Ryan Van Bergen says there's a 'sense of urgency' for the Michigan football team's defense
How will Denard Robinson adapt to the pro-style sets? Who will emerge as a workhorse tailback? Is there anybody on the roster to play fullback?
Yes, there are plenty of obvious questions on the offensive side of the ball that fans should begin to see answered at the Michigan football team’s spring game at noon Saturday.
But what about on defense? Besides a permanent switch to a four-man front by first-year coach Brady Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, what will be different when the team is on display for the first time at Michigan Stadium?
“There will be subtle differences, you’d have to know football to see it,” senior defensive end Ryan Van Bergen said on a Big Ten teleconference today.
Cynical Michigan fans might say that showing the ability to tackle and cover would be a good start after the Wolverines ranked last in the Big Ten in 2010 in points allowed (35.2) and yards allowed (450.8) per game.
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Scheme-wise, Van Bergen said he thinks this year’s defense will be more aggressive. He said the Wolverines likely will have more players near the line of scrimmage and pressure the quarterback more on third-and-long plays than they have in the past.
In general, he said he’s sensed some urgency to get better from the Wolverines’ players this spring.
“We’ve slowly been getting better over the past couple years, and now we need to do it with a new regime,” Van Bergen said.
Van Bergen says he gets extra motivation from being a senior. But he’s seen the same urgency from players like junior defensive tackle Will Campbell.
Campbell could be a key to the success of Mattison’s 4-3 defense after struggling to find the field - and eventually being moved to the offensive line - during Rich Rodriguez’s tenure in Ann Arbor.
“I think (Campbell’s) main improvement is in work ethic and attitude toward the game,” Van Bergen said. “He’s paying attention to smaller details, he’s just been more coachable and is taking criticism well.”
Van Bergen is more comfortable himself, saying he’s finally lining up at the position that he was recruited to play by former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr. He started 12 games at defensive tackle as a redshirt sophomore in 2009 before moving to defensive end in last season’s 3-3-5 alignment.
“I’ve played a lot of schemes since I’ve been here,” Van Bergen said. “But I feel like this is the position I was meant to play when it comes to my ability and body.”
Rich Rezler covers sports for AnnArbor.com. Contact him at 734-623-2553 or firstname.lastname@example.org.