The last four years of Lawrence Marshall’s life have been all about trusting a process he never knew would take so long.
It’s a process that required nearly 50 pounds of weight gain, two position switches and three years of patiently waiting.
That process isn’t over yet. But, at least for one play, the redshirt junior caught a glimpse at what could lie in his future when he recovered a fumble in the third quarter of Michigan’s 33-17 victory over Florida on Saturday.
“That’s what we preached all spring ball, all fall camp — just running to the ball,” Marshall said. “That’s the Michigan thing. Coaches always preach that; you never know what you’re going to find when you’re running to the ball.”
Marshall has yet to break into the starting lineup, or develop into the fearsome defensive lineman that many predicted he would. But given how long he’s waited to make an impact on the field, that fumble recovery meant all the more to both him and his mom, who Marshall said texted and called him “five or six times” after the game ended.
Marshall, now a defensive tackle, has certainly had a humbling experience at Michigan despite a recruiting pedigree that would suggest otherwise.
He arrived in Ann Arbor as a highly-touted four-star defensive end — one of the best in the nation — who had previously committed to Ohio State. Yet Marshall was not prepared for one of big-time college football’s harshest realities: chances are, the roster already has players who were just as highly-ranked as you were — and they have an advantage in experience.
It didn’t matter that Marshall was a blue-chip recruit, or that Michigan had won a hard-fought recruiting battle for his services. Once he enrolled on campus, he was at the bottom.
“We just had some incredible players that were ahead of me, and I just had to wait my time,” Marshall said. “It was difficult, being a highly-recruited guy coming in and you’ve got to start from the bottom of the barrel and build your way up, but perseverance is everything and that’s what I stand by.”
It didn’t help that Marshall was quickly converted into a strongside end — a position that, compared to the weakside, typically requires more weight in an emphasis to hold up better against the run. Then, he was eventually moved again, this time to defensive tackle.
For Marshall, that meant retooling his entire pass-rushing technique. And that didn’t come easy.
“A lot of work went into it,” Marshall said. “Rushing from the inside versus outside are two different games.”
He gained an edge during the offseason, though, after working with fifth-year senior defensive tackle Mo Hurst. Hurst, commonly regarded as one of the nation’s premier interior pass-rushers, taught Marshall “everything.”
Those sessions, coupled with more time spent at the position, saw Marshall enjoy what he thinks is one of — if not the — best fall camps he’s ever had.
“I’m more aggressive, I feel like — more knock ‘em back, playing low, my pad level has gotten way better, my technique has improved a lot,” Marshall said. “I was just watching film of myself my sophomore year where I was stepping inside some or stepping outside, and now it’s straight steps and punching somebody in the mouth first, so that’s what I felt like I improved the most on.”
Saturday, he saw regular snaps as part of the interior rotation. While that may not seem like much, Michigan spent much of the game in a three-man front, which meant there were fewer snaps for its interior linemen.
Perhaps that’s the best indicator of how far Marshall has come — while he was once the highly-touted recruit biding his time, he’s now the veteran seeing the field ahead of younger and even more highly-ranked freshmen.
“You have to be patient to a certain extent,” Marshall said. “I was patient all the way up to this point.”