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August 12, 2013

Desmond Morgan adapting to life in the middle

He still doesn't physically look the part of a starting Big Ten linebacker and he probably never will. Junior Desmond Morgan, though, has heard it before - and he doesn't care.

That's because he's also proven people wrong before. In some ways he's reminiscent of the Michigan linebackers of the 1980s (for you old timers) - the Mike Mallory, Andy Moeller types who were always in position and able to get off blocks to make plays.

This year he'll be asked to do it at the MIKE position, where he feels more comfortable and is very familiar. Morgan patrolled the middle in high school at Holland, Mich. West Ottawa before adjusting to the WILL at Michigan. Now he's back where he feels he belongs.

"It feels natural," he said. "The transition isn't too different. They're both pretty similar on either side. Some of the adjustments I kind of got a grasp on in the spring, which helped, but so far I like it. It's more what I grew up with."

And what he's probably more suited for.

"The MIKE is a little more in the box," he said. "The coverage responsibilities are a little less demanding as far as not lining up on the slots - more the tight end, even a running back out of the backfield type of thing that I was growing used to in high school. It was an adjustment coming and playing will, running with the slot receivers with 4.5 speed and trying to stay with them."

The soft-spoken junior has also developed into a leader. He organized his group this summer to watch film after every lift - each game, each player - to see what went right and what went wrong. Then they'd simulate the same plays with some of their drills.

That's the kind of initiative that separates the better from the good, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said.

"He's doing a good job," Mattison said. "He's worked on his body. He looks trim but weight more and he's very confident, played a lot of football here. I know he wants to have a good year.

"He's so smart. He can make the checks, and he's strong. That allows him to be able to strike a blow, punch and get off blocks. One thing our linebackers have to work extremely hard on that was a negative for us was there were too many times they ran into blockers and didn't disengage. That's been a big emphasis."

Morgan's example has been a positive in that area for a group most figure will improve dramatically in 2013.


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