ANN ARBOR - Let's assume that 61-year-old Michigan coach Lloyd Carr has a pretty good poker face. He sat across from promising linebacker Shawn Crable last year, stared him down, and then Carr professed to put all his cards out on the table.
He told Crable to transfer, and Carr offered to help the process.
"He pulled out the papers, and he said he'd sign my transfer forms," Crable recalled. "I wasn't sure what to think, but I believe he just wanted to see how I was going to react."
If it was a bluff, Crable didn't fold. He decided to stay, all in, at Michigan.
Crable passed on the transfer, and upped the ante on his performance, and now Crable is a starter who looks headed for the stardom many attached to him when Carr recruited him out of that hotbed of Ohio high school football -
"He had been a major disappointment," Carr said. "He did not understand the kind of effort, the kind of intensity and the kind of attention that you have to pay on a daily basis to the game. So it kept him on the bench."
Crable, a first-team all-Ohioan as a senior at Massillon, was regarded as one of the top 10 linebackers in the country. His combination of size (6-5, 245), speed (10.7 100 meters) and athletic ability (18 points, 10 rebounds per game as a basketball starter), spiked the expectations.
"When I came here, a lot of people were all hyped up that I was a guy who was going to do great things, and play right away," Crable said. "But the first couple of years there might have been times when I was just playing around. Sometimes I was good, and other times I was just all right."
Crable saw spot duty as a backup in 2004, but had just seven tackles in the nine games he played in. After 2005 started to trend in the same direction, Carr asked Crable to either play like Carr believed he was capable of playing, or go elsewhere.
"Coach Carr, he was tough on me," Crable said, "But I think he had his reasons. He said he had high hopes for me, but he didn't know whether I was going to play here, or not. I listened, because a lot of what he was saying was true. You can either fight it, or you can actually do something about it. When I left that meeting, I definitely wanted to do something about it."
Crable, who has a full year of eligibility left after this season since he did not play at all in 2003, turned things up a couple of notches as last season wore on, and by this past spring he was one of Carr's most prized projects.
"I think eventually he came to the realization that there was a standard that he was going to have to meet," Carr said. "The good news is that he learned a valuable lesson. Late in the season, I thought he developed and made a lot of plays for us. He worked extremely hard this winter and he was the outstanding linebacker on this team this spring. He was outstanding."
And Crable has carried that new approach into this fall, helping the Wolverines open with wins over Vanderbilt and Central Michigan.
Carr thinks Crable is still just scratching the surface of his potential as No. 11 Michigan prepares for a showdown in South Bend this week against No. 2 Notre Dame.
"I thought Shawn Crable had his best game at Michigan," Carr said of Crable's performance in last Saturday's 41-17 rout of Central Michigan.
"He should be a dominant player if he continues to play the way he has. Crable should be a great pass rusher before he's through playing here. I thought his mindset this past game was much better. He really came as hard as you can expect an individual to come. I think he's confident, and he likes where he's playing."
Crable's teammates have noticed the change, as well.
"Now that he is out there, he has been making plays within his assignment," cornerback Leon Hall said. "You can't ask for more from a guy. He rarely makes mistakes, so it's hard not to put him out there."
Crable still shakes his head over the transfer offer, but said he understands that Carr was just trying a little shock therapy.
"Coach Carr and I have had a lot of ups and downs, and he's said some wild things to me," Crable said. "But he wouldn't have brought me here if he didn't think I could play."
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