Ann Arbor — Michigan defensive line coach Greg Mattison’s goal each year is to develop enough depth that he can rotate players without fearing any drop-off in production.
That’s what spring football practices are for across all position groups, but Mattison, it seems, has enjoyed an embarrassment of riches in terms of talent at his position the last several seasons. He has said it’s no different this year, and one of the players trying to crack more playing time is Carlo Kemp.
Kemp played exclusively at defensive end last season but is also working at tackle this spring.
“Last year was all end and anchor (end),” Kemp said Saturday after practice. “This year it’s been a mix of inside and outside and going back and forth between those two. I’ve been playing wherever they need me to go, inside, outside. If the coach says you’ve got to go in and play it, that’s just been my mindset, especially this spring ball so far.”
Mattison said earlier during spring practice that Kemp is one of the linemen who has shown improvement this spring.
Kemp is not concerning himself at the moment with where he falls on the depth chart.
“It’s spring ball so a lot of the guys are getting to play,” he said. “We’re all just rotating a lot. I don’t really know if there really is a specific depth chart right now. We all want to think of ourselves as starters and just help the team in the best possible way we can every time we go in there.”
As with his teammates, Kemp has undergone physical and nutritional changes under new strength coach Ben Herbert and his staff.
He added some weight as a function of playing both end and tackle.
“Just because I’ve been trying to play inside a lot I’ve definitely put on some extra weight just because you’ve got to be ready to take on those double teams a lot, and I think it’s been good,” Kemp said. “It helps for both positions. When you put on muscle, it’s not going to hurt you in any way.”
Teammate Rashan Gary has been a constant for Kemp since he’s been at Michigan. Kemp backed up Gary and has studied his template for how to play the position.
“Rashan’s my best friend ever since we came in here,” Kemp said. “It’s always fun watching to see how he works. He’s a very special and intelligent guy and if you’re not watching him every single play I don’t know what you’re doing if you’re trying to get yourself better.”
The Wolverines have been all about getting better this offseason.
There has been plenty of motivation for them coming off an 8-5 season and a bowl loss. With a number of staff changes, mostly on offense, and the addition of Herbert, Kemp said there has been a renewed focus.
“It all starts here in spring ball, especially coming off a sour taste with last year and the bowl game,” Kemp said. “Every day this spring ball we’re working to never have that experience again. We have really high hopes and expectations this season. Of course, at the end, we all want to be champions and everybody is working to that goal, and that’s been our morale this spring ball.”
The spring has also been about the quarterback competition. Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson has not yet been ruled immediately eligible to play this fall but is competing against Brandon Peters, Dylan McCaffrey and Joe Milton.
From his vantage, Kemp said all the quarterbacks have competed and progressed well.
“Everyone’s making plays either with their feet or their arm,” Kemp said. “They’re all high-caliber guys.”
Patterson, the top-ranked quarterback in the 2016 class, has drawn the most interest, in part because of the efforts to get an NCAA waiver to be immediately eligible, but also because from all accounts he has great athleticism.
“Each quarterback has their own style and own wrinkles that they do,” Kemp said. “Shea’s would definitely be his elusiveness on the field. But we have quarterbacks that are good in the pocket that can move, make plays with their feet as well. It’s been cool figuring everybody’s style of ball this spring ball, because they all have something different and unique.”