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Posted on Thu, Aug 11, 2011 : 10:35 p.m.

Brandon Herron moves to weak-side linebacker in Michigan football team's first known position change

By Kyle Meinke

Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said Tuesday he wouldn't hesitate to make position changes if doing so would give him a better shot at playing the best 11 players.

Two days later, linebacker Brandon Herron became the first known change.

Herron said in an online video published by the school Thursday he has slid over to weak-side linebacker. The fifth-year senior from Stafford, Texas, began the spring at strong-side linebacker, but moved to the middle after a week and a half of practices.

Now, the 6-foot-2, 221-pounder is making the move to weak-side.

"Coach told me, 'You're the linebacker that has the brains, so it's easy for you to make that switch and be comfortable,'" Herron said in the video. "I'm still trying to get a fit for the (weak-side), but I'm taking it a day at a time. Right now, my role is the (weak-side), and he told me that will be the best fit to get (me) on the field."

Herron appeared in seven games last year at linebacker and on special teams, but battled an ankle injury that limited his effectiveness and playing time. He played in all 12 games in 2009, recording 20 tackles and recovering one fumble.

Mattison said he's seen more improvement from the linebackers since spring than any other position group.

"Now, is that because they weren't very talented to begin with, or is it because they are really, really improving?" Mattison said. "I'm still not sure."

Junior Kenny Demens is expected to be the starter at middle linebacker, with seniors J.B. Fitzgerald and Marrell Evans jockeying for playing time behind him.

Returning starter Cam Gordon, a sophomore, is battling spring standout Jake Ryan, a redshirt freshman, for the job at strong-side linebacker.


Senior linebacker J.B. Fitzgerald on competition for a starting job: "Nothing is better than competition for a football team."

Melanie Maxwell |

Incoming freshman linebacker Frank Clark also has impressed Mattison, and could vie for playing time. Clark is a three-star prospect from Cleveland.

"Nothing is better than competition for a football team," Fitzgerald said. "We're all out there competing, but helping each other as well, and coaches are helping. That's how it has to be if you're going to have success."

Part of the uncertainly at so many positions is due to Michigan changing its defensive scheme from a 3-3-5 to a 4-3.

“This is my fourth year and pretty much fourth different defense," Fitzgerald said. "When you learn so many different defenses, you stop comparing and just start learning.”

The coaching staff has stressed patience as it implements its scheme and players learn their roles in it. Mattison is pleased with the progress of his unit, but it still "has miles and to go to be where we want to be."

Competition open at cornerback
Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Troy Woolfolk and J.T. Floyd, who were expected to be Michigan's top two cornerbacks before going down with injuries last year, aren't guaranteed their starting spots back despite being at full health.

"I told Troy, 'I haven't seen you play,'" Hoke said. "I don't revert to how they did in the past. There's different coaches and schemes, and it's just not fair to the kids.

"We believe in competition and evaluation on a daily basis. That's what made us good football teams."

Hoke said sophomore Courtney Avery and freshman Greg Brown have practiced well at the position.

Getting their kicks
Hoke said kickers Seth Broekhuizen and Matt Wile have punted well in practice. Both are expected to be candidates to fill in at punter while sophomore starter Will Hagerup serves a four-game suspension (undisclosed team violation) to start the season.

The comment was the first time Hoke named those who are working out at punter, although Wile was seen taking snaps with the first unit at Tuesday's practice.

Broekhuizen, a sophomore from Holland, was 3-for-9 on field-goals last year, and he punted poorly in the Ohio State game.

Wile is an incoming freshman from San Diego. He averaged 36.2 yards per punt as a senior last year and 40.2 yards as a junior.

Odds and ends
Friday's practice will be Michigan's first workout with full pads. The team will have its first two-a-day Saturday. ... Hoke reiterated the team's competition for starting tailback remains open, and nothing has changed while the team has practiced with no or partial pads. It moves to full pads and hitting today. ... With the change in coaching staffs, as well as offensive and defensive schemes, there are more position battles than otherwise would be common for a team with 17 returning starters. Hoke, though, said he's not concerned so many spots remain up for grabs.

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.


Daniel Schuetz

Sat, Aug 13, 2011 : 1:58 a.m.

Brady Hoke really seems tough. What did that punter do to get himself in so much trouble? That was really stupid of him. I hope he gets his butt in gear, and doesn't cost the team. So goes for Darryl Stonum. I hope he gets his act together.

Lorain Steelmen

Sat, Aug 13, 2011 : 6:57 p.m.

DS. I agree, my gosh, what the heck did that kid (Hagerup) do? Wasn't he the one that got left at home last year, when the team traveled to osu? Hoke said that he expects the team to 'be responsible to each other'....I think he is backing up his comments. Better to discipline one kid, and preserve the team morale, than to look the other way....Good for Hoke.

Lorain Steelmen

Fri, Aug 12, 2011 : 8:30 p.m.

Blu-dogg97 -- I absolutely love your comment about Martin......'and the RB trying to stop 'a 305' bus coming right at him.' Crazy! But I think there are two keys for the season, for me. 1.) Martin, as great as he is, needs a stronger, nastier, supporting cast around him. As in 'Take names and kick rear-end!' So we'll need big years from VanBergen, Roh, Campbell, Washington, and Black. Otherwise teams will just beat Martin to a pulp! 2.) Devin Gardner, needs that redshirt year, AND, he needs to be able to carry the load. Again, as great as DRob is, he WILL get his bell rung, and Dev must be able to step in there, and have this team rally around him. I think we are blessed with two strong QB's there. .....We may need that. I like what I read and hear so far. Let's get title number 43! GO BLUE!


