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After injury and position shuffling, Moosman improving at center

Zachary Meisner/Daily
David Moosman during Michigan's 26-20 loss at Michigan State. Buy this photo

BY RUTH LINCOLN
Daily Sports Editor
Published October 14, 2009

The Michigan Stadium field turf poses a bit of a problem for fifth-year senior David Moosman.

How does he remove the rubber artificial pellets that get stuck in his grizzly thick, strawberry blond beard?

“My girlfriend’s always picking it out,” Moosman said with a laugh. “She makes sure I know. Good shower helps, too.”

Considering Moosman’s contact on the offensive line, it’s inevitable the 6-foot-5, 293-pound lineman would be very familiar with the ground. After receiving his first varsity letter just last year, Moosman has stepped into a very versatile role for the Wolverines this season.

In 2008, Moosman started all 12 games at right guard. As a stable force on an offensive line that spent the better part of Michigan’s 3-9 season in flux, Moosman and his teammates tried to adapt to Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez’s system.

Within that system, a year made a wealth of difference. The offensive line, one of the Wolverines’ biggest liabilities last season, was supposed to be one of their biggest strengths coming into this year.

“It’s actually a huge difference,” center David Molk said during fall camp. “We all know each other, all know where each other’s feet are going to be. Pass protection is a lot different, passing off, zone blocks, belly blocks … it’s completely different.”

But halfway through the season, shuffling has replaced stability as the offensive line has endured multiple injuries. And Moosman has been at the forefront.

After starting at right guard in the Wolverines’ first two games, Moosman injured his left shoulder against Notre Dame in Michigan’s come-from-behind win.

The next week, the line was forced to respond against Eastern Michigan without him. But things would get even worse against the Eagles, when Molk went down with a broken foot. Because he didn’t know the extent of his injury at the time, Molk stayed on the field.

“It takes a different type of person, and Molk is that type of person,” Moosman said. “You need to not be able to think about it, you just got to keep going and not stop. And, he’s that kind of guy. He’s a real tough kid, a real tough guy. He just kind of puts it out of his mind.

“It’s a tough thing to put out of your mind. You’re kind of walking on it.”

Molk’s injury wasn’t the best news for a rehabbing Moosman. Still nursing his battered left shoulder, Moosman was tapped to start at center in the Wolverines’ next game against Indiana. Having played seven games at the position earlier in his career and taking reps during practice, the move seemed logical.

But Moosman’s first start as center was more complicated. Michigan endured six botched snaps against Indiana, including two that resulted in 20- and 22-yard losses. With ice cushioning his still ailing shoulder, Moosman didn’t shy away from his faults, saying after the game, “Put the blame on me.”

Moosman said the biggest challenge he has faced at center is ability to snap the ball with one hand. For the split second that he snaps the ball with his right arm, he has just his left arm available to block. With his shoulder at less than 100 percent, the process has been trying.

“I was kind of hoping that Molk would not get hurt, so I could get another week of rehab in, but as it was, I got in there,” Moosman said this week. “Like I said, you don’t want to think about it. Gut through it. Played well, needed to play better. Now it’s fine.”

With three games now at center, Moosman is more acclimated with the snaps and the mistakes are less obvious. Moosman said Monday that he doesn’t know where his natural position on the line is and anticipates when Molk returns in a couple weeks, the shift back to right guard may take some time.

At center, Moosman has taken up a leadership position on the line, making calls, connecting with the quarterback and coming through with quality snaps. Unlike Molk, who is very outgoing, Moosman said his leadership style could be described as more laid-back.

“If you ask the other guys, I’m sure they’ll say mine’s a little bit less regimented,” Moosman said. “I feel like I’m a little bit more relaxed than Molk sometimes. He gets really fired up, and I’m more of a calm guy.”