Michigan linebacker Jake Ryan returned to the field a month ago after rehabilitating an ACL tear he suffered in March. A season ago, he was the Wolverines’ most reliable and electric defensive player. Through five games this season Ryan has tallied 17 tackles, including five for loss.
The junior captain spoke with ESPN.com about his return to the field and a few other topics in this week’s Friday Q&A:
Chantel Jennings: How does it feel to finally be back on the field after six months of rehab?
Jake Ryan: I feel comfortable. The knee is not really an issue anymore. I think the whole mental aspect is going. I feel like I’m playing faster and better each week.
CJ: So the biggest issue then is people just asking you about the knee then?
JR: Yeah, probably. I just think about it then and it’s like, ‘Holy crap, that just happened.’ But there are always going to be people asking about it, how I got back and stuff. I’m used to it.
CJ: But stepping on the field against Northwestern last weekend, is there a different comfort level now than there was for your first game back against Penn State?
JR: I think there is. That’s the whole mental part. I was kind of thinking about it when I was at Penn State and I feel like that’s over with now, I can just go out and play.
CJ: Your mom and grandmother were the two people most adamant about you making a slow return. How are they now?
JR: They’re always going to get nervous. That’s what moms and grandmas do. I think they’re getting used to it because I’ve played in five games and it has been fine. It gets sore but that’s normal.
CJ: Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has emphasized the Michigan needing to play fast this season. The past two seasons it has been fundamentals and techniques. Can he emphasize the speed now because the fundamentals and technique are more instilled?
JR: There’s always going to be him emphasizing technique and fundamentals and there’s always room to improve. ... I think it’s more of a focus to play faster, don’t be a robot, go after the ball. I think that’s the one thing that he emphasizes -- just find the ball.
CJ: This team’s goal under Brady Hoke is to always win a Big Ten title, as a captain of this team, with that goal now out of reach, what do you stress to the younger guys?
JR: I’m definitely going to bring the things I learned this year into next year. But I think right now we just need to stay positive, bring the guys up if they have a bad play, if they play well, emphasize them. That’s where we’re at right now.
CJ: Taylor Lewan praised the Iowa fans earlier this week for being very knowledgeable about opposing players. What are your memories of the Hawkeye fans?
JR: The fans? I don’t really remember. I was a redshirt freshman, but I don’t remember the fans.
CJ: Do you remember the pink locker room?
JR: The pink locker room, yes, I remember the pink locker room.
CJ: Obviously one of the most surprising parts for fans this year is that you cut your hair. Do you ever miss the flow?
JR: No. People tweet me and tell me to grow it back out but I just can’t do it. It was way too much maintenance. The only bad thing right now is getting a hair cut every month or so. ... I can’t even say I miss it.