Craig Roh fills hybrid role for Michigan

Craig Roh's job description actually is more defined than it was a year ago, even though it sounds more ambiguous.

"I’m that hybrid type of position," Roh told me in April. "Half linebacker, half defensive lineman."

Roh started his first collegiate game for Michigan at the aptly labeled "quick" position, a combination of linebacker and defensive line. His bio on Michigan's official website reads that he started all 12 games at outside linebacker in 2009, but Roh said he only got out of the three-point stance during practice this spring.

As Michigan's defense worked more in the 3-3-5 set during spring ball, Roh divided his time between linebacker and defensive line.

"There’s some changes," he said. "I’ve never been in a linebacker [position], second-level, setting up there. Some guys are playing basically the same position they played last year. For me, this is something new and different.

"[Defensive coordinator Greg Robinson] is helping me a lot with the learning curve."

Roh should be a lot further along when the season kicks off Sept. 4 against Connecticut. Michigan's defense needs him to provide a major boost.

At 6-5 and 251 pounds with excellent speed, Roh boasts the size and skill to excel in the hybrid role. He expects to have more responsibilities in pass coverage but will remain a pass-rushing threat after recording two sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss in 2009.

Although Roh did some good things as a true freshman, he recognized the steps he needed to make during the offseason.

"I saw a guy that definitely did need to gain some size," Roh said. "That was a big factor. And a guy that really needed to learn every facet of the defense so he could play his position."

Roh arrived at Michigan weighing just 238 pounds and lost some of it during the season.

Describing himself as "tiny" among Big Ten defensive linemen, Roh spent the winter, spring and summer bulking up in the weight room. He also followed a diet most people would dream about: six meals and more than 4,000 calories a day.

"I have crazy metabolism, and putting on weight was tough for me," he said. "It's something I've really got to concentrate on. Some meals, you're like, 'I really don't want to eat this right now,' but you have to."

Michigan loses its top two defenders -- end Brandon Graham and cornerback Donovan Warren -- from a unit that struggled for most of 2009, finishing last in the Big Ten in both points allowed (33.2 ypg) and yards allowed (428.5 ypg) in conference games. Although Robinson tried to downplay talk about the 3-3-5 alignment, Michigan undoubtedly will tweak things this fall, and Roh is a big part of the plan.

"I'm a guy that's expected to perform this year," Roh said. "BG [Graham] was just an amazing player, and I feel like in some sense I need to replace what he's done."