The Michigan coaching staff finally believes it's found a place for Craig Roh.
Not that the three-year starter has played poorly, it's that head coach Brady Hoke sees even better days ahead.
A starter in every game since arriving in 2009, Roh first played outside linebacker before switching to weakside defensive end midway through 2010.
When Michigan opens the 2012 campaign against Alabama Sept. 1, Roh will be starting at strongside defensive end, the position Ryan Van Bergen manned a season ago.
With Van Bergen. nose tackle Mike Martin, and tackle Will Heininger moving on, Roh begins the season as Michigan's only defensive line starter.
He's also bulked up to nearly 280 pounds from 269, so he can better handle the gap between the offensive tackle and tight end in Michigan's 4-3 alignment.
"Craig Roh will be a better football player moving into a five-technique than he would be out on the edge, where there's a lot of open spaces," defensive coordinator Greg Mattison told annarbor.com.
"As a coach, what you do, when you're watching a player and you're evaluating him and you see him make a play, you say 'boy, that was hard for him, but he made a great play,'" Mattison added. "He may not have had to work as hard had he been at (another) position."
Roh tends to agree. “I love strong side D end,” he told scout.com. “The ball comes right to you—you don’t have to run to it. All you have to do is defeat your block and throw off and make the play in the hole. It’s a lot of fun.”
There are others who expect big things from Roh, who has 112 career tackles and 6.5 sacks. The senior has been named to the preseason watch list for the Ted Hendricks Award, given to the nation's top defensive end.
Frank Clark was expected to battle Brennan Beyer for Roh's old position, but Clark's legal problems and subsequent suspension may keep him on the sidelines until well after the season opener. SAM linebacker Jake Ryan, who played some defensive end in the Sugar Bowl, may have to spell Beyer, while Cam Gordon subs for Ryan.
Jibreel Black and Will Campbell have been penciled into the tackle slots, but look for a few freshmen to compete for playing time.
Roh, along with redshirt junior OT Taylor Lewan, came to Michigan from Chaparral HS in Scottsdale, AZ.