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Posted on Thu, Mar 25, 2010 : 4:38 p.m.

Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez: Linebacker Obi Ezeh will have a great year

By Dave Birkett


Obi Ezeh, shown in August 2009, is impressing Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez. "I think he’s probably had, at least since we’ve been here, his best off-season workout,” Rodriguez said. (File photo)

Michigan’s defense was abysmal last year, allowing the second-most points in school history.

One position especially under the microscope this spring is middle linebacker, where senior starter Obi Ezeh is coming off a disappointing season.

“Obi didn’t probably play as well at the end of the year as he did at the beginning,” Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said earlier this week. “But Obi’s a very, very conscientious guy. It’s important to him. I think he’s probably had, at least since we’ve been here, his best off-season workout.”

An all-conference honorable mention selection as a sophomore, Ezeh’s production dropped dramatically last year. He looked less instinctive playing for his third defensive coordinator in as many seasons, gave up several big pass plays, and was benched late in the year for Kevin Leach.

Leach played well in starts against Illinois, Purdue and Ohio State, but Ezeh still entered spring practice as the projected starter at middle linebacker.

Rodriguez said he expects big things this year out of both Ezeh and linebacker Jonas Mouton, two of 12 Michigan’s seniors.

“As a coach, you want all of your guys to have their best years as seniors … leading a team and certainly on the field,” Rodriguez said. “And I would be very shocked, I’d be disappointed if those two don’t. I think they will have great years.”

Mouton “had really a pretty good year” last year, Rodriguez said, though he missed one game because of suspension and was dinged up late in the season.

Junior J.B. Fitzgerald and sophomore Kenny Demens could push Ezeh and Mouton for playing time with strong springs, and fullback Mark Moundros is playing part-time at linebacker to add depth.

“It’s kind of an experiment at Mark’s request to play a little bit of linebacker because we don’t use a fullback 30, 40 snaps a game a lot of times,” Rodriguez said. “But I think he’s going to be able to help us there. At the same time, I told Mark he’s also going to be playing fullback. Now it gives us three veteran guys, or at least three experienced guys on that linebacker position.”

With more depth and more experience at linebacker, will Michigan's defense be better in 2010?

“It was a combination of things defensively that we didn’t play as well as we’d like" last year, Rodriguez said. "It seemed like we’d play good for two or three plays in a row and then give up the big one, or play good for a quarter and then let a team go up and down the field on us.

"I think the defensive staff has got a good plan. I think we’ve made a few moves as I’ve mentioned to try to help us, and frankly we just got to be better technique wise and I think we got to play better fundamentally and play more physical, get more guys to the football. And I think we’ll do that.”

Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.


Sean T.

Mon, Mar 29, 2010 : 6:44 a.m.

I think Obi will be fine if our D-line can keep the O-line off of him. If or D-line improves then our LB's improve and that my friend helps DB's. Wow, now that covers the whole "D"!


Sat, Mar 27, 2010 : 12:34 p.m.

Interesting sentiment for someone who doesn't root for any particular team, just against Michigan.


Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 3:33 p.m.

LOL Rich has to clean up a 20 yr. mess ain't easy boys and girls try it sometime, ask Obama. RR is to U of M what "O" is to the country. LOL lOL


Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 12:52 p.m.

It always amazes me how these "stream of consiousness" blogs move from subject to subject. What started as a story about a senoir liebacker having a good spring has ended up as a prediction that Jim Tressel will lose to Purdue and get fired.. On the other hand, I stick to the subject. By the way - anybody here see the PBS documentary on the 3 Stooges?


Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 12:44 p.m.

Rosebowl4blu, there are some very deeeeeeppppprreessiinngg persons contributing. If I disliked Mich. that much I would go play gggggooooollllfffff. My god, I have never talked so down or criticised any school as much as some persons do not even the bbbbooorrrriiinnngggg buckeys and their circus act. RR is a great coach regardless of his first 2 yrs. Rich has to clean up a 20 yr. mess ain't easy boys and girls try it sometime, ask Obama. I can't imagine going to States site or Penn's site or even Iowa's site and wasting my time degrading another school I think the last time I degraded anyone or a great institution I was in diapers. I will support Mich. to the end and I will support RR as long as he has the job and if RR can't do the job in the next 2 or 3 yrs. then I will support whomever Mich. hires, lifes to short to do it any other way boys and girls.


Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 12:35 p.m.

"Right"mind, I say Jimmy Tressel is fired this year after another loss to Purdue! The fans were calling for his head last year, don't see any reason why it wouldn't happen again! Go Blue! The trolls are getting nervous!


Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 12:12 p.m.

Hey Tater, Where is that OSU michigan game this year? The only way OSU will be surprised by UM is if Richrod is still coaching in november. I am willing to bet he is gone before the State game. Thats game 6 I believe. He should be heading into that one at 1-4. There's no way he makes it to week 6. Recruiting sucks, coaches are telling every recruit RR will be gone by the end of 2010. I say the AD pulls the switch in time to save the 2011 recruiting class.


Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 11:37 a.m.

