Michigan sophomore defensive end Jeremy Van Alstyne currently checks in at 6-foot-4, 255 pounds. Still, he feels that he’s just decently sized for his position.
“I’d like to be a little bit bigger,” Van Alstyne said.
The former linebacker shouldn’t worry about being a little small for his position. He should just think back to his wrestling days.
In his senior year at Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Ind., Van Alstyne won the state wrestling championships competing in the 275-pound weight class.
At the time, he weighed 220 – his opponent in the final match weighed 270.
How did he pin a guy who weighed 50 pounds more than him?
“Endurance,” Val Alstyne said. “I was in much better shape than him.”
Van Alstyne may not use wrestling moves out on the football field, but he’s certainly brought that hard-working mentality along with him to the Wolverines.
As the backup for senior Larry Stevens, Val Alstyne may not match the senior in trash-talking ability, but his quiet demeanor and work ethic speak for themselves.
The sophomore says he’s happy to get the opportunity to play and learn. He’s also happy to be at Michigan, a wish that almost didn’t come true for the Indiana product.
Van Alstyne initially committed to Notre Dame at the beginning of his senior year of high school because he said he wanted to get it out of the way.
“My parents and my high school coach wanted me to commit early because I was under a lot of stress,” he said. “Michigan hadn’t made an offer to me yet, but I was in touch with Coach (Andy) Moeller.”
After the second game of Van Alstyne’s season, Moeller came calling, and the senior couldn’t resist.
“I took the opportunity to come see the University of Michigan on an unofficial visit. I fell in love with the players, coaches and the school. I knew I had to come here.”
Van Alstyne had made a verbal commitment to Notre Dame, but since he never made an official visit to South Bend, he said it was easy to tell them he was going to Ann Arbor.
“It wasn’t that hard after I came here,” he said of Ann Arbor. “I knew this was the place for me.”
Van Alstyne’s first two seasons at Michigan have been a big learning experience. As an inexperienced young player, he says he often caught himself thinking too much on the field and making mental mistakes.
But increased playing time, along with some helpful advice from the senior linemen, have helped Van Alstyne improve his game.
“Larry Stevens has helped me out so much. All of the senior defensive linemen have helped like Grant (Bowman), Norman (Heuer) and Alain (Kashama),” he said.
“The seniors teach us how to handle ourselves, and what we need to do in different situations.
“Things are starting to become more natural for me. I’m not thinking about what I should do – I already know.”
Michigan’s starting defensive line is composed of four seniors. Beyond that, a gap exists between the seniors and the younger players like Van Alstyne.
The need to develop these younger players is one reason why Van Alstyne and his fellow defensive linemen are seeing an increase in playing time. They are expected be a big part of Michigan’s future defensive attack.
But Van Alstyne doesn’t feel any pressure from the increased role, or the fact that he has to back up a player like Stevens.
After all, he’s been in tougher situations on the wrestling mat.
T.G.I.F.: Despite the strict objections of Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, the Wolverines’ game at Minnesota has been moved from Saturday, Oct. 11 to Friday, Oct. 10. The move was made after the Minnesota Twins officially qualified for the Major League Baseball playoffs.
The decision was announced yesterday after the Golden Gophers argued against moving the game to a neutral setting to keep it on its original date.