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Speedy freshman Craig Roh excelling at 'quick' position

BY RUTH LINCOLN
Daily Sports Editor
Published September 8, 2009

During fall camp, Michigan standout tailback Carlos Brown was running a route when he quickly glanced to his left.

Brown couldn’t recognize the 6-foot-4, 238-pound freshman who was running by his side — and actually keeping up.

“He turned around and looked at me, and I said, 'That's Craig Roh running with me right down the field?' ” Brown recalled. “It's ridiculous. He's real fast.”

Within defensive coordinator Greg Robinson's system, Roh plays a hybrid defensive end/linebacker position, also known as the “quick”. The Scottsdale, Ariz. native, who runs a 4.75 40-yard dash, has garnered much attention with his speed and athleticism.

After battling with redshirt sophomore Brandon Herron for much of fall camp, Roh began to set himself apart. Last Friday, Robinson told Roh he would get the starting nod in Saturday’s game against Western Michigan.

“It was so many emotions at the same time — excitement, nervousness, just a lot of emotions,” Roh said of Saturday’s start. “Coach Robinson, he was very straightforward. He called me and Brandon Herron over, and that was that.”

Roh turned heads Saturday when he broke into the offensive backfield. He finished with four assisted tackles, including one for a six-yard loss. The most impressive play came when Roh and defensive tackle Ryan Van Bergen combined for a sack and a nine-yard loss.

“Oh, I seen Craig Roh out there, you know, sticking his nose in there, and he did good for today and all he can do is get better,” senior defensive end Brandon Graham said Saturday. “He's got a motor, and he just want to do everything right. We know he's going to make his mistakes, but he's going to keep going out there."

Roh’s position requires a fast defender who can pass rush from the edge and drop back in coverage. As with many positions in Robinson’s system, it demands constant movement.

The "quick" spot is a new position for Roh, who played defensive end in high school and verbally committed to Michigan last September under former defensive coordinator Scott Shafer.

In his senior year of high school, Roh tallied 16.5 sacks and received the Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year award. A rivals.com four-star recruit, he received offers from Southern California, UCLA, Arizona State, Nebraska, California and Stanford.

Roh's biggest criticism remains his wiry frame, and as Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said at National Signing Day, he expects Roh to “grow to 250-some pounds.”

But it's Roh’s speed that makes him adaptable. The switch to the "quick" position in Robinson’s system seems like a natural fit.

“I would call him raw,” Van Bergen said of Roh during fall camp. “I think he needs to kind of learn that there's a lot more scheming involved in college football. The athleticism he possesses ... he can be an excellent player."