Michigan senior linebacker Kenny Demens talks about the upcoming season, about being a more vocal leader, playing in year two of coach Mattison's defense, which freshman has impressed him, and more…
QUESTION: How is this camp different from last year’s camp?
Kenny Demens: “The coaches are demanding as usual—probably more so, cause of our tough schedule this year. But it is coach Hoke football. He is going to hit hard, we’re going padded up and we’re going to go.”
QUESTION: What do you think of this upcoming season starting off with Alabama?
Kenny Demens: “We’re excited and we know what is at stake here. They are a great team. We just have to get the ball rolling—you know, have a great camp. Make sure our young guys are on board and ready to play. But we’re excited about it.”
QUESTION: Your front seven has a lot of young guys, but does it feel that way? Because a lot of them have a lot of experience.
Kenny Demens: “Our coaches do a good job of making sure those guys understand. We have a good group of seniors that are helping those (young) guys out. They aren’t selfish at all. Myself included, I’m doing whatever I can to get Desmond Morgan, Joe Bolden. Guys like Mike Jones is involved in there. Same thing with guys like Craig Roh, Big Will (Campbell), Jordan Kovacs.”
QUESTION: Brady says you’re more committed this season. How do you feel about going into this year?
Kenny Demens: “Oh yeah of course, just going into spring ball and off-season, we had a lot guys up and up, doing extra, watching film, making sure guys know the details that the coaches are going to expect when this time of year comes around.”
QUESTION: Was there a moment where things changed for you? After the Sugar Bowl or before that?
Kenny Demens: “I feel it was the first meeting after the Sugar Bowl with coach Hoke. Coach Hoke just said—he got a meeting with the team and told us that last year we failed and we didn’t win the Big Ten. And a lot more is expected out of this year’s group of seniors. And we understand that.”
QUESTION: Did it strike you personally when he said that?
Kenny Demens: “Yeah, I feel like it strikes every senior personally in a special way. Ever since then I just thought to myself, ‘I can’t be selfish.’ I’m pretty sure all the other guys thought the same way.”
QUESTION: Coach said that (last year) you guys took a while learning the lingo and stuff like that.
Kenny Demens: “Well from a defensive stand point, as far as install it is not as much thinking. We are not too hesitant. But as far as different than last year, my role as a leader—that is different. The other guys as well.”
QUESTION: Is that a difficult role for you? Do you like to be a vocal guy out there?
Kenny Demens: “I do. We do a lot of things in the off-season to help us with leadership. Going out to California and having leadership meetings with our strength coach Wellman and coach Hoke. They prepared us a lot, and I feel like I’m not trying as hard as I did in the beginning.”
QUESTION: How much does consistency play into how comfortable you feel?
Kenny Demens: “I feel like that’s big, that’s huge. You want to get in a rhythm. You want to feel comfortable. And you know we have coach Mattison back, we have our defensive back, a lot of the same guys. A lot of young guys. But we’re just ready to roll.”
QUESTION: Is this as comfortable as you feel in your career?
Kenny Demens: “I would say so, yeah. This being a fifth year senior, having a defense for a second year in a row, and just understanding my role on this team.”
QUESTION: You said before communications comes down to you a lot. How is your grasp on that so far?
Kenny Demens: “Really well. Last in the beginning it was really shaky. Especially with the crowd being as loud as they are, it took its toll on us. Especially the Notre Dame game, the Ohio State game. But I feel like now it’s coming, and other guys are also understanding the checks and things that I am saying. Just being a coach out there and being loud. And that is a big role for me this year.”
QUESTION: Do you guys ever talk about those first three years and where you were as a program?
Kenny Demens: “We don’t talk about it too much. We are focused on going forward. We don’t look at the past at all. We are just focused on Coach Hoke and on getting to where we have to go this year.”
QUESTION: When Mattison got here, how different was the lingo and that stuff for you?
Kenny Demens: “It was different. Not like with any new system it’s going to be different, but with the Ravens defense coming here. It was kind of exciting and fun to learn their scheme and watch Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and those guys. It was exciting.”
QUESTION: How do you feel about your play last year?
Kenny Demens: “Okay. I kind of started with injuries. I always feel like I can do better. I’m pretty sure everybody else feels the same way…I’m ready to get better.”
QUESTION: What injuries did you have last year?
Kenny Demens: “Just a hamstring.”
QUESTION: Do you feel you are improving your game in the pass protection as well?
Kenny Demens: “I’m making sure that that is big part of the game I am focusing on, (and) getting better.”
QUESTION: From 2008-10 the emphasis was really on offense here. Was it sort of refreshing when Mattison came in last year?”
Kenny Demens: “It was, cause we kept hearing about how Michigan defenses have played, and the guys that came before us and how well they played. And just to get things back rolling and sort of make a name for ourselves. It was kind of exciting. It was kind of fun. Hopefully years down the line, now teams can say the same things about us.”
QUESTION: You work a lot with the defensive line. What have you seen from those guys? There’s so many new starters this year.
Kenny Demens: “Those guys are working. That is one thing I can say. Those guys are working. The young guys look good. They have great leadership from guys like Will Campbell and Craig Roh. They really took it upon themselves to make sure that group of guys-- they are really focused on getting better. You know—pass rushing, run reads, taking the right steps, and just techniques and fundamentals also.”
QUESTION: Is there a freshman that has turned your head in the first four days here?
Kenny Demens: “They are making strides. The one that stands out is Ondre (Pipkins), Peewee.
“He is a natural learner. There is more than being physical. He understands the game. He understands gap control. I fell like he is doing a better job since day one. He is making small strides, but he is getting there. “
QUESTION: Brady mentioned Joe Bolden is a guy who has stood out a little bit. What have you seen with him and his growth?
Kenny Demens: “He is a quick learner. He is probably one of the quickest I have ever seen. He’s eager to learn. He is ready to learn. I feel with a guy like that, he’s kind of easy to coach. He is going to be a great player.”
QUESTION: Have you taken him under your wing a little bit?
Kenny Demens: “Every chance I get. I want the best for this team. He is a great guy. Any small detail that I feel like he missed that I saw—when he is off the field, I let him know about it. And other coaches as well.”
QUESTION: Do you feel he is ahead of the curve maybe as far as freshman linebackers go?
Kenny Demens: “Probably so, he has a head start in spring ball. So he is not as hesitant and thinking as much out there. So he is kind of flying around and making plays and having fun.”
QUESTION: Taylor Lewan said this senior class has shown more leadership than any other class he has been around. Do you guys have more meetings or talk about your leadership more than past classes?
Kenny Demens: “Probably, maybe, I’m not sure. I just know, just like last year, we have those leadership meetings with coach Hoke. The Cali trip really helped us a lot, with the Navy seals and those guys, and understanding like their roles. They kind of instilled that in us.”
QUESTION: Is there anything you have taken back and implemented from that trip?
Kenny Demens: “Sure, teamwork. That is probably the biggest thing I learned out here. That’s what we all learned--teamwork. A lot of drill and whatever was going on out there. If one guy was off, then everybody failed. The teamwork was probably the biggest thing.”