Michigan’s offense is about to get a heavy dose of repetition.
Tim Drevno, officially announced as the team’s new offensive coordinator Friday, is known to his former players as a broken record. When he and Harbaugh coached together at Stanford, Drevno was the most impersonated coach in the Cardinal locker room.
"Drevno was an easy target," said former Stanford captain Bo McNally. "He has two or three phrases that he said all the time. I’m sure it was very deliberate. 'Physical' was the word he repeated probably 7,000 times a day. Physical, physical, physical."
Whether it was through brainwashing or some other means, Drevno was one of the catalysts in creating Stanford’s gritty, tough mentality that remains a staple of its new identity. He inherited a soft team that didn’t know how to be tough, according to McNally, when he followed Harbaugh from San Diego to Palo Alto in 2007. They became West Coast bullies and a factory for NFL caliber offensive linemen and tight ends.
Drevno's hire officially fills both coordinator positions on the Michigan staff that is nearing completion. The school confirmed Thursday that D.J. Durkin, another former assistant from that Stanford staff, would run the team's defense.
No one has worked side-by-side with Harbaugh as frequently as Drevno. The duo has teamed up at each stop since Harbaugh became a head coach in 2004. Last season, when Drevno left the NFL to coach the offensive line at USC, was the first time in a decade that they weren't together on the sideline. Drevno has played a big role in establishing the physical approach to offense that has remained a constant at each stop. He said to expect more of the same in Ann Arbor.
"We’re going to try to move people off the ball," he told the school’s website. "We’re going to try to be a physical football team."
Drevno takes over an offensive line that returns all five starters this season. The line improved in 2014 after a historically poor performance the previous season, but the Wolverines still finished dead last in total offense among Big Ten teams.
The roster at Michigan is already designed for the run-first mentality that Drevno says he wants to employ. Along with the five returning linemen, the Wolverines return several promising running backs (including USC transfer Ty Isaac, who did not play last season) and talented tight end Jake Butt.
Tight ends were Drevno’s first specialty at Stanford. The Cardinal offense came to depend on them, often using two or three of them at a time to assert their will on opposing defenses while keeping their passing options open. Four of Stanford’s tight ends from that era -- Coby Fleener, Konrad Reuland, Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo -- played in the NFL. He then moved on to the the entire offensive line where he laid the groundwork for All-Americans David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin.
Drevno hasn’t overseen an entire offense since leaving the University of San Diego. He was the Toreros' offensive coordinator the year before Harbaugh arrived, and held on to that title until they moved to Stanford. At San Diego, Drevno’s offenses led the nation in total yardage twice, and helped the team to back-to-back Division I-AA national championships.
The Torrance, California, native couldn’t pass up an opportunity to coach at nearby USC last season, but jumped at the chance to join forces with Harbaugh again this season. He a "Jim Harbaugh guy."
"A Jim Harbaugh guy is a loyal guy, wants to work hard, is about the team, the team, the team," he said, echoing Bo Schembechler’s famous mantra.
They like their repetitive coaches around here in Ann Arbor, and it looks like they just landed another one.