It's been a long off season for the Michigan defense. After kicking off the 2004 campaign in grand fashion, the Wolverines defense seemed to sputter down the home stretch. As a result, questions regarding what caused the mini-melt down to occur have been plentiful.
Despite all the criticism, Michigan junior cornerback Leon
Hall views the negative press as nothing more then motivation. "I definitely
have been more focused," said Hall. "I kind of set the expectations high for
myself. I'll just take it into the weight room or on a run and push myself that
much harder. I have expectations for myself that I want to reach. I took this
summer as an opportunity for me to work out so I can try and get there."
The goal of which Hall is speaking is improving himself as a player while also eliminating the big plays that haunted Michigan at the end of the season. "We've definitely been working on that all spring and all summer," Hall said. "Everyday we want to give up zero big plays. When we first started (in the spring), we were rusty ...giving up a few big plays here and there. But as we got through spring and throughout the summer, we've been minimizing the big plays. It's nothing we've been doing different in regards to game planning. We just want to get our technique better down on the field."
Now, in his third year at Michigan, Hall is preparing for his first year as a full-time starter. Markus Curry and Marlin Jackson, both mainstays in the Wolverines secondary for the past four years, have moved on to the NFL. That leaves Hall as the most experienced of the remaining corners. Although it is a situation that Hall is unfamiliar with, the 5-foot-11 Vista, California native is looking forward to the challenge of becoming a leader in the secondary. "It's a definite role reversal as opposed to last year," Hall explained. "I always looked up to Marlin. I looked at him to ask him questions about things that happened and what to do. He always led by example, so sometimes I would talk to him and sometimes I just watched."
Just how quickly Hall adjusts to his leadership role will be very important for the Maize and Blue this year. His guidance will be key, especially one or more of the freshmen are to step in and play. Should the situation arise, Hall is confident they will be ready. "They're definitely some gifted athletes out there," Hall said regarding the new Wolverine DBs. "Brandon is so fast and Johnny is such a smart guy. They were only here for a short time over the summer so I didn't get to see them too much, but I did get glimpses of them and you can tell they want to play. When they get into camp for these three or four weeks I think they'll improve. The technique that we have to execute as DB's is kind of difficult for somebody just coming in. I'm sure they'll get it by the end of this week. I think they'll be able to come right in and play."