2010 Big Ten Media Days, The Take Away on Michigan Football: Part III - Fullback/Linebacker Mark Moundros

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Mark Moundros carries the load during Michigan's Spring game. Photo via: Leon Halip/Getty Images Sport

Just like last year, I had the chance to sit down and interview Michigan's three team representatives at Big Ten Media Days. I didn't have as much time with the players this year as I would've liked (generally around 15 minutes per table given my own time constraints), but they were all great young men and gave honest, funny answers to questions I'm sure they'd heard 1,000 times. I've already given you my general impressions. I'll give you the rundown of all three sitdowns individually, and finish up the series with the wrap up of what I came away with from Coach Rodriguez. Yesterday we covered Michigan Football's Starting Right Guard, Stephen Schilling. Today we're wrapping up our sit down with Mark Moundros.

It's not often that a fullback finds his way to Big Ten media days. Well, for that matter it's not that often that a punter find his way there either, but what the hell. Sitting down and talking with Moundros, however, it's pretty obvious why he was there. Of the three young men there he was easily the quietest, and perhaps the most nervous to speak with the press, but there is an intensity about him that is impossible to miss.

Though not as tall as Schilling, Moundrous looks like a heavyweight MMA fighter. Shaved head, square jaw, and keen, alert eyes. When he stands up you think the guy just walked out of a Special Forces commercial. I know I said it in the opener, but he is one intimidating dude. This year he'll be dishing out punishment on both sides of the football. As Michigan's starting fullback (ala Owen Schmidt) Moundros will have the opportunity to impale linebackers and safeties at the goal line, creating easy clearance for one of Michigan's cavalcade of tailbacks to waltz into the endzone untouched. On the other side, Moundros is neck deep in the competition for the starting middle linebacker slot. Given some of the crushing blocks Moundros has dished out over his career, I personally can not wait to see the amount of pain he's capable of dishing out when he's actually allowed to wrap someone up.

Due to time constraints, my time sitting down with Mark was somewhat limitted but I was there for some interesting tidbits that I'm happy to pass along. I think it's worth noting that the overarching theme of Moundros' interview was this sentence, which he repeated several times:

Competition only makes us better, makes us deeper.

Given the lack of depth, and the lack of competition, at several critical positions it's gratifying to hear that not only is there talent back in the fold, but that guys have bought in to that concept.

On the Switch to Linebacker

I asked Mark a little bit about his switch to Linebacker, and a little bit of a smile crossed his face. Moundros said that it was a pretty natural transition personally, because he feels he has a defensive mindset. He told me that fullback is the closest thing to playing defense on the offesnive side of the ball, so the switch was easily mentally as well. Mark remarked that he loves contact, loves going after the football, and Linebacker gives him the opportunity to do all of those things. He joked that it was nice to be on the other side of the iso-block for once. In terms of playing time working into the equation, Mark was very honest, saying obviously he likes being on the field. Even so, he just wants to help the team in any possible way. If he can help the team competing at linebacker he's excited.

"If I don't play a snap and we win 12 games, I'm happy."

Because he's switching sides, Mark said he's had a lot to learn during the spring and during the off-sesason. to help himself in the process he's been watching a lot of film and working on his technique as much as he can. In one way though the transition has been a little easier because in running situations, Mark is able to read the guards and their movements as well as how to read the fullback who will be leading the way for the offense. Even so, it's a totally different language than what he was used to on offense.  

Mark did confirm, however, that he will also play fullback in the fall.

 

The Linebackers in General

Mark was quick to point out that veteran linebackers Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton have been a great help to him, as have Kenny Demens, JB Fitzgerald. Mark said that if he has any questions, everyone's been right there to help.  

I asked Mark specifically about Kenny Demens, and he responded that he expects big things out of him. He described Kenny as strong guy who is extremely really competitive.

When I asked him about the possibility of winning the starting slot, Mark dodged the question like a seasoned pro. He told me that "any time you're competeing for something you've gotta trust in your abilities" and the rest will sort itself out. He also said no matter what happens he's going to go into fall camp and compete as hard as he can, and let the rest sort itself out. The one thing he emphasized in his answer was that top to bottom, this team wants to win regardless of who is playing where. "I think we're very unselfish as a football team, and we're willing do you anything for each other." Given the nonsense in 2008 and some of the screwy stuf in 2009, that a nice thing to hear.

How the Defense Will Look

Regarding the overarching defensive appearance, Mark said that a lot of different fronts are being put into the defense. It's not "set" defense, per se. Mark said that the defense will go in and out of fronts to confuse the offenses. He did say that there are a lot of areas of the defense remain the same, mentioning that some of the sets remain the same in the pass defense. Moundros indicated that there won't be a definable "defensive front" for the first game, and that the defense will depend on how they prepare for Connecticut. He said that the defense will probably show a myriad of different fronts to offset the Huskies' offense depending on what they show (from 4 wide to a power style running game).

People to Watch on Defense

I asked Mark if there was an "unknown" player that Michigan fans should get excited about this fall. With a smile on his face Mark said "Cam Gordon", and then said "But you guys already know about him, don't you?" Just like with the running backs Mark said from top to bottom it's hard to draw out one or two young guys out. He can't pick out one particular veteran that will make a big impact becasue everyone is finding new ways to "wow" their teammates in practice every day.

Running Backs

Mark was asked about the differences between having a feature back like Mike Hart and the current situation with a stable of talented games. Mark said that he enjoyed having one guy, esecially a guy like mike Hart behind him, but he enjoys the current offense as well. He said that having three or four guys makes the offense much more diverse. Mark opined that bringing in different backs into the game at different times, it really challenges a defense. It also keeps everyone fresh, and freash backs in the game allow the offense to play at a higher pace.

Regarding those running backs, Moundros gave a mini breakdown of the different styles of backs, remarking that each of them brings something different to the offense. Michael Cox is a big, physical runner, who won't go down easy. Michael Shaw, brings a quickness and speed to the position, but also is tough to bring down. When Mark tried to describe Vincent Smith, you could tell he was struggling for adjectives to describe the diminuitive back. Mark described him as light on his toes and someone who "can cut like no other." Fitzgerald Toussaint is a quick back, who cuts real well and isn't afraid to lower his shoulder and run you over. Stephen Hopkins is a young powerful powerful back as well. 

Everyday something special happens with these guys, so it was hard for Mark to remember a specifics instance of something spectacular. He made it really clear that having five running backs like Michigan has makes them better as a team.

The Rivalry

Mark was pretty succinct on this. He wants to keep the Ohio State rivalry at the end of the year, but knows he and the other players really don't have any say in what happens. He said he's looking forward to this year's game, but at the same time he knows that Michigan has to take this season one team at a time.

On the Last Two Years

The past two years have been a bummer. We're not going to be a team that sits here and makes excuses about the last two years. I'm really excited about this year.

The Takeaway

Like Schilling, Mark is an easy young man to like. You could tell that he wasn't comfortable in the spotlight, and he admitted that talking with the press wasn't his favorite thing in the world to do, but he was forthright, honest and occasionally even allowed himself to enjoy the experience. With three of the senior leaders present at Media Days it was readily apparent that all three are on the same page. Moundros echoed exactly what I heard from Schilling and Woolfolk on the state of the program and the state of this team. They're message was simple: "Everyone's bought in. I work as hard as I can every day and compete as hard as I can." The rest will work itself out. Mark made crystal clear that the only thing that matters to this team is winning. Not playing time. Not what's going on outside the program. They'll go to the mat for one another. Mark may have been a media rookie, but he handled himself like a pro.

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