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Aubrey Solomon announces his presence on Michigan defense

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Michigan linebacker Aubrey Soloman (5) assists on a tackle of Rutgers running back Gus Edwards.

Ann Arbor — You can tell a rookie when you see one.

Michigan freshman defensive lineman Aubrey Solomon made his first start last week against Rutgers and then made his first appearance at media availability — wonder which meant more? — Tuesday night after practice.

Solomon started to answer his first question, then stopped.

“I have a question real quick,” he said to the video-camera toting reporters. “Where do I look?”

Told it didn’t matter, Solomon answered with an exaggerated “oooooookayyyy” and then launched into several topics, among them how he didn’t expect to start, how he’s had to forsake his true love — chicken tenders and fries — to maintain about a 25-pound weight loss, and how he owes teammate Kwity Paye dinner for winning the first-to-a-sack contest.

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Defensive line coach Greg Mattison informed Solomon early last week during a walk-through he would get his first start. Solomon said he figured he would slowly get indoctrinated in the defense, with a little help from senior Maurice Hurst, who sets the bar so high for tackles, and would probably redshirt.

“I was very shocked, actually,” Solomon said. “I didn’t expect to be in the position I’m in today. I was a little surprised, because deep inside there’s still a lot of things I’ve got to learn before I could get the start. Once I got my feet wet, I was like, ‘I can do this.’ ”

Solomon has 10 tackles this season, including one for loss. In his start against Rutgers, he had three tackles, including two solo, and was credited with half a tackle for loss. He remains without a sack while Paye has one sack and Solomon must now pay for dinner.

“I’m looking to improve upon my production” Solomon said before adding what else he wants to increase. “I’ll say get more disruptions, more quarterback hits, do something to help the team in any way I can.”

Upon arrival at Michigan, Solomon, from Lessburg, Georgia, said he got a rude awakening from facing college offensive linemen.

“It’s unreal,” he said. “High school, you could throw them around and all that, but here you’ve really got to get in the weight room and you really got to put technique together.”

Funny thing is, fifth-year center Patrick Kugler said Monday night on the “Inside Michigan Football’ show that he struggles when facing the freshman.

“I have, like, a mental complex with him,” Kugler said smiling. “I can’t block him.”

To make himself more competitive, the 6-foot-3 Solomon, who arrived at what he called a “sloppy” looking 320 pounds, is now 295.

Solomon met with a nutritionist and they devised a new eating regimen.

“He basically told me I eat like crap,” he said. “I had to change my whole diet and I didn’t like it at first but the results are surely to come soon, so I love it.”

Among the key sacrifices are chicken tenders and fries.

“That’s my first love right there,” Solomon said. “He basically told me no. Too much fat. I was pretty sad.”

Now he eats a lot of vegetables and pasta.

“This diet has really helped me because not only do I feel more flexible, I feel more alive in a sense,” he said. “I don’t feel as sluggish.”

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As Michigan prepares to face Minnesota for the Little Brown Jug on Saturday under the lights at Michigan Stadium, Solomon was asked what he knows about the trophy game. He had studied it recently in a history of collegiate sports class.

“It’s the oldest rivalry trophy in college football. Did you guys know that?” he said, drawing laughs.

He said he has never seen the Jug in person but plans to on Saturday. He does not, however, in the event of a victory, want to be one of the players who runs to pick it up and celebrate.

“Because I don’t want to break it,” Solomon said. “To be honest, I don’t want to touch it.”