The Wolverine

September 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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8 THE WOLVERINE SEPTEMBER 2017 W ho is going to provide that rock, that when adversity introduces a man to himself, is going to take the group on his back and go? — Michigan defensive co- ordinator Don Brown If you play on Brown's defense, or Jim Harbaugh's team, you're not just prep- ping for Florida. You're prepping for life. How many defensive co- ordinators quote Albert Ein- stein, besides the man Michi- gan players lovingly call "Dr. Blitz?" Adversity introduces a man to himself … In other words, when the tough times come, players learn what sort of gravel they've got in the gut. They assess who they are, what they can endure, how hard they can fight off whatever comes their way. As a group, they discover the same. What they're withstanding now will never be confused with a cruise to the Bahamas. They're pushing through grueling workouts; blunt, high-decibel verbal challenges and an internal competition that never ends. As Harbaugh himself said, it's time to "strap on the iron jock, work like crazy and get the job done." The end of camp marks only the beginning of the challenge. Adversity is coming, all right. Nineteen Wolverines who brought Michigan to the brink of glory a sea- son ago are now NFL-based specta- tors regarding U-M football. Jabrill Peppers isn't coming to make a touchdown-saving tackle. Taco Charlton isn't coming off the edge to bury a quarterback. Jordan Lewis won't be soaring, helmet wings aloft, to pluck down any one- handed interceptions in The Big House. Many say it's just too much to overcome. Don't get your hopes up. Michigan football under Harbaugh remains a year away. Tell that to Brown and he'll send all 11 after you on a doubter-dumping blitz. He hears the talk. He's constantly reminded he lost all but one starter from last year. That's when he sets his jaw, gets a gleam in his eye and reminds everyone that fifth-year senior defensive tackle Maurice Hurst Jr. — "one of the most devastat- ing penetrators inside in college foot- ball" — wasn't a starter. Sophomore defensive end Rashan Gary, already drawing national acclaim, wasn't a starter. The defensive side of the ball stands peppered with perform- ers who were not starters, but who bring great talent and plenty of experience to the mix. Junior safety Tyree Kinnel, sophomore linebacker Devin Bush Jr., redshirt junior defen- sive end Chase Winovich … guar- anteed, Brown faced greater lineup adversity over the course of his coaching career. It's the same on the other side for offensive coordinator Tim Drevno and new passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton. They've got sopho- more weapons such as tailback Chris Evans, wideouts Kekoa Crawford and Eddie McDoom, and offensive lineman Ben Bredeson, who in 2016 experienced their first taste of sweat- mixed-with-blood adversity. Don't underestimate any of that, Harbaugh cautions. He remembers clearly when his opportunity ar- rived, in the fall of 1984. "The single-most improvement I made came in the first year to the second year," he as- sured. "I got better — much better. "When the starting quar- terback at Michigan, Steve Smith, graduated, it was, 'Aha! This is my opportu- nity! This is a chance. I've got to take advantage of it.' "I see that for a lot of our guys. Many of them have played, and started. Some of them have been waited for this opportunity. I'm excited about that. I'm excited about coaching guys that are re- ally hungry. I remember that feeling. "It's put up or shut up time. I've got to get it done now. There's a real sense of urgency." Of course, some haven't been through it. Freshman wideouts Tarik Black and Donovan Peoples-Jones appear to possess all the talent in the world. But they haven't experienced hand fighting at the line against a 22-year- old NFL-bound cornerback. They haven't been tackled to the ground steps off the line in Ohio Stadium, wheeled around, plaintively seeking a flag and discovered none coming. They'll all be battling in a deafen- ing whiteout in Happy Valley come midseason. They'll brace against the chill in a shaking, swaying Camp Randall Stadium in Novem- ber. A week later, they'll draw the 800-pound gorilla at home, in a hoped-for beginning of Urban decay. Former captain Jon Jansen insists to this day, when he faces a tough situation in life, he harkens back to Michigan's 1997 rally against Iowa on the way to a national champion- ship. He thinks about togetherness, toughness and pushing through. Adversity is about to introduce many young men to themselves. How they respond counts now, next year and 40 years down the road. ❏ Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @JB _ Wolverine. WOLVERINE WATCH   JOHN BORTON Adversity, Maturity Lie Ahead Sophomore linebacker Devin Bush Jr. is among a large group of young Wolverines that will have a chance to step into more prominent roles in 2017. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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