At his apartment one evening this summer, defensive tackle Alan Branch gazed toward the street and saw something unusual zipping by.
It was defensive end Tim Jamison, running down the street, getting in some extra conditioning. Jamison somehow had energy for the additional running, even though he, like most Michigan football players, spent his summer getting worked to the bone.
“I was basically helping my girlfriend prepare for her season, because she’s a basketball player,” Jamison said. “So I was like, ‘Why not condition myself, too?’ “
Extra running aside, Jamison impressed Michigan’s coaches during the offseason, working his way into a rotation with fifth-year senior Rondell Biggs at the defensive end spot opposite LaMarr Woodley. After struggling through two injury-plagued seasons, Jamison showed off the ability that made him a highly touted recruit out of Riverdale, Ill.
And on Saturday – particularly during the fourth quarter – Wisconsin saw what a healthier Tim Jamison can do.
On second-and-six from the Badger 24-yard line, Wisconsin quarterback John Stocco stepped back in the pocket and looked deep down the right side of the field. But Jamison, who was dropping back into coverage on a zone blitz, was ready to show off his best strong safety impression.
It was a good one. After sprinting 20 yards down the field, Jamison popped Wisconsin receiver Isaac Anderson just as the ball arrived, and the pigskin squirted loose for an incompletion.
“In those plays, you ask a defensive end to drop (into coverage),” Carr said. “That’s something that they’re totally unaccustomed to doing. They don’t get as many reps because normally they’re rushing, they’re playing their position. But (Jamison) made an outstanding play.”
On the very next play, Jamison demonstrated his explosiveness in a more traditional way. Taking advantage of a missed assignment by Wisconsin’s offensive line, Jamison sped straight into the backfield, sacking Stocco and forcing a Badger punt.
Thanks to his natural athletic ability Jamison makes plays as diverse as pass breakups and sacks look easy. But the sledding was much tougher for Jamison during his first two years in maize and blue.
As soon as he arrived in Ann Arbor, Jamison found his way onto the field. In his first three games, he collected four tackles, before an ACL injury sidelined him for the season.
Jamison’s sophomore year followed a similar path. He showed flashes of brilliance, but a nagging shoulder injury prevented him from revealing his true colors.
This year, the junior says he’s back to 100-percent – and his play over the last two games appears to indicate that.
But Carr isn’t so sure.
“That’s one of the real disappointments thus far, that he hurt himself,” Carr said. “He got hurt in training camp. . He’s just now getting healthy. He’s not a 100-percent. He still played. His best football this season is yet to come.”
Banged up or not, Jamison has some time to rest, thanks to his rotation with Biggs. While Biggs has started every game this season, Jamison’s playing time has gradually increased, along with his production. The two defensive ends go all-out fighting for playing time in practice, but it hasn’t affected their friendship.
“Me and Rondell are competitive on the field,” Jamison said. “Off the field, we help each other out. If I’m on the field, he’ll let me know what I’m doing wrong. If he’s on the field, I’ll let him know what he’s doing wrong. So we can help each other.”
In addition to the friendly competition, the rotation has other benefits. Jamison’s speed-rushing approach and Biggs’s power game provide opposing tackles substantially different styles. And both players are fresher than they would be playing every snap.
“Neither one of us is getting tired, so we both constantly have energy,” Jamison said. “So going against a tackle who might stay in the whole game, we’re still energized.”
Energized enough to run around the block, perhaps. For Jamison, it wouldn’t be the first time.