Last season Michigan fans were introduced to Craig Roh, a 238-pound outside linebacker from Scottsdale, Arizona's Chaparral High School. This season they will be introduced to a bigger, tougher, and just-as-fast version of Craig Roh. He plays at 250 pounds right now, but his speed is still prevalent.
"It's Barwis’ training. It’s the training where you gain the weight, but it’s good weight, it’s muscle," Roh said. He explained the method, saying, "Your force is still going up—force is mass times acceleration—my mass went up and my acceleration went up too, so I produce a greater force."
Last year Roh was a true freshman who started every game and often felt undersized. He was thrown to the wolves last year, and he seems to feel more comfortable this spring.
"The thing about gaining a little bit of weight, I’m starting to notice I can push guys a little bit more," Roh said. "In the Big Ten that is extremely helpful."
He continued, explaining how he "came in [last season] at 238 pounds and played the whole season at 238, which was tough at times [because] you're just not as big as these 6'7", 330-pound offensive tackles. So now that I’ve gained a little bit of weight, it’s extremely nice.”
Bulking up the right way looks to be the answer for Roh as he continues to build his legacy in a line of Michigan linebackers who make it to the NFL, a line Stevie Brown extended when the Oakland Raiders drafted him this year.
When asked about becoming tougher, Roh said, "Working in Barwis’ group, it makes you a lot tougher. It’s like metal grinding on metal, it just makes you sharper."
Roh should be able to build off his Sporting News Freshman All-Big Ten honors with his increased size and his increased role on the defense.
Having amassed 37 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, one interception and three pass breakups, he said he won't comment on how many sacks he'll have, but he does want to fill the huge hole Brandon Graham left by moving on to Philadelphia as the 13th pick in the first round of this year's NFL Draft.
"I have every intention in filling Brandon Graham's spot which is some huge shoes to fill," Roh said. "I'm going to work extremely hard this spring and summer and try to get the speed up and my size up a little bit more and hopefully be that type of player."
Roh is a guy who will play in the dirt and play off the line. His abilities and versatility can give him the opportunity to be effective in either position.
"They can use me in a lot of different ways," Roh says. "I feel like I’m that kind of athlete where they can use me in the pass rush, and also drop me back and use me in the run. It’s just really exciting."
Michigan needs a player like Roh to step up and lead this defense. He is a pivotal part of what was a horrible defense last year. The simplified playbook seems to be helping them on the field.
"I feel as a defense we can step up," Roh says. "We’re all familiar with the basic defense. Now when we go into summer camp we’re going to be even more ready."
He hopes to be part of a defense that will step up, that will understand assignments, that will execute, and that will play faster.
"Now that we simplified the defense a little bit more we can play faster," Roh said. He sounded like his coach when he said that and to me that's a good thing. His ability to learn, retain knowledge, and progress at a high level gives Roh all the tools he needs to be the rock this defense needs this season and beyond.