Photo by Brandon Brown
Michigan’s offensive line is featuring three first-time starters on it this season, and sophomore right guard Mike Onwenu is one of them.
He — along with the rest of the line — is definitely still a work in progress, but Onwenu feels like he’s definitely improving.
“I didn’t play that much last year, so playing a lot this year has been a big step,” he said. “I’m just trying to take advantage of it. My next step is to assess everything — all defensive lines and linebackers play differently, so I have to keep adjusting.”
Michigan State’s defensive front seven has been quite good so far in 2017, only allowing 96 rushing yards per game, which is 16th-best in the country.
However, being from Detroit, Onwenu said he’s familiar with a lot of those players, and knows what they’re about.
“We had the bye week, so we’ve had a lot of time to prepare for them,” he explained. “We watched their game against Iowa, and we got to see how their d-line and linebackers play. I camped with the majority of their interior d-linemen, so I know how they like to play.”
Onwenu — who attended Cass Tech High School in Detroit — said he was plenty familiar with the rivalry growing up. However, he didn’t necessarily have a stake in the matchup when he was young, due to family ties.
“I have family that goes to both schools, so I was pretty neutral,” he laughed. “You can see now why I picked Michigan though.
“My sister goes to Michigan State, and my cousin goes here. My sister knows not to text me this week.”
Onwenu was probably only half joking with the “not texting his sister” comment — he knows how important the game against the Spartans is. In fact, when asked if it’s just another game, he answered with a resounding “no.”
“This game means a lot to me and the team,” he said. “But we play everyone the same — we have to win every game.”
Onwenu’s weight was a big topic of discussion this past offseason, as he was reportedly as heavy as 380 pounds at times last year. However, he has slimmed down noticeably, and it’s shown.
“I won’t say an exact number, but take a look at the roster,” he said. “I feel better than last year. I think it has shown, even though I didn’t get a lot of playing time last season. I squat the most on the team now too.
“You’re bigger than everybody in high school, but in college you’re going against grown men, so you just have to find a way to do your job.”
He’ll certainly be going up against “grown men” on Saturday night.
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