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September 16, 2011 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 2011-09-16

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Friday, Semptember 16, 2011 -11

Demens stands alone as leader of linebackers

By TIM ROHAN The only returning starter
Daily Sports Editor from last season's linebacker
corps spent his offseason learn-
Kenny Demens is the lone sur- ing Mattison's complex scheme
vivor - he's Brady Hoke's rock in because he's responsible for set-
the middle. tingthe defense up as the middle
The 6-foot-1, 248-pound linebacker.
thumper looked left and at first The only times he comes off
it was Brandon Herron he saw, the field are when senior J.B.
then a little bit of Mike Jones. Fitzgerald gives him a rest. He's
Then it was the true freshman the one everyone looks to for
Desmond Morgan, then junior checks - and there are about
Brandin Hawthorne. four to five checks per play.
He looked right and saw Jake "It's a big job," Demens said
Ryan playing the first games of last week. "My spot here is the
his Michigan career, while Cam quarterback on the defense."
Gordon sat out with a back inju- Usually coaches want to sur-
ry. round their quarterback with
Last Saturday, it was either consistency.
Ryan or another freshman, Bren- That's been far from the real-
nan Beyer, out there. ity, but Mattison isn't too con-
They're all smaller, athletic cerned he hasn't found two
guys - perfect for the exotic consistent sidekicks for Demens
blitz schemes and coverages just yet.
Michigan defensive coordina- "We felt there's a number of
tor Greg Mattison likes to tinker them that are all fairly equal,"
with. But injuries and inexperi- Mattison said. "That's the good
ence have kept the door revolv- news. That, if a guy or someone
ing, especially at weakside gets gimped up for some rea-
linebacker. son, then the next guy's got to be
Then there's Demens. ready to go."

Added Demens: "Just going
through camp, a lot of guys
proved they can play. And that
kind of helps. I'm not out there
wondering who's going to play
and if that guy's going to have my
back. I'm confident in whoever's
in there."
Against Notre Dame Haw-
thorne burst onto the scene, ris-
ing from the bottom of the depth
chart to make game-saving
defensive stops.
Relegated to special teams for
two seasons, Hawthorne's ath-
leticism took center stage for the
first time on Saturday night. He
finished with a career-high six
tackles, and earned a chance to
make his first career start this
week.
"He showed some things in the
spring, he showed some things in
the fall and then he sprained that
ankle (the last week of camp),
been gimped," Mattison said.
"And the one thing that I was
impressed with him, even when
the ankle was not good earlier,
he came out and practiced hard
and limped and showed that he's

MARISSA MCCLAIN/Daily

Junior linebacker Brandin Hawthorne is expected to make his first career start this Saturday.

a tough kid. And I was happy
for some of the things he did
(against Notre Dame). It really
helped us."
On two separate plays in'the
same drive, Hawthorne showed
his versatility - knifing through
the line and dropping a running
back for a loss then full-out div-
ing to bat away a pass in cover-
age.
"I was happy for him," Demens
said. "There's a guy who's a little
undersized but has a heart as big
as (anyone). He made some plays.
... I was just happy that he got a
chance to prove himself, and the
coaches put the trust in him.
"I feel like it's his time. He's
waited around. He's worked his
butt off in offseason condition-
ing workouts and he goes hard
in practice. He has the heart. He
can hit with the best of them, the
biggest of them, and I like that
about Hawthorne."
Even though Demens has a few
pounds on the 6-foot, 214-pound
Hawthorne, Demens said that
the Pahokee, Fla. native keeps
up with the middle linebacker
in the weight room. That's key

for a group of linebackers who has a knack for getting to the
typically weigh less than 240 quarterback.
pounds - Demens said they may Gordon, though, is expected
be small, but they're all strong to make his season debut this
enough to be physical presences, Saturday against Eastern Michi-
and take on blockers. gan. But with Mattison coaching
Jake Ryan was one of those the defense, expect a lot of sub-
undersized linebackers. stitutions and rotations. While
In the spring the coaches one guy could take a hold of a
spot, that doesn't mean Ryan,
Herron (when he returns from
t a *big job. leg injury), Beyer, Jones and
Morgan won't see the field.
M y spot here is "Ieel comfortable with any-
body that's out on that football
the quarterback ,field," Mattison said.
Demens is too. But, eventual-
of the defense." ly, he said he would like to start
developing chemistry with the
other two linebackers, get into a
rhythm and find a comfort level.
bragged about how good he "We just have to keep trying
could be, but he just needed to to get them healthy, make sure
add weight. they're 100 percent, making sure
Now, Hoke has Ryan playing they keep improving," Mattison
defensive end in his nickel pack- said. "You have a number of line-
ages. backers there that haven't played
Ryan hasn't played perfectly, alot of football.
which is why Gordon's still listed "You get thrown in a ball game
ahead of him on the depth chart, like that, for them to make some
but he forced a key turnover of the plays they made, I was
against Western Michigan and proud of them."

Redshirtojuniorlinebacker Kenny Demens (25) is tied for the team lead with 18 tackles in two games.

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