MINNEAPOLIS – Both weren’t supposed to be in there.

It was a play that was designed for two of Michigan’s best
defensive backs – Marlin Jackson and Jeremy LeSueur – but that was
executed by two relative unknowns.

Sophomore safety Jacob Stewart and true freshman cornerback Leon
Hall teamed up for the biggest defensive play of the game.

After Michigan had just scored its second touchdown of the game,
the Wolverines were lining up to stop a Minnesota team that had
been running all over the Wolverines’ defense. But on its own
31-yard line, Minnesota chose to pass on first down instead of
run.

Minnesota senior Asad Abdul-Khaliq dropped back to pass on 1st
and 10, only to find Hall blitzing from Michigan’s sideline, in his
face. Unlike previous times, when Abdul-Khaliq was able to escape
and scramble for a long run, Hall had a good wrap around the
quarterback’s legs. Instead of taking a sack, Abdul-Khaliq tried to
force a pass to a seemingly wide-open wideout. Enter Stewart, who
baited the pass perfectly from the safety position, stepped in and
took the intercepted ball to the endzone.

“It was a play we had been working on all week,” said Stewart,
who was in for the injured Jackson. “It was a great corner blitz,
jumped the tight end … without (Hall) I wouldn’t get that
pick.”

What makes Hall’s situation impressive is that he is a true
freshman and actually missed a portion of camp due to injury.

“We have Leon Hall, who’s doing a great job with a senior being
out and him being a freshman,” said Markus Curry, the opposite
corner to Hall. “We feel there’s more pressure on him, and he’s
really stepping up. The coaches had confidence in Leon, definitely.
During two-a-days he was out for awhile, and they didn’t know how
he would hang in there.”

La-More playing time: Michigan defensive end LaMarr Woodley has
been listed as the starter at right end this weekend against
Illinois. Obviously, he’ll still have to earn that right to start
in practice this week, but after last weekend, it would take a lot
for him not to get quality playing time.

“In the Minnesota game, there were a lot of people asking me
about LaMarr, and honestly, when I saw the film, I have never seen
a freshman at that position make as many plays as he did,” Michigan
coach Lloyd Carr said. “This kid had an absolutely sensational game
for a freshman. Now, that’s one game – but against a very, very
good offensive line.”

Woodley finished with nine tackles, including one tackle for
loss. The freshman beast (6-foot-2, 263 pounds) also had one key
stop on Minnesota’s final drive, showing his ability to play an
entire game effectively. Combining with defensive tackle Grant
Bowman, he wrapped up Abdul-Khaliq to force an incomplete pass on
the first play of Minnesota’s unsuccessful attempt to try and tie
the game up.

“It is remarkable for an 18-year-old kid because normally, at
that position, it takes a couple of years to build the type of
strength and endurance. Here we’re getting ready to play the eighth
game of the year and in most cases a freshman at this stage, he’s
worn down, and he’s fatigued. LaMarr came up with an exceptional
game.”

Inserting a Tabb: Another redshirt freshman has begun to take a
more prominent role with the Wolverines, as wide receiver Carl Tabb
was the starting kick returner on Friday.

“Carl is a guy that we’d like to get the football to, because he
can really run,” Carr said. “He’s worked hard. I think he’s going
to develop into an outstanding football player. I think the first
thing you have to do when you put a guy back there is trust that
he’s going to bring the ball out and hit the crease. He’s not going
to come out and dance around. Carl will do that. We missed one of
the double teams that we should have had on that kick-off. We only
got two out because the rest of them were kicked out of the end
zone, but he did his job well.”

Tabb returned two kicks for 40 yards total.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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