ANN ARBOR If Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez doesn t have any plays where the left guard goes out for a pass, John Ferrara wants him to make one up.
I ve been trying to work on coach Rodriguez for a little throw-back screen, said Ferrara, a Wolverines sophomore guard who played some tight end but not the offensive line at Monsignor Farrell High in Staten Island, N.Y.
Ferrara is just getting used to the whole offense thing again. He began his UM career as a defensive tackle the position he played in all 13 games last season but circumstances caused the Wolverines to ask him to switch sides during fall camp.
Namely, Justin Boren transferred, Alex Mitchell and Jeremy Ciulla decided not to return for their final year of eligibility and Cory Zirbel and Mark Huyge suffered preseason injuries, all of which left UM frighteningly thin up front.
After mulling it over with his parents, the 6-foot-4, 283-pound Ferrara agreed to the move. Despite his inexperience, he s already started two games at left guard and is listed first on the depth chart there for tomorrow s game at Minnesota.
It wasn t that bad, Ferrara said of the switch. I hung out with a lot of offensive linemen the last few years. My roommate in the dorms was [tackle] Perry Dorrestein, so I kind of always knew what they were doing.
Now it s just been a matter of trying to learn the technique and really hone the little fundamentals of playing offensive line.
Ferrara said he s had fun playing guard and thinks the move is permanent. He said pass blocking has been more difficult to pick up, whereas a lineman can be a little bit more physical, or defensive lineman-like, blocking on running plays.
He made his first start against Wisconsin on Sept. 27 and played the first half.
Ferrara was replaced by Mark Ortmann and Tim McAvoy the following four games but started against Purdue last week.
Rodriguez said Ferrara and McAvoy continue to compete for playing time.
I think right now we re still kind of 50-50 with that, Rodriguez said. [Ferrara] didn t play poorly. I mean, he played OK, wasn t great.
Rodriguez further explained Ferrara s transition.
He s a freshman at the position, Rodriguez said. Technically he can take some work on that, getting better fundamentally. But he s a tough guy and he battles in there.
Not only did Ferrara and Dorrestein room together during their first two years on campus (both are redshirt sophomores), but Ferrara said the two now share an apartment. Ferrara said he s quick to ask Dorrestein for pointers when learning new concepts and also turns toMcAvoy and right guard David Moosman for help.
They could help me out with a lot of technique stuff, Ferrara said. Really all the guys, the whole line, even the younger guys will bring me over and say, You ve got to work on this a little bit more. I appreciate it.
I m just trying to be like a sponge right now, get all the knowledge I can. I ll take it from anyone.