New DC Wink Martindale says Michigan football is a dream job

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For many, it’s inconceivable for a coach who’s had success at the NFL level to essentially demote themselves down to the college game. It’s less stressful to coach in the NFL, as there is no recruiting and the calendar is a bit more permissible for, well, life.

But for Don ‘Wink’ Martindale, there’s nothing he could want more than to get back to the college game and coach Michigan football.

Martindale made his first public comments since becoming the Wolverines’ new defensive coordinator, appearing on the In the Trenches podcast with Jon Jansen on Wednesday. And after having a long college career — having also coached under Jack Harbaugh at Western Kentucky — followed by many years in the pros, he’s excited to come back to college, particularly to Ann Arbor.

“I think that the excitement of coming back to my roots, like I initially said, and just to have the opportunity. I mean, this is a dream job coming to the University of Michigan and being the defensive coordinator and having this opportunity,” Martindale said. “And it’s one of those things, I think our lives are full of bucket list things. And when you look back at the end, it’s gonna be a bucket list thing that I did, or that we did — my wife and I. And I’m just really excited about it. And I’m excited about getting back to the pageantry of college football because that’s different, you know that, compared to the pro level. And, you know, I wish we had a little bit easier schedule than what we have! But I guess it’s something I’m used to, from where I just came from.”

One of the big questions with Martindale coming to coach the Michigan defense is how will he handle it in terms of either asserting his vision or keeping things the same?

His vision isn’t terribly different from what was installed by Mike Macdonald in 2021 and perpetuated by Jesse Minter the past two seasons. As he reminds Jansen, it was his vision that was implemented in Ann Arbor in the first place.

“Well, I think the biggest thing is there’s been some verbiage changes because of the up-tempo of college football — you have to make a lot of calls just one-word things,” Martindale said. “But they kept the foundation of what we all put in together back in 2018. And that’s fun to see it work. And it’s not just worked for those two. It’s worked that Lynn, who’s at USC now, Zach Orr, who’s the defensive coordinator in Baltimore. There’s a lot of guys that have come up through our tree, if you will, that they’re having a lot of success with this system.

“And, it’s like I told the players, I said, ‘In all humility, I’m the OG of this system. So we’re gonna be just fine.’ So, we’re all excited about it, and it’s going to be fun to see with the new crew that we have defensively on the coaching staff. So I tell them every year, it evolves to everybody on the staff of what we do with this system. So it’s all of our system, starting with Sherrone. And it’s one of those things that I think that you have the advantage being at the University of Michigan because of the offense and how Sherrone runs the offense. I think that puts us in the right mindset to play great defense, because you better be physical if you’re gonna play at the University of Michigan. And you said something to me earlier off the air about that. It starts with the guys up front, the D-line and we got some players.”

Fans will get an early look at Martindale’s defense in action starting on March 18 when Michigan starts spring ball, but more likely so in the annual spring game, which takes place on April 20 at The Big House.

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