Michigan linebacker Obi Ezeh determined to improve on 'mediocre' year
Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com
By his own admission, Michigan linebacker Obi Ezeh is coming off a “mediocre” junior season.
“It wasn’t my best year, obviously,” Ezeh said after the Wolverines’ April 17 spring game. “That’s in the past and try to move on and build a better future. I got to prove to people that last year was kind of a fluke and this is the (real) Obi.”
A three-year starter, Ezeh was Michigan’s third-leading tackler last year with 69 stops, but lost his starting middle linebacker job late in the season to Kevin Leach.
He struggled in pass coverage, seemed a step slow and too reactive against the run, and right or wrong was blamed for much of what ailed Michigan’s defense.
“There’s a lot of different things you could blame (my struggles) on, but whatever, more or less the job wasn’t getting done,” Ezeh said. “It’s a dog-eat-dog world. They’re going to put in the guys who can get the job done.”
Despite offseason rumors of a position change, Ezeh was back playing middle linebacker in Michigan’s new 3-3-5 defense this spring, albeit with a slightly different role.
“I’m smack dab in the middle,” he said. “It’s a littler grittier than what I was doing last year. I could moonlight as a defensive lineman if I wanted to. ... But you learn to live with it and you learn to love it.”
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez praised Ezeh several times over the last month, saying “he’s had a good spring” and “he’s responded” to being challenged.
But he was just as complimentary of backup Kenny Demens, a third-year sophomore who could force his way onto the field this fall.
For now, Ezeh remains with the first-team defense, and his resurrection as a player remains a work in progress.
“I’ve been working really hard in the offseason just to get my body right, stay healthy and just I wanted to come out and show these guys what I was capable of,” Ezeh said. “That was the mentality that I tried to bring every day.”
Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.