With seven starters gone from a defense that showed great improvement last year, many Michigan observers are expecting the performance to dip a bit this season. For those players that are returning, however, those prognostications are premature. Senior outside linebacker Shawn Crable is expected to be one of the playmakers on next year's unit, and he believes the 2007 "D" has the potential to repeat the success that was experienced much of last year.
"It’s going to be tough, but we've still got some players," Crable said. "We are going to try and repeat what we did last year. We want to be the same defense that we were last year. Everybody says that we lost a lot of people and stuff like that, but we want to find a way to fill those spots and find a way to compete at the same level. We want to finish stronger than we did (last year). I think we kind of tapered off toward the end."
If the 2007 Michigan D is to reach those lofty goals, Crable will have to take his game to another level… not only as a player, but as a leader as well.
"It’s different going from having Dave (Harris), Prescott (Burgess), Leon (Hall), Lamar (Woodley) and all of them in front of you and they're on their way out," Crable said. "You've got one more year and you know that this is your last go-round. I think that it's different because a lot of the intensity of how things are supposed to go falls on your shoulders."
Initially Crable really felt the loss of the players that had performed so well for Michigan for the past four years. As the spring progressed, though, his perspective changed a bit. His "glass half full view" made him focus less on what the defense had lost, and more on what it had gained."
"It’s been hard (seeing the older players go), but it gives the young guys a chance to play," he said. "The young guys get a chance to see what it would be like if they were first string or second string. They get a chance to get in there and get some coaching that they might have missed if those guys were in there. I think this spring we were just trying to find ways to get the young guys in to get reps and get familiar with the defensive calls… guys that maybe didn’t have a chance last year to learn the calls and learn what they are suppose to do. I think this spring was really a learning process."
Crable's own on-field progress was slowed by an injury suffered early in the spring, but that didn't stop him from taking steps to assume the leadership role that he knows he must take on next season. He used his time on the sideline to tutor many of the young players that will likely be counted on at some point in 07.
"It wasn’t the best spring for me," admitted Crable. "I had a little ankle sprain and stuff like that, but I think it was a good spring because we got to get the young guys in. We got to get out there and help guys that we wouldn’t necessarily have been able to help… that may be playing behind you. Those guys got to get coaching from Coach Szabo and Coach E. If Coach E wasn't watching, I’d slide my opinion in on how you should do the technique and stuff like that. I think it was a pretty good spring."
Now that he has had the opportunity to see his younger brethren in action for an extended period, he is more encouraged about prospects for next year's unit. That said, he knows that there is still a lot to prove
"(The young guys) play hard," said Crable regarding what he learned about some of the new blood on defense. "I think the main thing we've got to find out is can they remember play to play what they are suppose to do. (Can they) remember not to get frustrated, don’t feel like they are playing down, don't get upset about a bad play… just kinda’ let it go. But I think they play hard. They want to learn, they are trying to learn, and I think that it was a great experience for them."