2014 LB gets boost from rugby

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Linebacker Dylan Weigel (Pickerington, Ohio/Pickerington North) led his team in tackles as a sophomore and intends to do the same this season.

But what he attributes much of his success to on the football field is picking up another sport off it -- one that increases intensity but decreases padding: rugby.

"Rugby just made me a lot more physical," Weigel said. "I just love contact sports. It's similar to football, but you're going to get beat up. You're going to get scratches on your face and stuff, but if you hit right you'll be OK."

The 2014 recruit, who's high school teammates with 2013 tight end commit Jake Butt, has already heard from Michigan, Iowa and Indiana, but has yet to receive his first offer. He was on campus with Butt for the Wolverines' win over Air Force on Saturday. And while it was his first unofficial visit, Michigan has already impressed the linebacker.

"Michigan is definitely at the top right now," Weigel said. "It's the one I like the best. I had a great time there and it was the first school I’ve been to on a visit. It was a great atmosphere. I just loved everything about the school."

Weigel enjoyed getting to see the young Michigan linebacking corps work against the Falcons' triple-option offense. He was impressed with the youth of the team, noting that he kept his eye on freshman linebackers Joe Bolden and James Ross.

"It was good to watch them," Weigel said. "They were physical, even when they warmed up. I saw they were hitting pretty hard."

Weigel was pulled up to Pickerington North's varsity team as a freshman, but it wasn't until his sophomore year that he earned a starting spot. He already has 53 tackles and two forced fumbles through just three games this season.

Weigel attributes some of his football success to rugby.

"I feel like it has made me tougher for football," Weigel said. "It has improved me a lot because it's such a fast-paced game, hard-hitting, you have to stay ahead on every play. I brought that back to football. It made me a more physical player no matter where I am on the field."

Another aspect of rugby that he brought back to football was the focus on technique.

With the lack of padding for rugby it's necessary that the technique a player uses while tackling is correct -- it's more about momentum and placement rather than just size and impact. If a defender tackles an opponent incorrectly, both players' risk for injury is extremely high. But with his increased focus on his rugby form, he has found it easier to focus on his football form, which has helped him greatly.

"It has made me stay lower, because you have to stay low in rugby, too," Weigel said. "You're hitting guys that are big -- guys that are way bigger than running backs. Because in rugby, anybody and everybody can run the ball. But I just love to come up and hit."