Over the course of his Michigan career, senior defensive end Rondell Biggs has gone from being an unheralded recruit to being a play-making starter. Now in his final season as a Wolverine, Biggs is off to an outstanding start…having registered five tackles for loss in five games, including three sacks. His success this year is the culmination of a great deal of hard work, much of which was dedicated to recovering from a serious injury that he suffered last year.
Biggs seemed to be on the verge of breaking through in 2005 after having worked himself into the starting lineup early in his junior campaign. Then he suffered a setback that hindered his progress the rest of that year. In week five versus Michigan State, Spartan offensive lineman Stephon Wheeler injured Biggs leg with a questionable block.
"I just watched it today actually," said Biggs at yesterday's press conference. "Stanton was scrambling around and I was chasing after him. I kind of turned to go chase him some more, then the offensive lineman came and hit me in the legs. It was an unnecessary shot. He could have hit me up high, but I guess in his mind he was trying to protect his quarterback, so I can't really blame him for nothing."
Initially angry and frustrated, Biggs eventually settled down and found some perspective.
"With the injury, it was a long process," recalled Biggs. "It was day to day. I had to just keep working it to get my strength up. It was hard, but I learned from it. Nothing is promised to you. For me to get injured, it made me work hard. It made me take advantage of every play and to go out and work hard. I’ve been working hard these past five years and I got slowed down by injury last year. But, it’s just a blessing that I was able to get back out here and help my team."
Heading into this season, with both health and experience on his side, the final piece of Biggs' development puzzle was provided by new defensive coordinator Ron English. Like many of the other players on defense, Biggs felt that the key to taking his game to the next level was playing with more aggression and less indecision. English's new scheme allowed him to do just that.
"I think last year I wasn't playing as freely," Biggs said. "I am thinking a lot less and getting a feeling for the game a little bit more. You have to have some sort of knack to be able to go out there and play on defense. Coach Herrmann was a great coach, but I think last year, we didn’t do what we were supposed to do. There were times when we were overwhelmed. Coach E came in, and he had a base package. 'Run that, and that is going to be our bread and butter. Whatever the offense does, we are going to do this.' We kept changing a lot of things last year. We were kinda thinking too much and not playing to our ability."
English's defensive approach was a breath off fresh air not only for Biggs, but for the entire unit as well. The constant passion he showed for the game began to transfer to his players.
"He coaches with his heart," Biggs said. "You can tell that he loves it and he’s very intense. I think we feed off of that. We get our fuel off of that and it’s good to have a coach like that all the time. He’s like that in the meetings or if you run in to him in the hallway. On defense, you have to respond to him. You can't get sensitive in football. You have to respond to it. They do it for a reason. It's not done to be bad. It's done to motivate you. You have to look at it as a positive."
As positive a force as English has been, he hasn't been Biggs' only source of motivation. Every now and then the grizzled lineman pops in a tape of the play that injured him for a little additional drive. Now as the Wolverines prepare to play against the team that the injury occurred against, Biggs is prepping with even more of an edge…even though the player that injured him is no longer with the Spartan program
"It's still the same jersey," Biggs responded when asked if it mattered that Wheeler was no longer at Michigan State. "I just see Green & White. I'm going to take my frustrations out on somebody (laughing)."
"I have some bad memories watching that play," Biggs continued. "I watched it earlier today, so it's going to be in the back of my mind. I just watch the play in general as an overall reminder that every play isn't promised. It could have been a lot worse."
"It's another game, but it's not another game.," Biggs admitted. "I'm going to be jacked up."