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Moeller: Bo's man on 'D'
Continued from Page 10
By Phil Nussel
WHEN MICHIGAN and Arizona
State hook up in the Rose Bowl on
Jan. 1, Michigan will have not one,
but two head coaches on the field.
Of course there is head coach Bo
Schembechler. But there is also
assistant head coach Gary Moeller.
He is the head coach of the defense.
He is the defensive coordinator.
And even Schembechler stays
out of the way.
"I seldom bother him in the big
games," Schembechler said. "I don't
want to confuse him because he
knows what he's doing. I respect
him. I don't want to screw things
That is the same Schembechler
who is known for running his
program with an iron fist. It is the
same coach who sends grad
assistants out with urgent orders for
Diet Coke. It shows the general's
respect for "Big Mo," his right hand
man since the '67 season at Miami
While Schembechler has known
about Moeller's coaching talent for
almost 20 years, the fans at
Michigan never really appreciated
the 45-year old coach until last
season, when the Wolverines had
one of their finest defensive squads
Moeller received ample credit for
Michigan finishing first nationally
in scoring defense (6.8 points per
game), second in total defense
(253.6 yards), and first in every Big
Ten defensive category. He was
featured as "the man behind the
But '85 was not the only banner
year for a Moeller defense. Many
fans forgot his squads in '74 and
'76 both led the nation in scoring
This year, "Moeller's Monsters"
(the name tagged on the defense by
the late WJR announcer Bob Ufer)
have not stacked up record-breaking
statistics. They have gone back to
Michigan finished only second
in the Big Ten in total defense. It
has allowed more than two
touchdowns a game. But comparing
Moeller's '86 defense to the one in
'85 is unrealistic, and the first one
to say so is his son, leading tackler
Andy Moeller (116 tackles, 4
"If you look back, you'll see
that what we did last year was some
ridiculous stuff," Andy said. "It
would have been darn near
impossible to equal what we did. I
don't know if we've mellowed, but
we're still playing as hard as we
than I had in the past, but still, in
more of a backup role in the three-
I obviously wasn't anticipating
Paul (Jokisch) getting hurt. I never
thought I'd even be splitting time,
and that's the worst I've been doing
this year. Things have worked out a
lot better than I anticipated.
D: And you've also contributed
to Michigan's Rose Bowl berth.
What does it mean to be going to
H: When you come to Michigan
it's you're number one goal every
year. The hours you put in in the
off-season are just tremendous, all
with the Rose Bowl in mind. In the
off-season, you're not thinking,
'Well, this is going to help beat
Iowa, this is going to help-beat
You think, overall, this is going
to help win the Rose Bowl. It's
something that drives you for so
long, and you work so hard for it,
it's just a tremendous feeling.
D: In your four years here, how
have your perceptions of Bo
H: When I first came here I
think I was in awe of him because
Bo Schembechler is probably the
best coach in the United States.
He's someone I had always looked
up to when I was a kid, being a
Michigan fan. So I guess I was a
little intimidated by him.
He yells and sometimes he's a
little gruff. You have to learn to
take it with a grain of salt. You
listen to what he says, not how he
says it, because he'll really come
down on you for mistakes. When I
was a freshman I made tons of
mistakes like every freshman does.
I used to get yelled at and it used to
really bother me.
The rest of the day I'd have a
hard time concentrating. But now I
kind of tune out his manner and
just listen to what he's trying to
correct. I try to take it
constructively instead of as an
attack against me personally.
D: What kind of things go
though your mind during a game?
H: The first thing is that you
have to read the defense to know
what they're doing before
determining what you're going to
do. A lot of small adjustments are
made on routes depending on what
kind of coverage they're playing.
Second, I try to focus on the down
distance and the situation.
If it's second down and 10, then
jnaybe it's not quite as important to
get the first down as it is maybe
eight yards to put you in a third-
and-two position. Whereas, if it's
third-and-six, you know that if you
don't get the six yards, you're
punting. I usually try to get the
first down. I don't worry too much
about big plays because I'm not
that type of receiver.
I get excited when I have a
chance to get the ball because I
have the confidence that I'm going
to catch it and get the job done. But
you have to temper that excitement
with knowledge of what's going
on. Sometimes when I catch the
ball I don't actually remember
catching the ball. I don't know if
it's intense concentration. I have a
hard time remembering actually
catching the ball, but I know I
looked it in and caught it.
D: How would you like to be
remembered at Michigan?
H: I guess the way I'd like to be
3776 S. Stat
Ann Arbor, Mich
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remembered is as somebody who
wasn't just a one-dimensional
person. Someone who's not just a
football player, not just a student.
That it's possible to excel
academically and athletically.
It would be nice to break down a
Moeller mapping out a strategy for players, including his son Andy.
'I seldom bother him in the big games. I don't want
to confuse him because he knows what he's doing. I
respect him. I don't want to screw things up.'
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With the defense's return to
"normalcy," the elder Moeller
returned to being "just another
assistant coach." It is an unfair
label, but Moeller knows he cannot
worry about image - his job is
coaching a defense, a quality
"I just run the defenses," he said.
"I have three guys working for me
(Jerry Meter, Tom Reed, and Lloyd
Carr) and one guy to make sure the
coverages match up.
"The offense and defense meet
separately, so it is, in some ways,
like two different teams. It just
indicates how complicated things
Moeller enjoys his independence
because Schembechler prefers
working with the offense, a job
which makes it almost impossible
for him to worry about the defense,
according to Moeller.
"It's the time commitment,
basically," the Lima native said.'
"You practice separately every day
after you get things going."
Moeller took over as defensive
coordinator from 1974-77. He then
left to be head coach at Illinois in
1977. After three years of misery in
Champaign, he returned to
Michigan for the '80 season as
quarterback coach. He worked with
John Wangler and Steve Smith -
both had record years with Moeller.
In 1982, Bill McCartney, the
defensive coordinator since Moeller
left in '77, left for Colorado and
Moeller went back to the other side
of the ball.
"It is good to change after
getting a feel for the other side of
the ball," said Moeller. "You have
to know a lot about offenses to be a
good defensive coach and vice verse.
You learn new techniques about
coaching against offenses. You
know the strategies and
philosophies about the things (the
offense) is going to do."
Moeller has always been
associated with quality defense. At
Ohio State, he played linebacker on
a defense which allowed less than
100 points for three straight
seasons, 1960-62. The Bucks won
the national title in '61.
With Woody Hayes at the helm
and Schembechler as an assistant,
Moeller learned from the best. After
graduating in '63, he coached high
school ball for two years before
joining Schembechler at Miami in
"I just enjoy coaching," said
Moeller. "Whether it be offense or
defense, it doesn't make a whole lot
of difference to me."
With Michigan on its way to the
Rose Bowl in a few weeks, it looks
like Moeller will continue to enjoy
coaching. But he won't be "just"
coaching - he will be head
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PAGE 6 WEEKEND/DECEMBER 5, 1986
WEEKEND/DECEMBER 5, 1986