Walk-on defensive lineman Nathan Brink [photo credit: Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com]
Redshirt sophomore defensive end Nathan Brink's emergence this fall as a walk-on in line for major playing time has come as a surprise for many, and
begs raises the question: Who is Nathan Brink? Perhaps more importantly, at least to Wolverine fans, can he make a positive contribution this year on the field? To help us learn more about the walk-on, who's currently slated to back up Will Heininger at strongside defensive end, Brad Hoffman, who was Nate's defensive line coach at Holland Christian, was kind enough to answer a few questions:
ACE: Nate's burst onto the scene this year, and as a walk-on Michigan fans aren't very familiar with him. What was his recruitment like coming out of high school? Did he get any scholarship offers for football, and what made him decide to walk on at Michigan?
COACH HOFFMAN: Early on in high school Nate was focused on basketball. Some time during the team's state title run Nate's senior year he switched his focus to football. He was 6'5" and around 220 lbs. his senior year. Nate was a strong kid, but not high level college football strong. I don't have first hand knowledge of any scholarship offers. Our head coach at the time was Willie Snead, who just came over from Glades Central in FL and had a good relationship with Rich Rodriguez. Through Coach Snead, Nate and Seth Broekhuizen [Brink's high school teammate] were able to receive walk-on spots at Michigan.
ACE: What was Nate's football game like as a high school player? What were his strong and weak points?
COACH HOFFMAN: As I mentioned earlier Nate's focus was basketball early in his high school career. He didn't play football his sophomore year. When he came back his junior year he was inexperienced, but he earned a starting spot. Nate was our starting left tackle and right defensive end. We went 14-0 Nate's senior year and Nate must have been on the field for 80% of all snaps. Nate always was a hard worker. Coach Mattison said something about how when Coach Montgomery tells Nate to step a certain way he tries to step a certain way. That is something I remember about Nate. He always gave consistent effort and tried to improve his game every drill and every practice.
Nate was a very physical football player. We ran a 3-5-3 his senior year and that meant he was constantly getting double teamed. He was consistently going against lineman who had 40+ lbs. on him. The front of Nate's helmet and his facemask was trashed at the end of the season because he played low through those double teams and was getting his head through his assigned gap. Because of his basketball background Nate had fantastic feet and balance that certainly helped him overcome the size difference. Nate's biggest weakness was strength. If he was to compete at the collegiate level he was going to have to get stronger.
ACE: How has Nate changed as a player since he got to Ann Arbor?
I would say the biggest difference I see in Nate is the 50 lbs. he has gained. He still works out in our weight room when he is in town and he looks like a completely different man from the one that left here in 2009. I am sure he is still the detail-oriented, hard working d-lineman he was back in 2009. Since he only had 2 years of varsity football experience (3 years total) all the credit goes to Coaches Tall, Montgomery, Mattison and Hoke in getting him ready to play major D-1 college football.
ACE: As his high school defensive line coach, did you think he had the potential to grow into a contributor for the Wolverines? How do you think he'll fare this year as part of the D-line rotation?
COACH HOFFMAN: Anyone could have seen that Nate had great potential. He was a good athlete with a frame in which to pack on some major weight. There was no doubt in my mind that he would maximize that potential because of the work ethic he had showed in high school. I didn't know if he would see the field a whole lot during his career, not too many walk-ons do, but I knew he would make a contribution in some way, whether that be on the practice field or in a leadership position. As a part of the rotation I think we will see a player that gives his all and will be a big-hitter when given the opportunity.
Thanks to Coach Hoffman for providing his insight on Nate. Personally, I'm excited to see what he can do on the field, and it looks like Michigan will need him to step up in a major way if the defensive line is going to perform up to its potential.
Coach Hoffman also noted in an earlier email that true freshman linebacker Desmond Morgan, who also looks to be in line for playing time, had "been a killer for many years" in the OK Conference Red division. Feel free to adjust your expectations accordingly.