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April 3, 2012A week after the Wolverines returned from their rousing 23-20 overtime win in the Sugar Bowl, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison called Jibreel Black into his office.
The two didn't have a long conversation - but what they said was significant, and it could have a big impact on the Wolverines' defensive performance during the 2012-13 season.
"Coach Mattison called me in and said, 'You're going to play three-technique for us,' and I said, 'Yes sir,' " Black said.
And that was that.
Black, a rising junior who has spent the majority of his collegiate career as a defensive end, saw some time inside in Michigan's last few games last season.
"I was taken [aback] by it at first, but I kind of knew it was coming. I played inside at the Sugar Bowl and toward the end of the season, so I was kind of prepared for it, if it happened," Black said. "It wasn't like, 'Oh, I don't know if I can do this." It was, 'Alright, let's go with it.' "
"I was kind of nervous about gaining the weight, about how my body would respond, but other that that, there was no hesitation."
Since that conversation with Mattison, Black has worked with strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman, hitting the weight room and closely monitoring his diet.
Black has gained 10 pounds and is now up to 270. He's hoping to bump that up to 280 before the season begins.
Away from Schembechler Hall, Black has been chatting regularly with Will Heininger, who was the Wolverines' starting three-technique defensive tackle last season. The two talk about the intricacies of the position.
With Heininger's help, Black is adapting to the new position quite nicely.
"It's not a huge transition. The way you use your feet and hands are different, but everything else is pretty much the same," Black said. You have to get used to it, the swing of things. It will come with repetition.
"I think I'm making some big strides for the team. Coming from the outside to the inside, I'm able to use my quickness. I'm faster off the ball."
Black isn't the only defensive lineman that is improving, either. Through spring practice, the junior has been very impressed with the unit's two seniors, William Campbell and Craig Roh.
"They're the leaders, the seniors. We all follow suit with what they do, and they're really taking their game up a notch. With they're working in the winter, they're taking charge.
"Last year, Coach always talked about how Will played too high, and how he needed to lower his pad level. He's playing a lot lower. It's his senior season, he's the leader, and he has to step it up."
Black also likes what he sees from two young players who are expected to step up next season. At the rush end spot, sophomores Brennen Beyer and Frank Clark are excelling.
"Frank and Beyer are coming along really well," Black said. "Craig and I joke all the time how our bodies aren't meant to do all that running - leave that to the little guys.
"When I watch film and see them running to the ball, I'm like, 'They're a better fit for that position, all day.' They're working together, and Coach Mattison is doing a great job with them."