Mark Moundros' move to linebacker not a gimmick, Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez says
CHICAGO - Rich Rodriguez and Mark Moundros have different takes on how much time at linebacker the former fullback can expect to play for Michigan this fall.
“I’m probably near the bottom” of the depth chart, Moundros said Tuesday at Big Ten football media days.
“He may be pulling your leg,” Rodriguez said. And, “The first day he may be lined up as starting (middle linebacker), I don’t know. The coaches are going to talk about it this week. He’s not there as a gimmick.”
The idea had merit. Moundros started both ways in high school, had always been one of Michigan’s best special-teams tacklers, and the Wolverines were far from settled at linebacker.
Obi Ezeh is a three-year starter in the middle, but was benched late last season for inconsistent play. His backup, Kenny Demens, has limited game action on defense.
“My thought (was), I’ll let him go over for a couple weeks and bring him back,” Rodriguez said. “Nope. Didn’t happen He’s there.
“By mid-spring I said I don’t think we’re going to be moving this guy.”
Moundros dove into the position like he does almost everything. He practiced exclusively at linebacker in the spring, peppered defensive coordinator Greg Robinson with questions about scheme and technique, and pored over film with Ezeh and Demens, picking their brains about the position and Michigan’s defense.
Despite some initial - and expected - sluggishness making reads, Moundros said he felt at home playing defense.
“I’ve always had a defensive mindset, I guess,” Moundros said. “Fullback’s the closest thing to defense on offense. I just felt if I could contribute then I wanted to try in the spring, and if they felt I couldn’t contribute then I’d do what’s best for the team and continue to play fullback.”
Since Michigan uses the fullback so sparingly in its spread offense - Moundros has three career carries, and had none last year - neither Moundros nor Rodriguez is worried about Moundros’ ability to re-assimilate to the offense, if necessary.
A bigger concern, at least for a few freakish minutes in June, was whether Moundros would be able to play at all after he was a passenger in a two-car accident that seriously injured his teammate and cousin Jon Bills.
Moundros sustained only minor bruising and soreness. His brother, Kirk, a former Michigan fullback, suffered a serious concussion, and Bills broke his pelvis, fractured two vertebrae in his neck and is in a halo for four more weeks.
“To see your two brothers in the car knocked out after an accident, it’s pretty scary,” Moundros said Tuesday in his first public interview since the wreck. “I just got down on my knees and prayed and I knew that it was in God’s hands, and thanks to God that they’re both OK.”
Moundros said the accident has made him more appreciative of life and the opportunity he has playing football. Of course, where he plays remains to be seen.
“I’d like to see the field a little more, but more importantly I’d rather win,” Moundros said. “And if that (means competing) at linebacker and help make the guys around me better than that’s what it is.
“If I don’t play a snap anywhere on special teams, on offense or defense, Michigan’s goal is always to win a Big Ten championship and that’s what I’ve been and everyone on Michigan’s been striving for since I’ve been here.”
Dave Birkett is a sports reporter 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.