Commentary

DE Roh on the move again

Mattison envisions senior setting edge on strong side for defense

Updated: April 2, 2012, 12:20 PM ET
By Michael Rothstein | WolverineNation

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The weight gain has returned.

This time, though, it isn't about an offensive lineman needing to bulk up or a defensive lineman needing to slim down. This is about the natural progression of a player from a freshman to a senior, with a likely end weight gain of 40 pounds.

[+] EnlargeNotre Dame's Cierre Wood
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioDE Craig Roh will add some weight in order to play on the strong side this season.
Craig Roh came to Michigan a 240-pound outside linebacker. He'll leave weighing at least 280 pounds and playing strongside defensive end, the latest of three position switches necessitating the addition of the equivalent to a small child to his body.

"When you're gaining weight, it's not all pretty," Roh said.

When the coaches asked him to put on more weight for another position move, the senior easily could have thought, "Here we go again." The Arizona native has been on the move almost his entire career at Michigan. He started off as a 240-pound hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker in former coordinator Greg Robinson's 3-3-5 defense.

As a sophomore, he played at outside linebacker again and in the middle of the season ended up moving down to defensive end full time for the final five games of the season. Then, between Roh's sophomore and junior year, Robinson was fired and replaced by Greg Mattison.

With Mattison came a switch from the 3-3-5 to a 4-3 defense -- and while Roh's position technically stayed the same, he had to learn an entirely new scheme, one that was likely better suited to his skills.

During last season, though, Mattison saw things in Roh that made him want to move him again -- this time from a weakside defensive end slot to the strong side, where Ryan Van Bergen played last season.

"As a coach, what you do is when you're watching a player and evaluating him and you see him make a play and say, 'Boy, that was hard for him, but he made a good play,' " Mattison said. "He may not have had to work quite as hard if he was at this position. He's still the best you have at that time, but now if we get the opportunity, maybe we'll move him.

"Maybe we'll see if we can get him in a position for it not to be quite as hard as it was for him to do what he just did."

Roh had no problem with that. He welcomed the change, even if it means having to deal with more double teams and being more of the focal point as a guy the offensive line will try to stop.

Moving from the weak side to the strong side -- which Michigan calls a five-technique -- also means Roh has to move less to make plays, and more often than not, teams will have plays that come right at him.

It is on him to stop it.

"I'm more of a guy at the point of attack, an explosive guy," Roh said. "I just need to put the weight on now, and from what I've done so far in spring, I really like the position, because the ball is coming to you a lot more.

"It seems like you have the opportunity to make more plays."

This has been what Roh has been able to do his whole career. In three seasons, he has made 112 tackles and 21 tackles for loss. He also slowly has started to turn into what Michigan will need now -- a leader on the line.

The leadership aspect to this is the other reason Roh accepted the change easily. He knew if he did that, the younger players would buy in even more to what the coaches were saying. If he dissented, the players would notice that, too.

He watched Mike Martin and Van Bergen lead from the line last season and said it is still a little strange having them gone.

"All of a sudden they are gone," Roh said. "Then you're expected to lead, and I think that's something that is strange at times, but I'm excited to see what kind of leader I can be."

He started by accepting the switch, and thus far, it is working out as he waits on his final season in college, a long way from 40 pounds, an entire position group and coaching staff ago.

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter