As the start of the 2014 season approaches, many members of the Michigan defense have set out to right the shortcomings of last season’s team. Senior linebacker Desmond Morgan is among that group, and he is geared up for the first opportunity to do so.
“I’m ready to go,” said Morgan. “I just want to get back out on Saturdays and start playing again. There’s really nothing that compares to that and being out in front of all those fans.”
With fall camp underway, this year’s Michigan squad has come together in an effort to open up the 2014 season on a positive note. Michigan and Morgan will have the opportunity to correct a painful memory from the Wolverines’ past.
“Right now the focus is on August 30th,” Morgan said. “We are playing Appy State and going into that game, we’re focused on starting the season off strong.”
In order for Morgan’s plan of a strong start to come to fruition, Michigan’s defense will need to see growth from its returning players. Based on the early reports out of camp, this is exactly what has transpired, and Morgan has seen it first-hand.
“I don’t want to put unfair expectations on anyone, but I think a lot of guys have really stepped up,” said Morgan. “From the communication standpoint, to maturing from last year with some younger guys that got some playing time, just moving forward in the experience aspect and all those things. I’ve seen a lot of positive things, especially from a defensive standpoint.”
Although Morgan did not single out an individual player who has outshined others, he did shed light on how this year’s Michigan defense is growing more comfortable with each other than in years past. Morgan is a part of that transition as well.v
“I think the biggest thing has been communication and leadership,” said Morgan. “I think I’ve really focused on that and embodying what it means to be a senior. Communicating with all those guys, and, being a linebacker getting everyone set, so I think that’s probably been the big thing I’ve been focusing on.”
As opposed to discussing his personal growth over the offseason, Morgan shows just how prevalent the team-first mentality of this year’s Michigan defense really is. As such, the linebacker unit as a whole has set goals that they would like to achieve this season.
“I’ve kind of been a guy that always focuses on the team, so just doing my job every play and every down, every time I get to get in there,” said Morgan. “As a linebacking group, I know we really want to be a physical linebacking corps that is feared. [We] really set out on stopping the run and being great communicators as well. Getting everyone set and really taking command and leadership over the defense.”
Part of creating a more communicative unit in the center of the defense can be attributed to the coaching staff shakeup over the offseason. Heading into 2014, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has assumed the role as linebacker coach as well, while Mark Smith slides down to the defensive line.
“I was with coach Smith for three years and I learned a lot from him and it’s a tremendous opportunity to be underneath him,” said Morgan. “He’s a great coach. But moving over to coach Mattison being the defensive coordinator, he’s kind of opened up our eyes a little bit to knowing how things interact a little bit more. But obviously both coaches know a tremendous amount about football, so I’ve learned a lot from both of them.”
These lessons are expected to pay off over the course of the 2014 season as Michigan fields one of its most experienced defenses in quite some time. Look for Morgan to set a confident tone throughout the linebackers this year.