I like how the story is about Obi having a great senior season and then every comment is about BS! Haters go away and let the UM fans talk about the article. We will be back and it will hurt for you OSU and Sparties! The way I see it... If you have never tasted greatness then you don't know what youre missing when it leaves. That being said, beating us a couple times is your only greatness and you have had it. We, on the other hand, have experienced real greatness and will taste it again soon! UM 896 and counting everyone else 00 and found wanting!!!

Terry Star21

Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 10:29 a.m.

The truth hurts, UM Football 13 - BBQ's and Wins this year.... the UM bashers keep saying UM Football is living on their past success, but no, the truth is we are living with the glory of our past and living for the great future of our program. Unfortunately, the UM FB past makes the bashers want to show their intelligence against us in these comments, just a the UM FB future will make them fade away - like before. Meeeeeechigan wins, Ufer lives... and the King Lives! UM FB past 896.... UM FB Bashers 0 UM FB present 112,000.... UM FB Bashers 0


Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 9:55 a.m.

OSU is a joke? Michigan hasn't beaten the joke over 6 1/2 years. They go to BCS bowls and you sit since RR. Who's the joke?


Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 9:39 a.m.

Overrated State U and misdemeanor State fans are reading this because they are scared. OSU is a joke and has been for a long time. Hope you enjoyed your time on top becasue it is UM time! Tate and the boys will be scoring at will and the D is much improved. IN ROD WE TRUST


Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 8:53 a.m.

Nicely said "BleedMaize&Blue." All those haters spewing their pent up venom because they all want to be like Michigan. Poor sparty, our dominance over you will soon be back and bucky look out because the tumble will hurt deeply.


Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 8:34 a.m.

I like how this is a column for MICHIGAN and you have spartans and buckeye fans commenting on it, why don't you go back to your columns and comment on how smart of a QB you have buckeyes. Seems to be one of the brightest crayons in the box! For all you spartans why don't you go bail out another player out of jail ok? Shows the kind of fans spartans and buckeyes have! We will just wait and see this year and then you can try and rub something in, but like others have posted, it will be a different story!


Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 7:41 a.m.

Michigan will finish 8th in BIG TEN football. No QB,defense blows! If you people are so smart where will they finish then?


Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 6:41 a.m.

You all are delusional. All the experts predict OSU to be in the top 3 when polls come out and of course you all think Pryor is overrated since he didn't select U of M. Spartans are better than Michigan as are Wisc, PSU, Iowa. Face it this year won't be any different than the last 2. Middle to lower end of Big Ten. RR as brought the program down. The predictions you guys have are funny and sad. What was it last year 8-9 wins? How about a final four in BK. Truth is your blind optimisim shows loyality but not much smarts. Kinda like Martin hiring Rich Rod. Truth hurts when you don't agree with it and Dave B speaks it. Sorry if you are wounded by it.


Thu, Mar 25, 2010 : 10:51 p.m.

I have really nothing against Birkett, I do hate his UM dirt stories but, he is a sportswriter, has to report the bad with the good. However, the timing and way past the fact stories really seem odd. His Bio says he covered MSU football and basketball, when he was hired by he was placed in UM football right away, I do find that strange. One thing is for sure, he is NOT a UM football fan or supporter, and maybe, just maybe that was why he was hired, to not show favoritism. Me thinks I want favortism!


Thu, Mar 25, 2010 : 7:11 p.m.

Ohio State #2 or #3? Please.......... Terrelle Pryor isn't good enough to create against a swarming defense....... Besides, Michigan should have won the game last year. Why do you think Tressel said afterwards, "I'm scared to play this team next year"?


Thu, Mar 25, 2010 : 5:38 p.m.

Not a Buckeye fan but find the thought of Michigan beating them this year a joke. They will most likely be ranked 2 or 3 this year and Michigan has no bowl RR at the helm

Terry Star21

Thu, Mar 25, 2010 : 5:22 p.m.

Whoops I forgot; Voice Of Reason 45.....OSU 0.

Terry Star21

Thu, Mar 25, 2010 : 5:21 p.m.

VoiceOfReason... that is the most intelligent thing I have read in a long time... you my friend may come to Theo, BlueSC, and my BBQ for Spring Practice Game April 17.


Thu, Mar 25, 2010 : 5:10 p.m.

I've got a feeling that Ohio State is in for a rude awakening this year.......


Thu, Mar 25, 2010 : 5:03 p.m.

HI osu fans,,, sorry but i don't agree with your opinions, maybe someday i will be able to go into more details but in this wonderful forum only anti Michigan comments are allowed. so have a wonderful day. I'm sure you'll be awesome forever.

Terry Star21

Thu, Mar 25, 2010 : 4:37 p.m.

Obi is a great person... if you ever met him, got an autograph, you know... smiles and talks like a little kid, polite - yet tears it up on he field. Obi playing defense all by himself 38.... OSU 0.


Thu, Mar 25, 2010 : 4:04 p.m.

Obi needs to learn theres only one michigan defensive play, One hard step forward, then turn around and chase the play down from behind.