The eldest of Michigan's nine linebackers, 2011 leading-tackler Kenny Demens is expected to have yet another strong campaign in his third season manning the middle.
Tabbed as the eighth-best high school player in the state of Michigan by Rivals.com, Detroit Country Day's Kenny Demens arrived in Ann Arbor in the fall of 2008 as a raw but talented four-star linebacker with grown man strength.
The 6-foot-1 Demens was visibly flustered at the time, but ultimately did not waver on his pledge to the Wolverines after a certain Lloyd Carr, the man who recruited and sold him on Michigan football, was forced out in the winter months of 2007. "[Rich Rodriguez] is a great coach," Demens told the Detroit News. "West Virginia offered me a scholarship back in July."
Aside from sporting an impressive 375-pound max bench press number and an above-average 4.6 40-yard dash time, Demens began his career as the lowest-rated of four linebacker prospects in Rodriguez's '08 class. As such, he wasted no time accepting the coaching staff's suggestion that he redshirt that first year, effectively avoiding the most abysmal football season since the Great Depression in the process.
After more than a full calendar year working with Michigan's strength and conditioning coaches, Demens entered his second autumn with Big Blue both faster and bigger than ever, and proceeded to make a significant impact on special teams over his team's ensuing 12 games. On the heels of excelling in his role as a freshman, Demens was once again projected to be a reserve linebacker and special teams ace heading into the 2010-11 campaign due to a number of players ahead of him on the depth chart.
It took a seven-game concoction of ineptitude and injury problems for Michigan's coaching staff to realize their blunder. The time to toil away as a play-by-play oxygen break for the Wolverines' starting linebacking corps was long over. And on October 16th against the Iowa Hawkeyes, Demens, a third-year sophomore, made his first collegiate start.
Twenty consecutive games at middle linebacker and a whopping 156 tackles later, and the Oak Park native hasn't once bothered to glance back at the reserve role that he left behind. The onetime 224-pound 3-3-5 reserve speed rusher is now a 248-pound tackling machine playing in an aggressive, NFL-type scheme. For a player who came up through some of the program's toughest times, Demens' development from bit player to all-conference performer is a breath of fresh air.
His team-leading 94 tackles last season may be difficult to replicate, if only because of how strong Michigan's overall defense is shaping up to be. A proven, sure-handed tackler like Demens will clearly be defensive coordinator Greg Mattison's rock in the middle for all of 2012 assuming he stays healthy, but first-year talent Joe Bolden could always sneak into the mix. We fully expect Demens to 1.) post another comparable season statistically, 2.) make the All-Big Ten first or second team, and 3.) parlay it all into an NFL contract by springtime.
If He Were A Beer, He'd Be A...
As our fearless leader in the middle, Demens brings to mind Pizza Port's Middle Man IPA, a 6.6% California-brewed diamond-in-the-rough that is both strong and hits quite hard. Your official description:
This IPA hits you right away with a huge hop aroma and flavor, but leaves satisfied with a super clean finish. The light malt backbone lets the American hops shine through with a nice citrusy vibe.