Michigan Football: Accepting the ‘underdog’ label

Michigan Football

Defensive end Frank Clark

The phrase, “We gon’ shock the world,” was originally coined by former University of Michigan basketball star Juwan Howard, however, a current member of the Michigan football team is taking that same mentality into the 2014 season.

Those were the exact words that came out of senior defensive end Frank Clark’s mouth following Michigan’s annual spring game this past Saturday.

“That’s what we’re going to do,” Clark said after practice. “We’re gonna shock the world.”

Although the context behind those words is much different than when Howard previously yelled them in the Fab Five days, the attitude that accompanies those words is almost identical.

Even if Brady Hoke refuses to shed any light on how his team is looking, other than “young”, Michigan’s most experienced defensive lineman is confident in the abilities on the defensive side of the ball, despite the “world’s” collective doubt.

In 2013, Michigan’s run defense was just 29th-best in the nation, allowing more than 140 rushing yards per game. Limiting the opponents’ running game is something that Michigan’s defense has set out to accomplish.

“We want to be a run-stopping, pass-rushing team,” Clark said when describing the defense’s identity.

There’s no better way to become a run-stopping defense than trying to bring down Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith in practice.

“Oh yeah, those are some big boys. They run hard.” Clark said regarding Green and Smith. “One thing we won’t tolerate is them running on us in practice.”

With all the talk surrounding offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and the new-look offense, the fate of Michigan’s season could fall onto the shoulders of the defense.

A strong defense is the most effective remedy for an offense that oftentimes struggles to put points on the board. Michigan was 0-4 in games that the offense failed to score more than 21 points.

Clark made it known that this team isn’t going to hide behind the disappointing season of 2013.

“Oh, it’s going to inspire us,” he said confidently. “I want everybody to look down on us… I don’t want to be in the top 25… I want us to be one of those teams that’s surprising.”

Which is exactly what the Wolverines will have to do in 2014. At best, Michigan heads into the season as the fourth-best team in the Big Ten.

There’s no doubt that the collective blood pressure in Michigan Stadium will be at an all-time high throughout the season opener against Appalachian State.

There’s a communal doubt surrounding Ann Arbor, but that doesn’t seem to bother Frank Clark and the rest of the Wolverines defense, not yet anyways.

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