PASADENA, Calif. - Although Michigan had two first-team All-Americans in its secondary, outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley may have been the Wolverines' best defensive player down the stretch.
The 6-2, 263-pound sophomore finished the season on a tear.
He had a team-leading 32 tackles in the final four games, moving him from sixth to third on the team with 59 stops, including 49 solo.
"He plays very hard," nose tackle Gabe Watson said. "For a young guy, he's come a long way. He's a big-time addition to the defense."
Woodley has a team-leading 12 tackles for losses entering Saturday's Rose Bowl game against Texas and he is second on the team with four sacks. He also has broken up four passes and forced three fumbles.
"I call him an animal out there," said outside linebacker Roy Manning, who also was a teammate of Woodley's at Saginaw High School. "He's something special. He's a big guy. He's faster than he looks. He just overpowers guys, and he does it well. He's something to be reckoned with."
Woodley likes to harass opposing quarterbacks, which could come in handy against the Longhorns' Vince Young, a dangerous two-way threat.
"I figure if I can get to the quarterback, we'll make something happen," Woodley said yesterday. "Maybe he'll throw an interception, maybe he'll scramble. That's what we're looking for."
Woodley, who earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches, has started nine games at outside linebacker, after picking up two starts as a freshman, both at defensive end.
"LaMarr can overpower a guy, he can speed rush to the outside," Watson said. "He gets after it."
Woodley is expected to start at linebacker against Texas, but he also will see action at defensive end, where Rondell Biggs is expected to start in place of Larry Harrison.
Harrison was suspended from the team a few weeks ago after being charged with indecent exposure. Police have said he is a suspect in at least 14 other flashing incidents around Michigan's Ann Arbor campus.
"There's really not much difference between playing outside linebacker and defensive end," Woodley said. "I've been pretty much doing that all year and I did it last season a lot, too."
LINEUP SHUFFLE: In addition to Biggs, Michigan will have two other new starters against Texas.
Adam Stenavich, a two-year regular at left offensive tackle, made the trip and has been practicing with the Wolverines, but he will not start after being arrested last month for disorderly conduct while visiting his parents in Wisconsin. Stenavich allegedly was seen urinating on the floor of a nightclub.
Mike Kolodziej, who started the first two games at right tackle, will replace Stenavich in the starting lineup.
Also, starting receiver Jason Avant is not expected to play. He had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee after the Ohio State game and suffered a setback in his comeback. He has been on crutches since arriving in southern California and has been unable to practice because of swelling, which has moved to his calf.
Jermaine Gonzales, a fifth-year senior who came to Michigan as a quarterback, will take over for Avant.
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: After redshirting as a freshman in 2000, Michigan backup tight end Tyler Ecker took off on a two-year Mormon mission in a poverty-stricken area of Houston.
A Spanish major, he helped immigrants learn English, and assisted those looking for a job, a friend or a place to live.
"You learn a lot," said Ecker, a native of El Dorado Hills, Calif. "You appreciate everything you have, especially for me because I was serving in a very poor, low-income area."
Ecker, the Wolverines' sixth-leading receiver with 15 catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns, tries to keep religion as a main part of his focus, even during the football season.
"It's very important to me," he said.
BROWN DEAL: Texas coach Mack Brown has agreed to a 10-year contract worth more than $25 million that will keep him at the university through 2014.
The new deal still needs final approval from the school's board of regents, but athletic director
DeLoss Dodds said it shouldn't be a problem.
Brown's old deal runs through 2011. The new contract would boost Brown's $2.06 million annual salary by $100,000 in the first year, with additional $100,000 raises each year. He'd earn a little more than $3 million in 2014.
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