In fifth year, UM's Marshall finally finds his footing

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Michigan defensive lineman Lawrence Marshall

Ann Arbor — Michigan defensive line coach Greg Mattison has been talking about Lawrence Marshall year after year. It feels like even a few more year after years than that.

Now, in Marshall’s fifth season, he is fulfilling the promise he knows he’s always had since coming out of Southfield High. He made his first career start at Notre Dame in the season opener then missed a couple games with an injury, and was back last week for the Big Ten opener.

He tipped a pass that was intercepted last week against Nebraska, and he’s fully healthy and ready to contribute at tackle for the Wolverines as they make final preparations to face Northwestern on Saturday in their first road game since facing Notre Dame.

“Lawrence just keeps going. Keeps going,” Mattison said earlier this week. “It’s really good. We haven’t gotten to where we plan on getting and Lawrence knows that. Lawrence gets better every practice and works to get better every practice. I’m excited about Lawrence.”

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More: View from the other side: Michigan at Northwestern

Marshall admits there were times during his Michigan career he had doubts and dealt with frustrations.

“You really go through it like, ‘Man, am I really good?’” Marshall said this week. “You really start second-guessing yourself and your skills. For myself, I kept going through it, kept getting better and better.

“I still ain’t where I want to be, but I’m farther along than I have been.

“I didn’t play my freshman year, my sophomore year, barely played my junior year, really started seeing the field my senior year. Just perseverance, just keep going through it. I started my first game my fifth year, so just got to keep going.”

Marshall said that despite the occasional second-guessing, he never got discouraged.

“I just knew my talent, and I knew I had to sit down with myself and weigh out the pros and cons,” he said.

“I’m very comfortable with the defense here. I told myself I can play here, there’s no doubt in my mind.”

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When All-American defensive tackle Maurice Hurst graduated after last season, Marshall saw his chance to fill the void left by one of his mentors.

“I felt like Mo Hurst left, the spot was open and I wasn’t just going to walk away from something that I knew I could — I knew I could play here,” Marshall said.

“A lot of guys second-guess their skills and they go somewhere else, like a lower division. I feel like I can play here at Michigan and that’s what I did.”

Marshall said he studied how Hurst played the game and tried to absorb as much as possible. Hurst was known for his ability to come off the ball fast. Some of that is instincts, some of that is a result of film study.

Because of that time with Hurst, especially moving outside to inside, Marshall said he has become a solid tackle and understands the game better.

“Mo Hurst, he showed me the ropes,” Marshall said. “Before, I didn’t know nothing about inside. Mo Hurst really gave me the blueprint for how to play it, and that’s what I’m trying to do for the younger guys coming along.”

In his return last week at Nebraska, Marshall tipped a pass that Josh Metellus intercepted during the Cornhuskers’ first drive.

That set up the Wolverines’ first scoring drive.

“Offensive guard came at me, I read it was pass and Coach Mattison always says, ‘Get your hands up,’” Marshall said. “I got my hands up and got a piece of the ball. Wish I had got the pick, but I ain’t get it.

“I don’t wanna say I saved the game, it was just a big play in the game.”

Michigan at Northwestern

Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Ryan Field, Evanston, Ill.

TV/radio: Fox/950

Records: Michigan 3-1, Northwestern 1-2

Line: Michigan by 14

Twitter: @chengelis