The Wolverine

November 2012

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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don" was nowhere to be seen. The Crimson Tide and Falcons racked up a combined 537 rushing yards. Second-level blockers were getting past the defensive line far too easily, and the opposing quarter- backs weren't feeling nearly enough pressure. prove. In fact, it was the same thing that happened last year. The Wolver- ines got better, especially along the defensive line. Then, the defense started to im- In the first few weeks of the season, opposing offensive linemen were controlling the line of scrimmage, scraping off defensive linemen and meeting linebackers at the point of attack. But that problem has been erased in recent weeks — and that affects the entire defense, from line- THE EVOLUTION OF THE INTERIOR Force games added in, the defense is No. 48 nationally in rush defense, allowing 145.3 yards per game. Since the Air Force contest, just one team has rushed for more than 112 yards in a game (Nebraska, 160). "The coaching is so great here that guys can make huge strides during the season," senior defensive end Craig Roh said. ton Washington's progression this season is a microcosm of the line's improvement as a whole — and a big reason why the interior defense is playing so well. Washington was recruited to Mich- igan as an offensive guard, playing that position sparingly in 2010 before converting to the defensive side of the ball midseason. Redshirt junior nose tackle Quin- He didn't have much success there and seemed to be a guy who was lost in the shuffle. Defensive Line Coach Jerry Montgomery "When you talk about former Michigan defensive linemen — Glen Steele, Will Carr — those guys were reckless and physical and violent. That's what you want." backers, who have more freedom to make plays, to safeties and corner- backs, who have more time to read and react. Defensive end Craig Roh (left) and defensive tackle William Campbell were U-M's top tacklers on the defensive line through eight games, with 25 stops each. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN "I remember during fall camp when we had our first media day, people were saying, 'The expecta- tions set by Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen and Will Heininger are unre- alistic this year.' Not for us," Mont- gomery said. "To us, the expectation is something we work for and strive for every day. These guys have gone a long way from where they started, and it's a testament to the kids work- ing and being motivated to play to those expectations." But where the defensive linemen started the 2012 season was some- what discouraging. In the first two weeks of the season, a 41-14 loss to Alabama in Dallas and a 31-25 win over Air Force, that "reckless aban- "Every game, that's where it starts," sophomore outside line- backer Desmond Morgan said. "Those guys are doing a great job right now, and that's what is leading to our defense as a whole having suc- cess. They're limiting the run game. It's those guys that are getting it done right now." ally well," added redshirt sopho- more outside linebacker Jake Ryan. "They're knocking the ball back, knocking the offensive line back. That's creating holes in their offense for the linebackers to fill, and that leads to making tackles." "The defensive line is doing re- The defensive line's play has helped shore up the interior run de- fense. After getting gashed for big rushing yardage in the first two weeks, the Wolverines held the next six opponents (Massachusetts, Notre Dame, Purdue, Illinois, Michigan State and Nebraska) to an average of 106.5 rushing yards per game. That number would rank 17th na- tionally. With the Alabama and Air Brady Hoke and his staff took over before the 2011 season, Washington has blossomed at the interior defen- sive line position. "He has gotten better and more physical," Montgomery said. "He's always been a physical kid, but now he plays recklessly. His technique and fundamentals aren't perfect, but he is coming off the football and throwing off blocks. To see him do those things makes you smile. He is a great kid, and if anyone is doing it right, you'd like it to be a great kid like Quinton." Montgomery first saw Washington play up to that level in the Wolver- ines' third game of the year, a 63-13 win over Massachusetts. Washington had not yet been in a But since Michigan head coach solid rotation on the field. Through the first three games, the defense had not played as much of its base "Wol- verine" defense, in which the nose tackle is featured most prominently. But he got in against Massachu- setts — and started to wreak havoc. "When he did get more snaps in our Wolverine package, he did some really good things," Montgomery said. "He knocked back the line of NOVEMBER 2012 THE WOLVERINE 25

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