After a win over Iowa, Michael Dwumfour texted his defensive coordinator.
“Coach, I jumped some gaps,” he said, according to Don Brown. “It won’t happen again.”
That’s just how Dwumfour is. The redshirt junior defensive tackle is always hungry for improvement, even after demolishing his opponent the way he did against the Hawkeyes, when he mauled Iowa’s vaunted offensive line in a game Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh called a “defensive masterpiece.”
Aiding his effort, Dwumfour has an impressive set of athletic abilities, especially for a 282-pound defensive lineman. Brown doesn’t want to admit where he was when he saw a video of Dwumfour running a slant route, but he will admit his reaction: a little smile creeped across his face.
Still, after spending much of the spring dealing with a torn plantar fascia and then getting injured again one play into the season, it hasn’t all been easy for Dwumfour.
“It was tough,” Dwumfour said Tuesday night, a maize towel still draped around his neck from the practice he’s finally healthy enough to participate in. “ … But I’m back now, so I forgot about that.”
It had to have been frustrating for Dwumfour to sit on the sideline as the defensive line got pushed around in a loss at Wisconsin, with the Badgers picking on Michigan’s lack of size. Converted fullback Ben Mason, drastically undersized, was forced to start at three-technique with Dwumfour out, and his inexperience there was on full display.
Harbaugh called out the entire defensive line in front of the team after that loss, telling them they had to play better. That unit has stepped up, with Dwumfour’s return the following week against Rutgers aiding that growth.
“Mike’s a great player,” said fifth-year senior offensive tackle Jon Runyan. “He’s really active with his hands, really quick twitch. Really hard to block in practice sometimes, that’s for sure. Seeing him back and healthy, I know he’s been struggling a lot, especially throughout the summer as well and going to the fall, it’s hard to see that guy sitting on the sidelines, sitting in the training room, battling through all these injuries he’s got, but I’m happy for him, that he’s back out there.”
Dwumfour especially excels in stopping the run game — a vital piece of the Wolverines’ game plan against Iowa. Now, the next step for Dwumfour is getting more involved in the passing game, highlighted by Brown’s explosive and tough-to-master blitz packages.
With so much time missed, Dwumfour hasn’t been able to condition as much, but once he’s had a little more time back, Brown hopes to utilize him more in those looks and make the pass rush even more fearsome than it already is.
“The thing that Mike brings to the table is the ability to come out of his stance, 100 miles an hour,” Brown said. “… He’s athletic and again for him, he hasn’t played a whole heck of a lot of football lately around here. So now he’s going through another practice week, a chance to kind of sink your teeth into the game plan, sink your teeth into your stance, your footwork, your techniques, your fundamentals, your eyes, all those things.”
Dwumfour called it a blessing to be back on the field the past two weeks. But if his texts to Brown are any indication, he’s not taking any of it for granted — and in Brown’s eyes, it only goes up from here.