Michigan's Jake Ryan has a career day in Bennie Oosterbaan's No. 47 'Legend' jersey
ANN ARBOR -- Jake Ryan was honored and humbled to have a part in Michigan football history Saturday.
And once all the pomp and circumstance settled down, the Michigan sophomore linebacker went out and proved why Brady Hoke saw him as a worthy candidate to represent a "Michigan Legend."
Hoke placed Bennie Oosterbaan's No. 47 jersey on Ryan before the start of Saturday's 31-25 win over Air Force, and the long-haired linebacker from Westlake, Ohio didn't disappoint -- finishing his day with a career-high 11 tackles.
"I did a little research on Bennie and I just feel like he was a really athletic Michigan man," Ryan said afterward. "It's just a number, but I'm representing someone.
"I had pride in what I did."
Hoke said earlier in the week that the player he picked to represent Oosterbaan -- who was enshrined as the third "Michigan Football Legend" prior to kickoff -- would be someone who had similar traits as the former Wolverine great both on and off the field.
And in Ryan, a budding star on an otherwise young and inexperience Michigan defense, he believes he's found his man.
"As we looked at it as a staff, the guys who from a character standpoint and from the standpoint of how he goes about his business every day," Hoke said, "there wasn't a better (choice) than to have Jake represent Bennie.
"It's the right guy. How he played, I think he made some plays (today). ... I know he played hard."
Ryan finished with a career-best tackle performance, but the Michigan defense was far from spectacular against Air Force.
Ryan and the rest of his linebacking crew failed multiple times against the Falcons' triple-option pitch attack, allowing Air Force to rumble for 290 yards on the ground.
And, as any good leader does, Ryan took plenty of the blame himself.
"We just need to improve on our technique," Ryan said. "We need to get back to the benches and see what we did wrong and what we need to improve on. We weren't playing our technique, and we need to get that fixed."
Ryan and the rest of the Michigan defense have been shredded on the ground over the first two weeks of the 2012 season. Alabama, and perhaps the best offensive line in America, rumbled for 247 yards against Michigan last week. Air Force, and its funky triple-option, bested that number by more than 40 yards.
Brady Hoke called Michigan's defense a "work in progress" to this point, something Ryan agreed with.
"We definitely need to get better as we go on," he said. "We need to get better with this week and go from there."