Sat, Aug 13, 2011 : 12:05 a.m.

I agree with your msg here.. I just got geeked,and do realize Martin needs a supporting cast.. Also Mattison is not just throwing a blanket over it,he is going to have a defensive plan for each offensive unit he is playing that week..Also I do have rose colored glasses on too..


Fri, Aug 12, 2011 : 7:50 p.m.

Before I get too hyped up, I just wanted to remind myself that the U-M defense was absolutely horrible last year and a lot of the same players are back with a few players back from injury and some priomising freshmen comig in. Typically, it takes most freshmen a year or two to get acclimated and up to speed. Although the coaching staff is much better, you can't make a marginal overachiever have more talent -- you can only coach him to be the best he can be. Therefore, the U-M defense still may be the weak link this year although hopefully they won't give up 30+ points again thanks to the improved coaching staff and scheme more suited to the players and the style of offense that sustains drives and allows the defense to rest a little bit.


Fri, Aug 12, 2011 : 3:28 p.m.

Competition is great, and it will keep the players from slacking off and holding on to their jobs. I think Woolfolk and Floyd will ultimately be the starters, but I can see Avery challenging Floyd and JT being the nickel CB. He seems like he has the mentality to play inside and undercut slant routes and out routes -- as he constantly was attempting to pick every pass off rather than simply deflect or tackle. That said, I still like Floyd's ability to reroute a receiver to the outside. It also sounds like Woolfolk is starting to understand why that's a necessity. I can't wait until the season starts, though, and all of the speculation we fans and media must make go away for the real thing. Go Blue.


Fri, Aug 12, 2011 : 2:09 p.m.

After listening to Jim Brandstatter on WBBL radio this morning,I'm convinced that this Michigan Defense will be extremely better in all phases this year. Brandy talked about being at practice yesterday,and mind you the players were in just shells,wasn't full pads,and he said you could hear them practice ! They were really getting after it,and nobody stopped them,he went on to say coach Mattison will be using different blitz pkgs and stunts and said they were practicing a blitz pkg where Mike Martin is lined up as a linebacker in a 2 point stance,trying to get a 1on1 matchup rushing the edge !! versus his normal nose guard position where he gets doubled teamed most of the time.. Thats beautiful stuff !! Thats NFL stuff!! You can imagine Martin rushing the edge,and a RB trying to stop the 305lb bus coming at him,not to mention what the QB is going to be thinking !! This is going to be a completely different season to watch,than the past 3 seasons.. I'm all in for Michigan,and for Coach Hoke,Mattison,Borges and the rest of the coordinators.. This is a enlightening conversation by Brandy and I'll leave the link give it a listen.. Oh he talks about his Tragic Hero tweet also... <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> TiM GO BLUE..


Sat, Aug 13, 2011 : 2:11 a.m.

sorry Daniel .. I knew not paying attention in typing 101 was going to get me !!


Sat, Aug 13, 2011 : 2:09 a.m.

you bet David.. I thought it was a good one for Blue fans..

Daniel Schuetz

Sat, Aug 13, 2011 : 2:06 a.m.

Great radio interview. Thanks so much for the link. I greatly appreciate it.


Fri, Aug 12, 2011 : 4:36 a.m.

Bottom line -- we have some *studs* coaching this team, and *studs* chewing iron bars to get on the field. Strong side ... weak side ... brains vs. brawn ... it's all about taking the field and playing solid Meeeeechigan football. I ... can't ... wait.


Fri, Aug 12, 2011 : 4:21 a.m.

&quot;you're the linebacker with the brains&quot;.... i hope that doesn't mean the other linebackers don't have brains!

Terry Star21

Fri, Aug 12, 2011 : 4:21 a.m.

I agree with Don....and also Mick - I always believed (last 3 yrs) that our D was much - I mean much, much better than they appeared on field. I'm not looking for a miracle change over (okay, I just lied), but I think we'll notice the difference right away on D - we'll see much improvement, better concentration and better tackling. We might not win every game (9 of 10 at worst), but when we do actually get beat - it will be with pride and dignity (and a close score). Almost forgot, Go get em Brandon. &quot;Coach told me, 'You're the linebacker that has the brains, so it's easy for you to make that switch and be comfortable,'&quot; Herron said. Hey folks guess what - this is what you tell a kid if it's the truth ! It gives him pride and confidence - please no more just yelling-out-loud on the field ! MgoBlueForTiM............You got the Brains and the Talent - oh yes Brandon ! PS - Walmart sparty went down and out today......


Fri, Aug 12, 2011 : 3:38 a.m.

&quot;Weak&quot; side? There is no &quot;weak&quot; side with Michigan. It's all &quot;strong&quot; baby ... all strong. :-)


Fri, Aug 12, 2011 : 3:22 a.m.

I always thought Herron looked like a play maker to me. I'm really glad he's gonna get a chance to showcase his talent now, as well as a lot of the other Defenders. I think U-M has a lot more talent on D than people are giving them credit for. With a great staff showing them the way, I believe there could be a huge improvement on that side of the ball, many of the players got trial by fire too, so experience will help as well. Go Blue, TiM!!!