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2013 Preview – Defensive Line

August 26, 2013

Defensive Line

Starters: Weakside Defensive End – Frank Clark (Jr.); Defensive Tackle – Jibreel Black  (Sr.); Nose Tackle – Quinton Washington (Sr.); Strongside Defensive End – Keith Heitzman (RS-So.)

In the Rotation: Defensive Ends – Mario Ojemudia (So.); Taco Charlton (Fr.) Chris Wormley (RS-Fr.); Defensive/Nose Tackles – Ondre Pipkins (So.); Ryan Glasgow (RS-Fr.); Willie Henry (RS-Fr.)

If you’re looking for the most complete position group on the Michigan football team, you’ve found it.  With 10 legitimate contributors vying for playing time for 4 spots, the depth of this defensive line is frightening.  What’s even more exciting is that in addition to the depth, its extremely talented.  The best of the bunch is probably defensive end Frank Clark, whose freakish size (6-2, 273) and athleticism make him a monster to try and block off the end.  What’s maybe most impressive about Clark is that he’s fought off sophomore Mario Ojemudia and freshman Taco Charlton to keep his starting spot, despite the talent the two of them each have.   Coming out of camp it looks like Keith Heitzman will be the other defensive end, though don’t be surprised to see Ojemduia or Charlton or  Chris Wormley getting snaps at that position with Clark still at the weakside defensive end.  The goal is get the best guys on the field given the right situation.   

On the inside, veterans Quinton Washington and Jibreel Black are going to cause fits for offensive lines.  Washington is a load to try and move, and Black has put on weight to move inside but still maintained his quickness.   With guys like Ondre Pipkins finally starting to connect the pieces and redshirt freshmen Willie Henry and Ryan Glasgow stepping up, for the first time in several years we finally have some depth at the defensive tackle positions.   I’m really excited to see what Black can do at the 3 technique, as I think his size and speed can make him very dangerous there.  

The most important thing to note about this group is that it will be a fluid situation.  For instance, on certain passing downs they might move Frank Clark inside to get Ojemudia and Charlton on the field and let all three pin their ears back and get after the quarterback.  I wish good luck to whomever is trying to block that formation – it won’t be easy.   With 10 guys who are good enough to play, Greg Mattison will have lots of options and will use that to his advantage to both keep guys fresh and confuse offenses.  The unpredictability will be another asset to go along with the talent of this line.    

STRENGTHS

The biggest upgrade from last year’s defensive line to this year’s is the depth of the talent.  There were talented players on the line last year, but not all of them were ready to play as much as needed.  The redshirt years for a couple of the guys (Henry and Wormley in particular) have been very helpful, and a full year in the program has really helped Pipkins too.  The ability for Mattison to mix and match so many capable players based on down and distance situation will keep most of the Big 10 Offensive coordinators up at night.   

WEAKNESSES

It’s tough to identify a weakness here because this unit is so strong.  Though not necessarily a weakness, I’m sure Mattison would like one more defined playmaker on the inside.  But given what Washington and Black are potentially capable of, that might not actually be an issue after all.  

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