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Shawn Crable hustles Eastern Michigan quarterback Matt Bohnet. Against Northwestern, the redshirt sophomore recorded Michigan's only sack.
Crable produces no matter position
By Matt Venegoni
Daily Sports Editor
After Michigan won a recruiting war with Ohio
State, Shawn Crable came to Ann Arbor with the
highest of expectations. The Massillon, Ohio,
native was touted as the No. 2 weakside defen-
sive end by Rivals.com and the No. 7 outside line-
backer by SuperPrep.
Three years after coming to Michigan with
fellow Ohio native Prescott Burgess, Crable is
finally beginning to live up to the accolades he
received in high school. One reason it took the
redshirt sophomore so long to see significant
playing time is his size. His high school rankings
show, at least partially, why he hadn't seen play-
ing time until this season. Crable appears too
big for linebacker but too small for a defensive
end. But no matter what his position, Crable's
athleticism and playmaking ability ensured that
the coaches couldn't keep him on the bench.
Against Northwestern, Crable showed what a
player with his rare talents can do.
He lined up primarily on passing downs in the
interior line, but Crable didn't have his hand down
like a defensive lineman. At the snap, he would
either stunt and rush the quarterback or drop back
into pass coverage. With his speed and quick-
ness, Crable did both well, notching three tackles
- including a huge sack on Wildcats quarterback
Brett Basanez and a quarterback hurry.
"I give a lot of (credit) to my coaches and them
believing in me that I can perform," said Crable
of getting a chance to play more.
Coming into the season, many expected Cra-
ble to play a huge role in retooling a defense that
struggled at the end of last year. But after fall
camp broke, he wasn't playing as well as some,
including coach Lloyd Carr, expected. Near the
middle of fall camp, Carr let it be known that he
was not happy with how Crable was performing,
saying that the player needed to step up.
Crable must have done something differently
because for the last two games, he has played a sig-
nificant role in containing Iowa and Northwestern.
"He didn't get to play much early because he
didn't have a very good fall, and I was disap-
pointed in him," Carr said. "But these last two
weeks he, both in practice and in the games, has
made a difference at a time when we needed him
to give us some substantial effort. And he has
In both games, Crable was all over the field.
Last Saturday, Crable tackled Basanez on one
play, then dropped him for a 15-yard sack two
plays later. It was just the sixth sack the Wildcats
had given up all year. Then early in the fourth
quarter while in coverage, Crable sniffed out a
bubble screen and stopped receiver Mark Philm-
ore for a one-yard gain.
"We just try to mix it up and confuse people,"
Crable said. "We try to make them think I'm com-
ing and I'm not, make them think I'm standing in
this gap and not, just that type of thing."
At this point, Crable has played more of a spe-
cialist role, but that doesn't bother him. He says
he's happy that he's finally getting a chance to
really show what he can do.
"I don't really know what I'm going to do,"
Crable said. "If I was (a) safety I wouldn't care.
I don't care. It's just whatever they give me a
chance to do."
English at the head of coaching class
T he 2004 season had to be a near- injury. Starting safeties Willis Bar-
dream scenario for defensive ringer and Brandent Englemon were
backs coach Ron English. injured in the loss to Minnesota and
Standout cornerback Marlin Jackson missed three combined games. Play-
returned to his preferred ing safety for the Wolver-
position after switching ines started to look like
to safety in 2003. Safety dangerous work.
Ernest Shazor was com- The rash of injuries
ing off a banner season presented English with
in which he finished third perhaps the greatest chal-
on the team in tackles and lenge he has faced in his
recorded two sacks and two three seasons at Michigan.
interceptions. He had already proven
So compared to last his expertise in bringing
year, this season must have STEPHANIE out the best in top talent.
seemed like a nightmare. Jackson and Shazor made
The Wolverines returned WRIGHT English the first coach
just two of their starting 1right on Tret ever to have two defensive
on the offensive line, and coach Andy
Moeller has had to shift players from
position to position within games thanks
to minor injuries suffered during almost
But only English has done so much
with what most considered so little when
the season began. The numbers speak
for themselves. Michigan's pass defense
currently ranks third in the Big Ten, giv-
ing up an average of 209 yards through
the air each game. The Wolverines have
also recorded nine interceptions, which
ties them with Penn State for third in the
conference. In nine games, Michigan
has allowed just eight touchdown passes.
In part, those high rankings stem from
Michigan's struggles against the run, but
it cuts both ways. Maybe teams decide
to run against the Wolverines because
they believe it will be hard to beat them
Still, the secondary isn't perfect. Cor-
nerback Grant Mason has been torched
on a number of plays, cornerback-turned-
safety Brandon Harrison looked lost in
his first few games, and - somewhat
comically - everyone from Barringer
Morgan Trent has struggled to hold
onto the ball when he gets his hands on
it. But English's players have improved
each week, and that says a lot about
their character and talent. Because that
improvement has taken place throughout
the secondary, it says even more about
At Carr's weekly press conference
following the Iowa game, he applauded
English's ability to break down com-
plicated techniques and schemes,
making them simple enough for even
the youngest and most inexperienced
players to understand. Out of neces-
sity, English has shown off that skill all
season with impressive results. Harrison
- a true freshman - has started to
adjust to his new position; he recorded
three tackles, a pass breakup and an
interception against Northwestern last
weekend. Sophomore Jamar Adams
started in place of Englemon at strong
safety against Penn State and Iowa and
notched 15 tackles in his two starts.
Even Hall - a reliable contributor since
his freshman season - has reached new
heights this year. The junior was named
Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week
this week after he recorded six tackles
and a fumble return for a touchdown
Carr said last month that he thinks
English is going to have "great success in
this profession." Considering the job he's
done this season, I think he already has.
- Stephanie Wright can be
reached at email@example.com
defensive backs from 2004
- cornerback Leon Hall and safety
Ryan Mundy - and would have to
rely on mostly untested players to fill
the remaining spots in the lineup.
Even Hall and Mundy were relative
question marks, charged with the
daunting task of filling Jackson and
Shazor's All-American shoes. In the
weeks leading up to the season opener,
the secondary was widely proclaimed
the weakest part of Michigan's
The situation got worse once the
season began. Mundy was lost for
the year with an undisclosed nerve
backs earn consensus All-
America honors in the same season.
But what would English's unit look
like when it was full of inexperience
and ravaged by injuries?
As coach Lloyd Carr put it a week
ago, "I can't imagine a coach doing a
better job with a group of kids than Ron
English has done."
To be fair, all of Michigan's position
coaches have been tested this season due
to the number of injuries the Wolverines
have suffered. Running backs coach Fred
Jackson has been without Mike Hart for
at least part of five contests. Michigan
has started four different combinations
. T I i
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