dierdorf recalled. "Jerry was always the guy we could turn to when we thought Bo was being unreasonable. Jerry was kind of our confidant. "Don't get me wrong — it's not that Jerry was not very demanding. Jerry had a pas- sion for coaching the offensive line that was unparalleled. But compared to Bo … I think they had it all worked out. It was a little scam they ran on us for years." Lineman Mike Leoni pointed out Han- lon's Catholic background paid big divi- dends for the Wolverines as well. "Jerry was really our secret weapon against Notre Dame, because he is Catholic," Leoni said. "He was the guy who would, before ballgames, take us all down to mass at St. Mary's. We'd make our pilgrimage over there. "He was an old-school Catholic coach. If you were Catholic, it was fine to go to Michigan because of Jerry Hanlon. It just made you feel more comfortable about it." At the same time, Hanlon didn't fashion 19 All-Americans on the offensive line at Michigan — including the likes of Dierdorf, Reggie McKenzie, Jumbo Elliott and Greg Skrepenak — by making his charges feel comfortable. "Jerry was a great teacher," Dierdorf ob- served. "A coach is a teacher. Instead of teaching English or physics or drama, they're teaching football. That's so true on the offen- sive line. Everything about playing offensive line is learning about technique, learning to master that technique, and learning to use that technique under pressure when you're out there on the field all by yourself. "You're on your own. If you've got the fundamentals down, if you've got a tech- nique that won't fail you, if your coach can make you a believe in that technique, that's what it's all about. They're teachers, and Jerry Hanlon was a great teacher." Dierdorf reels off the essentials like check- ing them off a grocery list: proper first step, the angle of attack, the way you kept your back flat, the way you rolled your hips … Hanlon got his linemen to believe that if they did it his way, they'd be successful. That came easier with time and success, but the process never proved simple. Creating All-Americans For Michigan linemen, practice became a different kind of cage match, one they'd remember ever after. "We called it 'The cage,'" Dierdorf re- called. "It was this metal structure that forced you to come out of it low. If you came out higher than he thought you should, you'd hit your head on this bar going across it. Then he put a 2-by-12 board down on the ground and put a defensive lineman in a stance, straddling that board. "First, you had to come out of this cage low. And secondly, you had to keep a good base. You had to keep your feet spread un- derneath your shoulders. If you got your feet too close together, you're easy to control. You're easy to knock down, or shed, from a defensive lineman's perspective. "This contraption he came up with, the board and the cage, that's what we did, over and over and over. It was a fantastic teaching tool. I'd never seen it before Jerry started us- ing it in Ann Arbor." Hanlon used more than unique equipment. He used his own drive, his passion and a massive dose of tough love to get his mes- sage across. After serving on Bo Schembechler's staff at Miami (Ohio) from 1966-68, Hanlon made the move to U-M and worked as an assistant coach at Michigan from 1969-91. PHOTO COURTESY JERRY HANLON

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