October 9, 2013

Washington: Time to step it up

Fifth-year senior Quinton Washington is gearing up for the long run in the trenches for the Wolverines. He's also ready for lots of running come Saturday night, given Penn State's love for the forward pass.

The Nittany Lions have averaged 37.4 throws per game through their 3-2 start. For a defensive lineman, that means a lot of pass rushing.

"It's mental preparation," Washington noted. "You have to have your body and mind conditioned, and be ready to run, and run, and run."

Michigan's pass rush itself needs to kick into a higher gear, he admitted. The Wolverines have recorded 10 sacks in five games - not an embarrassingly low total, but no better than tied for 56th in the nation, after an offseason of working towards increasing the heat on quarterbacks.

It's not all about sacks, of course, but Washington readily admits the Wolverines are still a work in progress on defense.

"It needs some work," Washington said of Michigan's pass rush. "We do need some work. It's like every new thing in life. It's going to take adjustments every week. It's understanding what your specialty is. It's coming along. We just have to keep working. This weekend would be a great time to step it up."

The Wolverines step into Beaver Stadium with less depth on the defensive line, given the season-ending knee injury to backup nose tackle Ondre Pipkins. The news of his diagnosis hit Washington particularly hard.

"It hurts a lot," Washington acknowledged. "I've roomed with him for the past few years. We were roommates on all our away trips. We worked together. He was my nose, I was his nose. It really hurts. It just demands that I step up, Jibreel [Black], Richard Ash, Ryan Glasgow and Willie Henry all step up."

Henry, the redshirt freshman, has seen considerable action in recent weeks. He's shown an ability to learn quickly and apply teaching effectively, according to the veteran.

"He's working hard every day in practice," Washington said. "He's running to the ball, getting off the ball, making tackles. He's doing everything right, and the coaches see it."

Meanwhile, redshirt junior Ash has moved to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart behind Washington. Ash has seen the field sparingly over the years, but U-M head coach Brady Hoke recently commented on his improvement.

"He has good feet and good hands, but it's mental preparation for him," Washington said. "He's really come along a lot. Richard has been working throughout the summer and has made all his runs. He's gotten stronger in the weight room over the years. I'm excited to see what he can do."

The Wolverines will need all hands on deck against true freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg and the Nittany Lions. Washington noted U-M will need to apply the sort of mentality they absorbed during the bye week.

"We're more mentally strong, to go the long haul, the full 60 minutes every game," he said. "It was mental preparation to hit every play."

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