Sunday, February 24, 2013

Kenny Demens, #25

Kenny Demens
Demens was a part of Michigan's class of 2008, committing in September 2007 before Lloyd Carr retired.  He picked Michigan over offers from Iowa, Michigan State, Nebraska, and Wisconsin, among others.  He attended Detroit (MI) Country Day with backfield mate Jonas Gray, who ended up at Notre Dame; Demens doubled as a fullback and linebacker for Country Day, and I had the experience of watching both of them play. Not knowing who they were, I said, "Wow, these guys are going to be playing Division I ball next year."  They turned out to be sophomores at the time.  Demens closed the 2008 recruiting cycle as a Rivals 4-star, the #23 outside linebacker, and the #8 player in the state.  Scout pegged him as a 4-star and the #23 weakside linebacker.

Demens redshirted as a freshman in 2008.  As a redshirt freshman in 2009, he played sparingly and notched just 7 tackles.  He was a backup middle linebacker in 2010 until Rich Rodriguez got fed up with the lack of development from starter Obi Ezeh, and Demens was forcefully inserted into the lineup, earning his first start against Iowa.  As a backup prior to that and a starter for the rest of the year, Demens outplayed Ezeh to tally 82 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and 1 pass breakup in just seven starts.  With the arrival of new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison in 2011, Demens started every game and led the team with 94 tackles, adding 5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 2 pass breakups.  He once again started all thirteen games in 2012, but he lost some playing time to freshman Joe Bolden due to early-season underperformance; Demens still finished with 82 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and 1 interception.

266 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 1 interception, 3 pass breakups, and 1 forced fumble

All-Big Ten Honorable Mention, Zatkoff Award winner (team's best linebacker) in 2011

I initially thought Demens was not a Michigan-caliber starter at middle linebacker.  I thought he was too slow and not instinctive enough.  But he was clearly a step up from Obi Ezeh.  He had a solid redshirt junior season in 2011, and I thought maybe, just maybe, he had met up with the right coaching staff to maximize his talents.  And maybe he did maximize those talents, but his senior season was just so-so.  While you can't expect a college linebacker to play every single meaningful down, he lost some playing time in key moments to freshman Joe Bolden, particularly against Air Force early in 2012.  Demens seemed to be on the rise, but instead he plateaued or even took a step backward.  He occasionally made a big hit and he was decent in pass coverage, but people probably won't be longing for the days of Kenny Demens in 10 or 15 years.  I applaud the work he put in for Michigan, though.  He was a steady force in the middle of a defense that improved significantly throughout his career.

. . . not being Obi Ezeh.  I can't think of a signature play for Demens.

I think Demens will sign somewhere as an undrafted free agent, but I don't think he has much of a future in the NFL.  While he is very thick and strong, he's not particularly fast, instinctive, or athletic, which limits his value even as a special teams player.  Since he lacks the speed to be a true 4-3 middle linebacker, I think the best situation for him might be if he gets signed by a 3-4 team as an inside 'backer.


  1. Signature play for Demens has to be the game-winning tackle vs. Northwestern last season.

  2. how bout signature play the hit to end the northwestern game?

  3. Come on how can you write this article and not remember that 4th down stop against NW to win in OT.

  4. Rable Rable Northwestern game ending tackle

  5. That was a great play, but I don't know if I would call it a "signature" play. It was one of those plays that stood out because it was somewhat out of character. Sure, we can use that one for his best play...but I still think I'll remember him for not being Obi Ezeh.

    1. How about both of the game-ending tackles against NW viewed together?

  6. He made a memorable stop where he stood up the Va Tech QB on a 4th and short inside the 5 yard line. We were down 6-0 already and had shown zero life on offense. I remember the play vividly, our defense was shifting at the time of the snap, totally unprepared for a play, Demens did not budge upon contact, I think it kept alive our chance at a BCS game.

  7. A bit too negative, IMO. The only reason Demens didn't play as much against AF was that Bolden was supposedly familiar with that quirky offense. Bolden didn't play much immediately before or after that game. Bolden did earn some significant snaps by the end of the year but I think that's less of an indictment of Demens than it is reflective of the coach's vision (i.e., it's about Bolden being ready, not Demens playing poorly). I don't agree that a college LB should play every snap and I don't think our coaches want that either. Of course, if Demens was a GREAT player they'd never take him of the field, but I think these coaches want really good players rotating in and out everywhere.

    As it is, Demens was a good quality multi-year starter. Yeah, he should have probably replaced Ezeh earlier but that was a couple years ago. I think Demens deserves a little credit for being a starter under both GERG and Mattison and he seemed to improve over time. I don't think he fell off in 2012, I think he just had a better backup and better players around him.

    As for Ezeh, he's one of those scapegoats. It seems to me that Michiganders are particularly fond of blaming one individual for bigger problems. GERG sucked, the secondary sucked, the DL was mediocre at best. Ezeh didn't play well but he was put in a tough spot. Still - he played a lot of football, earned all-conference honorable mention and ended up an NFL player. Not quite Stevie Brown,

    1. My bad. Ezeh got cut after trying out - prob not an NFL player.

      Still think he got an undue level of criticism, but yeah - he wasn't real good at the footballing, as they say.

    2. I'm not piling on Ezeh. I like him as a person, and I actually thought he was a decent player - I just thought he was miscast as a MIKE linebacker. If I had been coaching the team at the time, I would have put him at SAM and inserted John Thompson at MIKE. I think both guys were playing out of position. But Ezeh had a poor senior season, and it was pretty clear that Demens was superior.

      I don't think badly of Demens, but ultimately, he just wasn't an elite middle linebacker. I'm not trying to be cruel, but he wasn't all-conference, didn't get invited to the NFL Combine, and wasn't much of a big play guy (fumbles, picks, etc.).

    3. Regarding Ezeh, I didn't mean you necessarily. From fans in general, he got some of the treatment that is usually reserved for the Detroit Tigers bullpen villain of the year.

      I agree that Demens wasn't elite, but I thought he was a decent college player and had a nice career. I have no idea if he'll play in the NFL, but kids who've done less at Michigan have made it. This is where I see a disconnect between NFL potential and college usefulness. A guy like B.Hawthorne could potentially be an NFL special-teamer (not saying he will, just that pure athleticism like he has is valued), S.Brown can be an NFL all-pro, T.Jenkins can be a 1st rounder but, at the college level, people like Demens, Kovacs, and Molk respectively can outplay them dramatically. Different demands at different levels of play.

  8. As sad as it is to admit, I agree with Anon. The thing I'll remember Demens most for is the stupid Beaver thing. GERG-UGH. Still recovering from that debacle.

  9. Game winning tackle vs Northwestern, ring any bells? If that wasn't a signature moment I don't know what is. Its incredible how quickly people forget. I agree with your analysis but give a man his due, that was one of the biggest plays of the season.