Feb. 7, 2012
In addition to his overarching duties, head coach John Paul instructs the Michigan faceoff specialists. Controlling possession of the ball will be imperative in order to shield U-M's youthful defensemen and goalkeepers. Fifth-year senior Brian Greiner and freshman Alex Marcus stand to be the primary Wolverines manning the 'X.'
MGoBlue.com: How do you find time to focus on one specific position with all you need to do?
John Paul: I've coached or kind of taken ownership of faceoffs since I've been here. And we've had faceoff specific coaches here. As a club program we had former guys who were All-Americans who stuck around and helped us coach faceoffs and our faceoff specialists. But as a Division I program we have to cut back on staff size, so the responsibility is falling directly on me again and I love coaching that position. We also use Jordan Bargas, who is injured and out for the year, in some kind of undergraduate coaching roles. Jordan is working every day with our faceoff guys all practice because they really need attention all practice long and I can't give that to them. So I'll get over there pre-practice and work with them for 10, 20 minutes and then he'll take them through most of practice every day. But it is a position that we want those guys focused on those skills, most of every practice.
MGB: How many different types of face-off techniques are there?
JP: There are 20 different faceoff techniques. There are some that are more popular than others and we focus on one or two main faceoff techniques that are not that different from what other programs are focusing on. And then you also have to focus on your wing play and what they're doing and how they all work together as a unit. So a couple days a week we are working in a unit, not just with the faceoff guys. As a club program we put a lot of emphasis on that position, we obviously had a lot of success with that position, and now everything is stepped up and we have to do what we were doing even better.
MGB: Who are the players vying for the starting faceoff role?
JP: Right now the starting faceoff guys are Brian Greiner, Alex Marcus and Andrew Hayden, and it's always good to have a long-stick who can face off as well for defensive purposes usually. Some long sticks are actually pretty good offensive faceoff guys, but usually you throw that in if you're not having a good faceoff day. Austin Swaney will have that role for us if we need him. But Greiner and Marcus are our top two faceoff guys right now. They're competing every day working together every day. Greiner is still slightly ahead of Marcus, but they both have slightly different styles and facing off is based in large part on talented athletic ability. But once those become equal it's very much a rock, paper, scissors game and sometimes some guys match up against certain faceoff guys better than others, so you have to have depth there.
MGB: What skills do you look for in wing players on faceoffs?
JP: We bring Trevor [Yealy] up on the wing a lot just because Trevor is obviously one of our best athletes. He's a great ground ball guy, communicates very well and we know once the ball is in his stick we're pretty safe. We've been using him for the last year and a half up on the wing. We use Swaney a lot on the wing. You really want your best ground ball guys, your most athletic guys on the wings. A lot of times you use defense and midfielders up there, and Trevor is obviously the opposite example, but Sean Sutton will play a lot on the wing. Jason Davis, since he's gotten here, has shown a lot of great ability at ground balls, so we're using him a little bit up there as well. But I think for the most part between Swaney, Trevor, Sutton and Davis right now, those are the guys that will be competing the most for wing positions.
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