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September 12, 2012Last Saturday's win over Air Force was, to put it mildly, frustrating for the Wolverines' defenders.
Playing against a quirky offense with blocking schemes and read keys wildly different than any other offensive system it will see all season, the Michigan defense surrendered 290 rushing yards to the Falcons' triple-option attack.
When asked if he was relieved that the Wolverines' experience with the triple option began and ended last weekend, redshirt sophomore linebacker Jake Ryan smiled and responded, "Yeah, definitely. Just because their offense, they were good. They were disciplined. Just playing an offense like that is tough."
Ryan said that, in his entire football career, he had never played against the scheme.
"It was definitely hard going in and seeing what they do, but we got used to it," he said. "Preparing for this week, it's more of what we know. I feel like we need to progress through the week and just get the job done."
Earlier this week, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison shouldered the blame for the Wolverines' lack of success against the triple-option, saying the game plan did not provide the defense with "enough bullets."
But even though the Falcons had success - and the triple option won't come up against this year, unless Michigan sees a service academy or Georgia Tech in a bowl game - Ryan says there is a very important lesson the Wolverines can learn from the experience: sound technique goes a long way.
"Your footwork, the things you do every single day," Ryan said. "We need to perfect that and get it done.
"I think we, as a defense, need to play our technique and keep moving forward. Looking back at it, I think we played physical and came out with the win."
As a redshirt sophomore who has played beside veteran middle linebacker Kenny Demens, who is now a fifth-year senior, for the majority of his career, it was a little strange to suddenly be the most experienced linebacker on the field.
"It was kind of a little weird," Ryan said. "I help them out. The best players are going to play, and James and Joe stepped up. They were doing well in there.
"If they have any questions, I just let them know what to do. Questions on the field, Joe knows the defense. James know the defense. They all know what they're doing, but if they have any questions about steps, technique, anything like that, I'll always try to help them out.
"They both have very good instincts. They're both fast to the ball. They know what tto do when the ball is coming, and I feel like that is a really big help."
Ryan said he was impressed with how quickly the younger Wolverines have adapted to the college game. And not just Ross and Bolden. He also mentioned defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins and defensive end Mario Ojemudia - whom Ryan rooms with on road trips - as players who have made a positive impact.