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March 5, 2009

Vermeil: U-M landed one of the best in Robinson

Former Super Bowl champion head coach Dick Vermeil spent an afternoon last fall at a Greg Robinson practice and walked away energized. He saw his good friend relishing the opportunity to coach in college and thinks he'll be a great fit at Michigan …

Robinson has bounced around between the NFL and the college ranks. He spent four seasons as the head coach at Syracuse from 2005-08, one year as the defensive coordinator at Texas in 2004 and the first 15 years of his coaching career (1975-89) working with Pacific, Cal State Fullerton, N.C. State and UCLA.

However, he also spent 14 seasons in the pro ranks, coordinating the defenses with the New York Jets (1994), Denver Broncos (1995-2000) and with Vermeil in Kansas City from 2001-03. Yet any claim that he's better suited to work with paid players should be quickly dismissed according to his former boss.

"I don't think it matters if you're talking college kid or pro athlete because he's such a great teacher and a fine coach that he commands your attention," Vermeil said. "But when I saw him last year, I really saw him in his element. He's a never-ending source of motivation, a never-ending source of energy.

"His practices are as good as any I've ever seen. He was having a great time with those kids, and those kids were having fun, but they were also working their butts off. It's a tremendous atmosphere to learn in because you never feel you're at work."

Many have described Rich Rodriguez's practices in the same manner. Pre-game warm-ups with strength and conditioning coach Mike Barwis always seem to ramp up the enthusiasm while Rodriguez ends warm-ups with a chest-bump to one of his athletes. The two coaches, though different personalities, could be a great fit together.

"Greg is so optimistic about what he can do there," Vermeil said. "He's always been one of the best coaches I've known but he didn't have enough players at Syracuse and he really didn't have enough at Kansas City with me. But give him time and recruit some tremendous athletes, which Michigan can do, and he'll be very, very successful.

"I don't know the head coach, I don't know how he works with his assistants but I think it would be wise to include a man as polished and as knowledgeable as Greg in everything he does. I don't know the situation there before he was hired but I know this about Greg - he's a team player and he's not going to ignore other people's ideas.

"He's going to treat you with respect, but at the same time, he's going to demand your respect too. He hasn't been in this business for as long as he has because of luck. He's one of the smartest, most intelligent, friendliest coaches you'll ever meet and I think it's in Michigan's best interest to really include him in everything they do."

Tomorrow Vermeil will talk about Robinson's potential defensive approach and what makes him such a good coach.



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