The Wolverine

May 2012

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 29 of 83

feels very comfortable there. "I'm really excited about him be- cause Jake Ryan never came off the field; he truly played almost every snap of every game last year. Now we have a very, very good player that can complement him." Inside at middle linebacker, senior Brandin Hawthorne and early en- rollee freshman Joe Bolden both had moments this spring they can build on going into the important summer months. Hawthorne, who started five games at the weakside post in 2011, is a versatile linebacker that could help at multiple spots. Bolden was, at times this spring, so good he was pushing Demens, the fifth-year senior and two-year starter, to run with the No. 1 defense. But he also showed his youth, and has a steep learning curve that must be ac- celerated if he's to contribute. "Joe Bolden is a guy that should be at the senior prom right now," Mat- tison said. "But he has really, really done a good job of picking up the de- fense. He's out here practicing every day and getting coached harder than he's ever been coached, and keeps coming back. "I really believe he is going to be a very good linebacker. Very good." The coaches also like the potential of redshirt junior Mike Jones, red- shirt freshman Antonio Poole and true freshman Kaleb Ringer. In his first press conference of the spring, back in mid-March, Mattison made a point to emphasize the need for redshirt junior free safety Thomas Gordon and sophomore cornerback Blake Countess — both returning starters — to attack the spring with a determination to rapidly develop their games. They weren't singled out because of poor performances in 2011, but because they have immense potential still largely untapped. "I love Thomas Gordon; he's a THOMAS GORDON MAKE IMPORTANT STRIDES BLAKE COUNTESS, Redshirt freshman defensive end Keith Heitzman turned some heads with his play in the spring game, repeatedly getting into the offensive backfield. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL Gordon doesn't have the same lock on the free safety position, and will have to fend off Robinson. The junior is a hard hitter that has been steadily making the gains mentally to earn the coaches' trust. "Marvin has been in the weight room and in the film room, great young man that has ability, but he must play faster, more reckless," Mattison said. "Sometimes guys worry are they fast enough, 'Can I do this?' Well, yeah, if you're going to be out there, you've got to be able to do it. He knows that. "Sometimes when you're a safety coming down towards the line like 30 THE WOLVERINE MAY 2012 were questions whether he would ever wear the winged helmet again, but he was healthy this spring and really pushed U-M's incumbent starters, especially fifth-year senior J.T. Floyd. Talbott has had some rust, and still has much to improve before he's a legitimate threat to Floyd, but he's on track. "He's been physical and has done a very good job taking on blocks, "He has done an adequate job in coverage and when we've blitzed him, he's come hard. He's done all of the things a cornerback needs to do. " Mattison said. " — Michael Spath Cornerback Terrence Talbott: Talbott sat out all of 2011 with an injury, and there " fenders will be come Sept. 1, no job has been won yet. The summer offseason will be essential in determining pecking order once the Wolverines return for preseason camp in August. Here are three players that finished spring with a flourish that could usurp a starter if they continue to mature their games the next few months. Defensive end Keith Heitzman: The redshirt freshman was, perhaps, the most On The Rise: Three To Watch This Fall Though Michigan ended spring practice with a good idea who its starting 11 de- impressive defensive player on the field for the Maize and Blue at their April 14 spring game, using his quickness and instincts to slip through the offensive tackle- guard gap in penetrating the offensive backfield repeatedly. A potential five- (strongside end) or three-technique (defensive tackle), Heitzman should be, at the very least, a key reserve in 2012. "Heitzman is one of those players that may not pass the eye test when he walks out on the field, but he's always around the football," defensive coordinator Greg Safety Marvin Robinson: Fifth-year senior Jordan Kovacs is entrenched as the starting strong safety, and will not cede his post this fall, but redshirt junior Thomas " Mattison said. "I made the comment one day in a meeting, we were watching the practice film, and I said, 'This Heitzman kid, before long, he may be a Michigan de- fensive lineman' … that just plays hard and tough. been a student of the game this spring. "He had a big learning curve, but Jordan Kovacs and I have taken him under our wing, and he has worked really hard this spring. I know that he is going to contribute. " Gordon said. "He's

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