Michigan's Desmond Morgan has gone from overwhelmed to experienced in one short season
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
A Holland native, Morgan spent plenty of time as a youth in the stands cheering on the Michigan football team, and watched even more action at home on television -- all the while wondering what it would feel like to stand on the field wearing the winged helmet.
And then, as a freshman in 2011, Morgan's dreams became a reality when he made his Michigan debut at home against Notre Dame under the lights.
His emotions that day? Joy? Jubilation? Excitement?
"I was blown away," Morgan says of the first snap of his college career. "Even before I took that first step, before I lined up, those nerves were there.
"And they stayed there."
One of six true freshman to take defensive snaps last season, Morgan may have started his rookie year with butterflies and wobbly knees, but he ended it as a cool veteran.
The 6-foot-1, 227-pound weakside linebacker finished 2011 with 63 tackles, 48 of which came in the final six games -- firmly planting him as one of the expected cornerstones of Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison's defense this season.
He's not sure how exactly he got here, but he's pretty darn happy about it.
"Last year was a whirlwind," he said. "To be honest, coming in as a true freshman I really didn't know what was going to happen. I didn't anticipate getting on the field.
"But then it started to happen, and by the time the Ohio State game came around, it got to the point where it just felt like another game."
Morgan's steady play greatly benefited Michigan down the stretch last season. He started the final six games of the season, easily the toughest portion of the Wolverines' schedule, and helped the defense hold opponents to an average of just 306 yards per game -- 16 yards below the season average.
One year later, he's back to help anchor a defense that's still young -- but is, overall, far more comfortable.
"I like these guys," Mattison says. "All I do is watch them from when the season was over with, through the winter conditioning and summer conditioning through (the start of fall camp), and these are our kind of guys.
"Whenever you have good people who work really hard and try to be (a Michigan defense), then you as a coach have to work really hard so that they can feel like Mike (Martin) and Ryan (Van Bergen) and those guys felt after that last game."
Morgan says it hasn't quite hit him that he's one of the team's more seasoned defenders, in terms of game experience, despite the fact that he's just a sophomore.
He still admits that he's got plenty to learn, but so far this month, everything has slowed down.
Morgan was one of Michigan's more productive linebackers last season as a nervous wreck.
How will he perform this year in a more calm environment?
He can't wait to find out.
"Last year, that was a thick playbook," he said. "And then you're working on technique and all that, it was a struggle. And then there's class, it was tough.
"But now, the comfort level is higher. Everything feels better. It feels nice to be able to just go out there and you know what you have to do and play. It's exciting."