Now the motor’s running, Michel checkmating opponents
Luidji Michel, right, and fellow defensive lineman Juan Pimienta talk strategy at a recent practice.
Luidji Michel, right, and fellow defensive lineman Juan Pimienta talk strategy at a recent practice.

JU defensive lineman Luidji Michel sees himself as similar to a chess player when he is on the field. Moves and countermoves, he’s trying to outsmart his opponent every play.

Grandmaster L maybe? No. He’s waaayyy too quiet for that. Michel, from Miami, was the third leading tackler on the team last season (58 total), had nine tackles for losses and led the team in sacks. He heads into the season carrying the longest current streak for consecutive games with at least one solo tackle with 11, every game last year.

In an effort to checkmate opposing linemen, Michel is making constant adjustments to his technique as each game unfolds.

“I look at it like being a chess player, ‘’ he said. “If I go one play and see this guy does this thing and I try a technique against him and it doesn’t work I have to change it the next play. I keep doing different variations of different things so I would consider myself a chess player.’’

He comes by his description somewhat naturally. His position coach, Ernie Logan, is quite a chess aficionado himself.

“He kind of got some of that from me because I use chess analogies,’’ Logan said. “When you’re rushing the passer you can’t be one-trick pony, you have to have multiple moves and be able to set a guy up. You speed rush up the field two or three times up the field and then the guy thinks you’re going to speed rush, you do the same motion and go underneath him. It’s all about making the other guess what your next move is going to be. When you’re playing chess, it’s part of the deal.’’

Logan clearly is pleased by Michel’s development. The coach remembers back to Michel’s early time here and can pinpoint the redshirt junior’s turning point.

“At first, he didn’t have a non-stop motor,’’ Logan said. “His motor has gotten much better. He learned how to push himself. A couple of springs ago we had a spring game. When you get tired sometimes you give in to the fatigue but he was nonstop. I said ‘this kid is turning the corner.’ He turned it up a notch last season and I’m looking for him to turn it up more this year. He can be as good as he wants to be.’’

The upgraded motor helped Michel to leading the team in his favorite facet last season when he recorded seven sacks.

“I love it when I get sacks,’’ he said. “Something goes through me when I sack the quarterback I get all hyped and excited. That’s my favorite. Tackles come into it, helping out your teammates, but the sacks get me excited really.’’

Sackmaster L? Closer, but he’s still too quiet for that.

“He’s not a rah-rah type guy,’’ Logan said. “He has an easy going personality, a very easy going personality and I think that was part of why he wasn’t as successful on the field when he first got here. He took that easy going attitude on the field.’’

Logan worked hard to get Michel more wired when he was playing.

“I said, ‘Luidji, look, if you’re going to be a good defensive lineman, you have got to cut loose. You’ve got to change and become a different guy when the ball’s snapped and I think he has learned how to do that.’’

Michel said he has been quiet since he can remember.

“Even back then (to childhood) people always said I was quiet so I guess I’ve been like that since I was a youngster. It kind of grew with me as I got older and I kept the same character traits and I’m still the same guy today,’’ Michel said. “I try to get focused and I use my teammates to get ready. They are the ones that get me ready most of the time. I’m a quiet guy and my teammates lift me up. They say ‘come on, let’s go’ and I get excited and go on the field and execute.’’

Now that Michel has learned a second personality, Logan, who played several years in the National Football League, is amazed at what he sees.

“He does some stuff out there and I just say ‘wow’,’’ Logan said. “He does some stuff I wasn’t able to do in college.’’

- Jim Nasella