- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan's Craig Roh has been ingesting about 5,000 calories per day this spring, trying to bulk up by about 10 pounds to play strong side defensive end. He's eating six meals per day, and says there are days when he feels like throwing up all the time.
Yet, this offseason has been a lot easier to stomach for Roh than last year, when another transition didn't get off to the smoothest of starts. During last spring and summer, Roh was steadily getting criticized by new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison as he moved from linebacker to weakside defensive end.
"I'd have those moments like, 'Does he even think I'm worth anything?'" Roh told ESPN.com. "He broke me down to my core and built me back up. It was one of the hardest things I've been through in my life, but also one of the most rewarding."
After a slow start last year, Roh improved to finish with 32 tackles, including eight for loss, on one of the best defensive lines in the Big Ten. Now, he's the only starter back on the line, moving over to the spot where Ryan Van Bergen starred a last season.
The Wolverines are counting on him to be a playmaker and a leader, two things he accomplished in spring practice.
"I think the move of Craig Roh was a very, very good move," Mattison said. "He had one of the best springs of any of our guys. I think the thing that would bother him was open spaces. We felt that moving him inside gives him a chance to show his ability."
Roh will be right in the middle of the action on the strong side, and often will have to face more than one blocker. Hence the need to build up from last season's listed playing weight of 269 pounds.
"It's great because the ball comes to you, and you don't have to run far to get to it," he said. "You just have to be strong and throw off blocks, be explosive. That's what I am. It's an exciting transition, and I've been able to make a lot of plays in spring practice. It's been fun."
Fun hasn't always described Roh's other moves. In Rich Rodriguez's 3-3-5 scheme, he played outside linebacker and, like much of the defense during that era, struggled mightily at times.
"At linebacker, I did not know what was going on at all," he said. "I know what I'm good at and what I'm not good at. I'm not good at linebacker. I know I am good at reading and reacting on the defensive line."
It took a couple of games last season before Roh started feeling comfortable in Mattison's system. He told the media last fall that he broke down in tears in front of his family after the opener against Western Michigan. He had to get used to the high standards Michigan has for its defensive line. After all, Mattison and head coach Brady Hoke are defensive line coaches at heart, and Jerry Montgomery is a demanding position coach.
"The pressure is immense," Roh said. "You have three different people critiquing what you're doing. They're not always going to give you compliments. Most of the time, they're not going to give you compliments."
But they have been complimentary of Roh's play so far this offseason, with Hoke telling ESPN.com that Roh "can be a big plus for us this year." A bigger plus, if he keeps up his high-calorie diet.
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