Lineman makes position transition

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- When Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison approached Jibreel Black a couple of weeks after the end of last season with a request, it wasn't a surprise. Black, a junior defensive lineman, figured it might be coming.

Mattison wanted Black to change positions, to bulk up his body to go from playing defensive end to defensive tackle. It would mean weight gain and playing from a different vantage point, but Black accepted it.

Then he made a phone call to the person who might be able to help him the most -- his brother.

Larry Black Jr. is a defensive tackle at Indiana, and he would be able to explain the position difference better than anyone, including how it would affect Jibreel's game and his body.

"I actually helped him out a lot," Larry Black Jr. said. "We text every day, and he asks me about different techniques, different moves and everything. But he weighs less than I do, so he relies on his speed and his technique a lot more."

Counseling his brother on the switch was easy. Now a redshirt senior, Larry Black Jr. has started for a good portion of his first three seasons with the Hoosiers. Plus, Michigan and Indiana don't play this season, so familial bonds can go unobstructed by any conflicting collegiate ties.

Plus, older brother thinks the move will be a good one for the younger one.

"I told him to go ahead and do it," Larry Black Jr. said. "With his quickness coming off the ball, not too many people will be able to block him or control him. He's pretty strong.

"I thought it would be a good fit for him, and it'll work out fine. It seems like it is working fine in the spring, from what I'm hearing from him."

To prepare for the move, Jibreel Black gained 10 pounds during winter conditioning after revamping his diet and lifting with strength coach Aaron Wellman. Now at 270 pounds, he said last week that he hopes to be 280 by the start of the season.

And the transition has gone about as smooth as he had hoped. Besides his brother, he also sought out the advice of former Michigan defensive lineman Will Heininger, who also had been a mentor for Will Campbell.

"I talk to him a lot," Jibreel Black said. "He showed me what he did and what helped him coming from nose to three-technique. He's been showing me ways he shoots with his hands."

Hand movement and footwork have been Black's biggest challenges, but the repetition throughout the spring has helped ease the transition for a player with 25 career tackles and 1.5 career sacks now thrust into a starting role at a new position.

Black's development is more critical, too, as Michigan likely will lose two starters off the defensive line again in 2012 -- Campbell and defensive end Craig Roh. So soon enough, he'll be one of the few linemen with experience at all.

"It being a new position for me," Black said. "I think I'm making some big strides for the team."

In practice, he has. Whether that turns into game production will start to show Saturday.