The Wolverine

December 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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10 THE WOLVERINE DECEMBER 2018   INSIDE MICHIGAN ATHLETICS Michigan sophomore center Cesar Ruiz has made a seamless transition from right guard, where he started five games last year, and is playing at an extremely high level at his new spot. Ruiz sits down with The Wolverine for this month's Q&A session: The Wolverine: You said before the season the offensive line would be a strength of this team, but not many people believed you. What led you to make that statement? Cesar Ruiz: "I just had so much confi- dence, and I still do, in my offensive line. … Like I've said before, there's nothing that will change my mind. When I said that, I meant it. And it's happening. "We're improving every week. Every single week, we're working on improv- ing different things that we're already good at and improving things we need to work on." The Wolverine: What's been the big- gest factor in the line's improvement from last year to this year? Ruiz: "A lot of things went into it. The way we worked hard in the winter. The way we worked hard in the summer. The coaching. Everything went into it. The sky is the limit for us right now." The Wolverine: How much of it has been the addition of new offensive line coach Ed Warinner? Ruiz: "Coach Warinner has helped me a lot. He's helped me fix little things that I didn't realize would be such a detrimental issue if I didn't fix them. He's helped all of us. He's had us focus on a lot of things we had to fix and work on to be successful, like pass protection. "Before Coach Warinner got here, I wasn't really setting evenly … the offensive line wasn't getting that much depth. He made me focus on that and had drills for that." The Wolverine: Senior running back Karan Higdon ran for over 100 yards in seven straight games. How satisfying is that as an offensive lineman, especially against a team like Penn State, against whom Higdon ran for 132 yards? Ruiz: "It just shows that all the hard work we're doing is paying off. It feels good to do it against a team like that … It shows we're improving and taking everything we're doing seriously. "… [A swagger] develops over time. When we're having great games, playing really good offensively and defensively, playing as a team, when that confidence builds up, everything is clicking. You see that swagger come out, and it's just a natural thing." The Wolverine: How much does Higdon show you he appreciates what you guys do? Ruiz: "He encourages us every single day, whether it's walkthroughs, lifts, in a game. He encourages us every chance he gets. It's good to have that, to have him around showing the love, making sure we're good and ready to go all the time. "A guy like that, you know he's going to get a couple yards after contact. We're always confident in him running the ball." — Chris Balas Sitting Down With Michigan Sophomore Center Cesar Ruiz Ruiz started five games last year at right guard and has made a successful transition to center, where head coach Jim Harbaugh said he has been "outstanding" making the calls and adjust- ments up front. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN Junior cornerback Lavert Hill was named a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the best de- fensive back in college football. Hill has an interception and five pass breakups through 10 games. The only other Big Ten player nom- inated for the prestigious honor this season is Penn State's junior corner- back Amani Oruwariye. Woodson also won this award in 1997. Junior linebacker Devin Bush Jr. was named one of the Butkus Award semifinalists. He was also one of the semifinalists last season, but former Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith won it. One of 10 semifinalists this season, Bush joins Purdue's Markus Bailey and Wisconsin's Ryan Con- nelly as representatives from the Big Ten. Through 10 games, Bush has a team-high 61 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and four pass break- ups. He was also named a Midseason second-team All-American by the As- sociated Press. The last Wolverine to win this award was linebacker Erick Ander- son in 1991. Michigan's defensive coordinator Don Brown was nominated for the Broyles Award, given to the best as- sistant coach in the nation. Brown is one of 53 nominees for the Broyles Award, and only one coach per school can be nominated. Win- ners from the past five seasons are not eligible to win the honor again. Former defensive coordinator Jim Herrmann won the award in 1997, the last time the Wolverines won the national title. Through 10 games, Brown's Michi- gan unit has the No. 1 total defense in the country, allowing an average of just 219.8, 33.8 yards per contest less than any other team in the land. His unit also leads the nation in several other categories. The other nominees from the Big Ten include former Wolverine run- ning back and current IU running backs coach Mike Hart, Iowa defen- sive coordinator Phil Parker, Michi- gan State defensive coordinator Mike Tressel, Nebraska quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco, Northwestern quar- terbacks coach Mike Hankwitz, Ohio State offensive coordinator Ryan Day, and Wisconsin offensive line coach and offensive coordinator Joe Ru- dolph.

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