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2016 Preview – Defensive Line and Linebackers

August 31, 2016

DEFENSIVE LINE 

Depth Chart – Chris Wormley (SR), Taco Charlton (SR), Rashan Gary (FR), Chase Winovich (JR), Lawrence Marshall (JR), Ryan Glasgow (SR), Maurice Hurst (RS JR), Bryan Mone (RS SO), Matt Godin (RS SR), Michael Dwumfour (FR), Ron Johnson (FR), Shelton Johnson (RS FR)

Overview

I’ve grouped the defensive ends and defensive tackles together because it’s likely that several guys could line up both inside and outside throughout the season.  As noted previously, this is by far the deepest and most talented position on the team with at least 8 guys who should see meaningful snaps in most games.  

The ends are lead by Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton, both of whom are All-Conference caliber players, and in the case of Wormley, maybe even All-Americans.  Wormley finished with 6.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for a loss in 2015 and should up those numbers this year.  Taco wasn’t far behind with 5.5 sacks and will look to drastically improve that number in Don Brown’s attacking defense.  He has always had the talent, he just needed the consistent effort to go with it.  We saw more of that last year and those inside the program say his commitment is at an even higher level this year.  

On the inside, Michigan returns both Ryan Glasgow and Maurice Hurst along with Bryan Mone who missed all of last year with a torn ACL.  Mone might have been the starter last year had he been healthy, but Ryan Glasgow was not only serviceable but downright disruptive as the starter.  It’s not a coincidence that Michigan’s run defense went significantly downhill after Glasgow suffered a season ending injury.  He’s back at 100% and will be one of the better defensive tackles in the country.  Maurice Hurst was technically a backup for much of last year but still made his mark with 35 tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss and 3 sacks.  He apparently has been battling a lingering turf toe issue and may not be available for the first few games.  

If Hurst cannot go against Hawaii on Saturday, one option is replace him with Mone.  The other more likely option is moving Rashan Gary into the starting lineup at defensive end and moving Chris Wormley inside, a lineup we are sure to see at somepoint this season regardless.  You might remember Rashan as the #1 recruit in the country last spring.  He’s on campus, he’s massive, he’s agile, and he apparently is living up to the hype.  Given the talent around him on the defensive line, he may not be an instant impact player, but he will make his presence felt at some point this year.  

In addition to the six guys mentioned above who will see most of the snaps, expect Chase Winovich to be involved in several blitz packages, and Lawrence Marshall to work in as well.  Finally, don’t sleep on senior Matt Godin who has had a very good fall camp and might very have started on less talented Michigan teams of the past.   Dwumfour and Ron Johnson may also see some time here and there, but with a depth chart this deep it will be tough.  Shelton Johnson is currently suspended and there is a decent chance that becomes permanent.  

The good news for this position group is that its deep and talented.  The better news is that it will likely be even better than last year’s group, despite losing Willie Henry to the NFL.  Good teams will struggle to find success against this group.  

LINEBACKERS

Depth Chart – Jabrill Peppers (RS SO), Ben Gedeon (SR), Mike McCray (RS SR), Devin Bush (FR), Carlo Kemp (FR), Noah Furbush (RS SO), Josh Uche (FR), Elysee Mbem-Bosse (FR), Devin Gil (FR), Reuben Jones (RS FR)

Overview 

The graduation of Joe Bolden, James Ross, Royce Jenkins-Stone, and Desmond Morgan left a void at linebacker, but with all due respect to those players, its a void that hopefully can be filled by better more athletic players.  Last year’s linebacking corps, while solid at times was never dominant and often was slow to shed blocks and get to the ball.  The 2016 linebacking group, while largely unproven, should be an improvement. 

The talent influx starts with Mr. Everything Jabrill Peppers.  Last year Peppers played safety, nickelback, running back, slot receiver, and punt returner.  While he will still moonlight on offense and special teams, Don Brown has moved him down to linebacker where his playmaking ability and tackling will be a huge asset.  His speed will also be showcased in what are sure to be many blitz packages.  Don’t be surprised to see Peppers lined up in several different alignments, its kind of what he’s known for.  

Towards the end of last season, Ben Gedeon saw more and more time as the linebackers just weren’t getting the job done.  A sure tackler with the ability to shed blocks will make Gedeon a solid but not necessarily spectacular middle linebacker.  

The final projected starter at linebacker is Mike McCray, a senior whose career has been plagued by injuries.  There were rumors last year that he might never make it back on the field, but he is 100% now and looking to make an impact.  He’s bigger and faster than most of the linebackers on the roster, but the key will be matching that athleticism with experience.  

After Peppers, Gedeon and McCray, there isn’t a lot of experienced linebackers on the roster.  In fact, Noah Furbush is the only non freshman. But what the newcomers lack in experience they make up for in talent.  Jim Harbaugh knew he needed to upgrade the talent level at linebacker, and he has done just that. Devin Bush, Carlo Kemp and Elysse Mbeb-Bosse were are rated as 4 stars coming out of high school and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any of them get significant minutes in a backup role.  Devin Bush might even push for starters minutes by the end of the season.  

The linebackers will instantly be better because of the addition of Peppers, but will likely be a work in progress throughout the season as the younger guys get more experienced.  But with the talent behind them and in front of them, they should be more than capable of helping this defense be elite.  

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