Almost every chance he has had this season, freshman defensive end Rashan Gary has mentioned two of his older teammates — fifth-year senior defensive end Chris Wormley and senior defensive end Taco Charlton — as his biggest mentors. Sometimes, he even addresses each of them as “big bro.”
It turns out the relationship is mutual.
Charlton and the other defensive linemen have spent the past few days of practice coaching the younger players below them on the depth chart. And they’ve enjoyed the relationship — Charlton even returned Gary’s nickname, calling the freshman “like a little brother to me.”
Michigan’s starters last practiced Monday and won’t do so again until Sunday, Charlton said this week, to recharge their bodies and prepare for the second half of the season. Rather than take the week completely off, they’re playing a different role.
“A lot of them look up to me, so I’m definitely out there trying to coach them up, show them what different things that I do that works,” Charlton said. “I try to do that, help them out, especially on the pass rush aspect of things.”
Charlton has solidified a spot at defensive end in the past two years. Earlier in his career, he played many different positions and came off the bench to relieve the starters, like Gary does now. During that time, Charlton found the mentorship of fellow defensive linemen such as Frank Clark — who last played in 2014 — to be important.
So while he takes a week to try to return to 100 percent for the first time since he suffered an ankle injury Sept. 3, he’s also trying to impart some of the same lessons to Gary.
“As Rashan came in as a freshman, I kind of took that role as him being the younger guy,” Charlton said. “I would look out for him and show him the ropes how Frank showed me the ropes.”
Perhaps fifth-year senior defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow took the role even more seriously. He walked into Tuesday’s media session at Schembechler Hall wearing a whistle around his neck, also enjoying some time off from the physical grind of the season.
Glasgow plays inside of Charlton on the line, but he also has several younger players backing him up on the depth chart. Redshirt sophomore Bryan Mone plays the most in that role, while true freshmen Michael Onwenu and Michael Dwumfour can also step in.
“It’s nice to interact with them when they’re not doing scout, when they’re the main focus of attention and you can kind of cater them, instead of when they’re on the sidelines in games, telling you what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong,” Glasgow said. “So it’s nice to build a rapport with them and help them out instead of them helping you out.”
The passionate yet easygoing Glasgow may have started to personify the coach’s role in more ways than one, too. Asked if he ever yells at the players he coaches, he smiled.
“Some of them, it’s pretty funny,” he said. “I do it more in jest than anything, but yeah, I really liked it today.”
Charlton and Glasgow’s coaching may pay off in the near future. While Michigan has gone eight players deep on its defensive line for most of the season, the Wolverines will lose the top four of those players — ends Charlton and Wormley and tackles Glasgow and Matt Godin — who are all seniors.
That leaves rising stars such as Gary and redshirt sophomore end Chase Winovich to step into the seniors’ old roles one day. When that day comes, the after-effects of Charlton’s brotherhood and Glasgow’s whistle may come through.