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September 22, 2011 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2011-09-22

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8A - Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Van Bergen, defensive line adjust to new scheme

Fifth-year senior
says Hoke and Co.
have lofty aims for
defensive line
STEPHEN J. NESBITT
Daily Sports Editor
Ryan Van Bergen plays in
a constant state of limbo. The
fifth-year senior's position on
the Michigan football team's
defensive line doesn't just fluc-
tuate - it's a heads-or-tails mat-
ter.
"We actually have a little coin
that we flip to figure out if I'm
playing inside (or outside)," Van
Bergen joked.
After Van Bergen spent three
seasons at defensive end, Michi-
gan defensive coordinator Greg
Mattison decided to shift him a
spot over to play tackle alongside
senior defensive tackle Mike
Martin.
But Van Bergen has continued
to transition between both spots
on the defensive line.
He just likes to be in the spot
with the fiercest action. If the
opposing team is running inside,
he wants to playtackle. If there's
a pass rush, he wants to come off
the edge.
But the coaches have a differ-
ent plan for the seasoned line-
man.
"They like me against double
teams, so wherever the double
team's going, that's where I'll
probably be," Van Bergen said.
For Van Bergen, double teams
are just double the challenge. He
welcomes them.
"It's probably not the most
glorious spot," Van Bergen said.
"No one's going to say, 'Wow,

he took on some great double
teams.' That's not really some-
thing that's going to happen. But
I take it as a point of pride."
Van Bergen has collected nine
tackles in three games, but his
presence on the line is consis-
tently felt by both his unit and
the opposing offense.
Teammates like redshirt
junior linebacker Kenny Demens
and junior linebacker Brandin
Hawthorne can attest to the Van
Bergen effect.
"They tell me, 'I like having
you in front of me,' " Van Bergen
said. "They know I'll take on two
blocks and they'll be free to run
and make a play or two. I take a
lot of pride in the fact that I'm
going to take on two guys and
I'm not going backward."
"It's time to
start arriving
as a defensive
unit."
On the backs of the seniors,
Van Bergen thinks the entire
mindset of the front seven has
changed - and changed for
good.
"The standard for defensive
line at Michigan is going to be
the highest in the country, at
some point," Van Bergen said. "I
think it is right now, as far as in
(Michigan coach Brady Hoke's)
mind, but we're definitely not
playing up to that standard up
front, myself included."
The defensive line got its first
sack of the season last Saturday
when junior defensive end Craig

a

ED MOCH /Daily
Fifth-year senior defensive tackle Ryan Van Bergen (53) has collected nine tackles through three games this season, switching from defensive end to tackle.

Roh caught Eastern Michigan
quarterback Alex Gillett in the
backfield.
"Michigan traditionally has
had a dominant defensive line
and dominant linebacker corps,"
Van Bergen said. "We have to set
ourselves to the standard that
they have and we have to play
better - bottom line.
"It's coming up on crunch
time. If you're not where you
need to be, the season's here and
it's time to start arriving as a
defensive unit."
The Wolverines will face a

formidable test this weekend
in the form of San Diego State
and running back Ronnie Hill-
man, the nation's second-leading
rusher.
Hillman has rushed for 497
yards and eight touchdowns in
just three games this season.
Michigan has struggled
defensively against the run,
especially early in games.
"There's no way to hide it,"
Van Bergen said.
In first quarters, opposing
backs have rushed for an average
of 5.31 yards per carry. In com-

parison, fourth-quarter num-
bers less than half of that, at 2.65
yards per carry.
When asked what area needed
to improve substantially before
Big Ten play, Hoke instinctively
pointed to the front seven - the
defensive line and linebackers.
The defensive front has fall-
en on plenty of hard times. But
other times - with its backs to
the goal line - it has been nearly
impenetrable. Thanks to Mat-
tison's well-disguised schemes,
the defense has allowed just
four red-zone touchdowns in 10

opportunities.
There's nothing heads or tails
about it, Michigan's defense is
stout at the goal line.
In the defense's meeting
room, there's a sign affixed to
the wall, reading, "Give me a
place to stand."
"That really means that until
that ball crosses that goal line,
as long as I havea place to stand,
they aren't in yet," Mattison
said. "Our guys believe in that."
Even if it's by just a few blades
of grass, they haven't run out of
space yet.

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