At 6-foot-3 and 257 pounds, it’s not surprising that Michigan defensive end Larry Stevens has little trouble wrapping up quarterbacks and slamming them to the turf. What’s impressive is that the senior lineman was once trying to do the same job as a less-than-hulkish freshman.
Stevens played safety in high school and was recruited at that position by several Pac-10 schools. He came to Michigan about 30 pounds lighter than he is now and having “no idea” that he would end up moving from the secondary to the defensive line.
“For a guy to come into this program and play as a defensive lineman at 225 pounds, probably, says a lot about his toughness and his quickness and his athletic ability because he was overmatched,” coach Lloyd Carr said.
Stevens quickly learned that he would need a new physique to go along with his new position.
“I was underweight, and I didn’t have much to bring to the table (as a freshman),” Stevens said. “At the beginning, I wasn’t fit to do the job, but now I am. My attitude was always about being aggressive and playing hard, but physically it was challenging at the start being underweight.”
Since then, Stevens has bulked up and established himself as a serious threat to quarterbacks and an integral part of Michigan’s imposing defense. Stevens raced in untouched and threw down Notre Dame quarterback Carlyle Holiday for a 10-yard loss in the first quarter last Saturday, giving him a total of three sacks for 35 yards lost on the season. He has a total of seven tackles in three games.
Besides a physical presence, the loquacious lineman brings emotion and plenty of energy to the Wolverines’ defense. Stevens said he wants to be a playmaker, but within the team strategy.
“I want to make the plays. The guys next to me want to make the plays. And we all realize that if we don’t make the plays, we’re leaving our secondary out to dry,” Stevens said.
Go West, young men: Michigan heads to the West Coast this weekend, where it hasn’t had much success as of late. In their last two trips, in 2001 and 2000, the Wolverines lost nonconference games to Washington and UCLA respectively.
But Carr said he doesn’t think there is anything particular about the playing style of Pac-10 teams that gives Michigan trouble.
“I think the Big Ten has changed a lot in recent years with a lot more wide-open offenses, and I think we followed the Pac-10 in that area, but I don’t know that I would say that there’s a different philosophy by conference,” Carr said. “I think that’s an individual thing.”
Personnel update: Backup safeties Willis Barringer, who did not play Saturday for unspecified reasons, and Jacob Stewart, who pulled a muscle, are questionable for the Oregon game.