Freshmen Making the Adjustment

The transition from high school to college can be a challenging transition for any student. But those embarking upon a college football career, it can be all the more rigorous. For the newest Wolverines, that has proven to be true. That said, they all seem to be having the time of their lives.

The first thing that sets in is the thrill of pulling that jersey over their heads for the first time. Many have dreamed of being Wolverines for much of their young lives. Some of them can’t even put into words what it was like to place the winged helmet on their heads for the first time. “I was speechless,” said Charles Stewart. “It was overwhelming. Putting on this uniform is something I always wanted to do. I can’t describe just how happy I am to be here.” That feeling lingers for quite a long time…often for the entire season. However, the intensity does diminish a bit when they suit up and hit the field against the older players for the first time. That’s when the enormity of the difference between high school and college really sets in.

“It’s a BIG adjustment, but I’m getting there,” said Mike Hart. “I think I’m doing a good job with it. I’m just working out at running back right now and trying to get on the field. I’m up to about 196 and I’m good at that weight.” Increasing weight and strength is only part of the formula for being formidable competition for more established players. The mental aspects of the game are just as taxing. “They’re throwing so much at you,” said Morgan Trent. “From critiquing your routes, to reading defenses, to learning the playbook…it is a lot to take in.” Fortunately for the youngsters, the atmosphere fostered in Michigan’s program is anything but contentious. Battles for playing time are about performance and hardly ever personal (as both Prescott Burgess and Shawn Crable mentioned in this article last week). The newest Wolverines are already starting to notice that.

“Some people think because we’re all competing for the same spots that it might be a little hostile, but it’s the complete opposite, said Trent. “If you’re doing something wrong they’ll tell you, but they’ll also tell you how to fix it. They understand that we all need each other to do what we want to do. They have definitely helped me out a lot!” Chad Henne mentioned having a similar experience. “The other quarterbacks are really helping me out a lot,” Henne said. “Everyday they’re right by my side helping me with things and it’s great that they’re doing that for a younger player.”

The extra week of practice granted by the NCAA this year was certainly a welcome increase in work for the team and it gave the coaches even more time to help the newbies get acclimated. ”I’ve learned so much from Coach English,” Stewart said. “It’s just like school here. You take so much in. My technique in high school was ALL bad because I was doing it all off of natural ability. Now I’m getting better because I’m learning the right way to play. I feel like I’m a better player.”

Defensive lineman Alan Branch also described himself as a player that excelled as a prep on natural ability. At Michigan, he’s learning the nuances of his position. “They have me on the inside playing against the tackle,” said Alan Branch. “Coach Sheridan has spent a lot of time has done a great job of coaching me through what I’m supposed to do with my responsibilities and everything. I’m starting to get the hang of things and get the feel of the game.” Branch, who came in at about 340-lbs., will not only be working on continuing to pick up the defense, but also on dropping a few pounds. “I’m going to try to lose about 15-20 pounds before we start playing,” Branch said. “I kind of let myself go after football season (laughing).”

The type of shape guys come in with is always one of the key factors in whether a freshman sees the field. At the same time, the opportunity has to be there…and there just happen to be a couple spots on the team where that chance exists. “When I came in, Coach English told me that I would be competing for the fourth corner spot,” said Stewart. “Competition is tough though. Grant mason is good, Darnell Hood is good, and Keston Cheathem is a good player, so I’m just trying to compete and give my best effort. We’ll see what happens.”

Corner isn't the only position where a freshman might contribute. A couple of other skill position guys that look to have a good shot to see the field in the fall are Jamar Adams and Adrian Arrington. “Jamar is like a genius,” Stewart said. “Safeties have to know so much and he is taking it all in. I test him every night and he tests me. He’s picking it all up and is doing well.” Arrington, who word is said by some to be receiving the most reps of the freshman receivers, may well be the sixth wideout before it is all said and done. While the aforementioned three have legitimate shots at getting some minutes in the fall, there are two players that almost sound like shoe-ins to be on the travel team once the season commences. Almost to a man, Tim Jamison and Chris Graham were the names uttered from the lips of the players as the most impressive newcomers they’d seen.

“Tim Jamison is a DOG,” exclaimed Stewart! “He is a DOG! Everybody is doing well, but Tim Jamison and Chris Graham have been two players that I like to watch.” Morgan Trent was just as impressed with his freshman counterparts. “They’re both awesome, but Tim is…. he is just something else,” Trent said. “He comes off of that end HARD! Chris isn’t afraid to hit you either. They both have shown a little something.”

The tales of Jamison’s exploits in practice have reached a fever pitch. It’s never a good idea to place high expectations on a freshman, but it certainly should be fun to see what all of the fuss is about when the season rolls around!

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