Brandon Graham: Adjusting to Life on the Line

Former Detroit Crockett standout Brandon Graham made a national name for himself as one of the top high school linebackers in the country last year. Now as a college freshman at Michigan, the 6-2, 267-pounder has decided to take his talents closer to the line of scrimmage as a defensive end. GBW recently caught up with the talented youngster to talk about the progress he has made thus far.

When Michigan freshman Brandon Graham reported to camp last month weighing 267 pounds, the obvious question posed to him was would he spend his collegiate days in a three-point stance instead of standing up as a linebacker.  His answer, though, was the same as it had always been.

"I'm a linebacker," he said.  "I'm 267, but it's an in-shape 267.  I was talking to them about it and they said with my frame, they can't see me playing a whole lot lighter than this.  I'll probably get down some, but as long as I still have my speed and my quickness, I'll be at linebacker."

The surprising thing about Graham was, even with 15 additional pounds on his frame, he didn't lose much (if anything) in the quickness department.  That said, when taking into account the numbers at the linebacker position in conjunction with Graham's newfound strength and physique, the thought of moving him to defensive end was too enticing for the coaching staff to ignore.  When initially given the option of making the move, the former Detroit Crockett standout weighed the likelihood of getting playing time at both positions and reached a swift conclusion.

"I'm playing defensive end," Graham said after the Vanderbilt game a few weeks back.  "I've been doing real good in practice.  It's just sometimes I'll mess up and forget the play because it's moving so fast.  Once I get adjusted to it, I'm going to be a killer out there! Coach was telling me to make sure I know what I'm doing when I'm going in there and I'll play a little more."

The talented youngster played only two snaps in week one, but he received extensive time in game two as a defensive tackle.  He flashed both power and quickness while helping force a turnover that led to a touchdown late in the game.  His comfort level up front has increased at a rapid pace because he is no stranger to the defensive end position.  He registered over 20 sacks as an edge rusher during his sophomore campaign in high school.  He didn't move to linebacker until a week before the start of his junior season.  In his two years as a high school middle linebacker he became such a force that he earned his way onto the Army All-American team.  After all of that success, he still has his eyes on patrolling the middle for the Wolverines.

"(Playing defensive end) is probably just a one-year thing because that's where they needed me," he said.  "Next year we're going to need linebackers, so I'm probably going to move back there."

Michigan senior co-captain Lamarr Woodley made a similar move during fall camp in his freshman year, but he wound up being a fixture at the end spot.  In Graham's case, a move back to linebacker is more likely because he has more footspeed than his older counterpart and he actually played the linebacker position in high school.  Woodley spent the majority of his prep days rushing the quarterback as opposed to be a true backer.  While it's clear that Graham had a ways to go in terms of knowledge of the position when he arrived, he was further along in the process than Woodley.  Even so, Graham knows that there is a distinct possibility that he spends his entire Wolverine career at end.  When asked what he'd do if he started to develop into a playmaker at up front, he made it clear that he'd be flexible.

"Then that's where I'm staying," he said.  "If I turn into a killer at D-end, then that's where I'm staying!"

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