Michigan center Drake Nugent the latest 'freak' making a move

On3 imageby:Chris Balas08/25/23

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The word “freak” is being used a lot in college football these days, and it’s no different at Michigan. Teammates have used it to describe senior defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, who is now 305 pounds and faster and stronger than ever. Head coach Jim Harbaugh used it to to describe his freshmen wide receivers a year ago, and graduate defensive back Mike Sainristil used it in describing frosh corner DJ Waller‘s skills at his size.

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The latest — Stanford transfer center Drake Nugent. Nugent was in a battle with Michigan veteran Greg Crippen earlier in camp, and Crippen is playing well. Nugent, though, has taken his game to another level. Some practice observers say he’s got the potential to be as good as anyone on the line this year. Jenkins is among those impressed by what he’s seen the last few weeks.

“He’s a dawg,” Jenkins said. “He came in from day one … I like him. He’s a dawg. From day one, he came in here one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen. He’s a complete freak of an athlete. He’s done stuff that had me and coach Herb [Ben Herbert] mouth agape. He’s the type of dude who wills it, trains to finish, definitely a huge football IQ guy.

“Basically, just his work etchic is unbelievable. From day one he walked in here and he got everybody’s respect quick. He’s been a guy who has constantly been trying to rep the block ‘M’ in the best way possible.”

Michigan grad student guard Trevor Keegan jokingly compared him to an “angry pitbull” a few weeks back, always getting after it. Everything he does is “full go, full go, full go,” Keegan said, and it started that way from the day he stepped on campus. His tenacity and work ethic make up for his smaller stature, Keegan said, and the Michigan interior linemen would attest.

“He’s huge,” Jenkins said of his new Michigan teammate. “The dude is like a tank. I can see him in there shirt off, getting ready to do like 15 pull-ups in a row, no problem. Just completely baffled. I think he’s done like 56 push-ups when we did a push-up competition. Completely baffling.

“It’s just something [about] the way he moves. He dang near might be faster than me. He runs well. You see him on the field, he’s hard to miss. He definitely flies around. You’re like, ‘yeah … he’s definitely a freak.'”

He’s also got a competitive edge, something he embraces. He said in May Michigan offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore would jokingly call him “always angry” because of his approach. Rather than deny it, he made it his identity. His teammates have grown to love him for it.

“I don’t like to think I am [angry], but it’s not the first time I’ve heard that,” the Michigan center said. “I feel like I bring a business mentality. I have fun outside of here with the guys, but as soon as you’re in the building, you’re at practice, workouts, meetings … I just take my business very seriously because I care about this.

“… I’ve been trying to carry over exactly what I did at Stanford. I was captain there last year, probably one of the best honors that I have ever had in my football career. I thought to myself, ‘okay — it’s still college football. If I can continue to do what I’ve done and apply those standards to myself there to here, everything else will work out for itself.'”

So far, it’s been exactly what he expected at Michigan, with the best likely yet to come.

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