The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 138 of 275

THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 137 BY MICHAEL SPATH I t is easy to get carried away, to make comparisons to former great players and great teams with each new iteration of the Maize and Blue. A year ago, Team 134 was dreaming about ending the Big Ten championship drought — now at nine years and counting — and the expectation was the defense would lead U-M to that promised land thanks to a ferocious front four that was ready to be Michigan's best defensive line since 2006, featuring its best defensive end since Brandon Graham departed in 2009. The media may have overdone it on the hype, the fans too, and to some degree the coaches, who were lavishing praise on their line- men coming out of fall camp, but no one inside Schembechler Hall is making excuses for a group that did not dominate the way many were forecasting. The Wolverines ranked seventh in the Big Ten in tackles for loss (70.0), sixth in sacks (25.0) and fifth in rush defense (140.2 yards allowed per game) in 2013. "A year ago, we talked about them being young, and they were young, but the problem was you can't be young in November," said Mark Smith, in his first season coaching the line after three years working with the linebackers. "We didn't play as well as we needed to, as a team anywhere, in November. "People want to see production, and they will." A year ago, Michigan started two seniors along the line in tackles Jibreel Black (12 starts) and Quinton Washington (six starts), but six regular contributors were in their first or second year, and defensive end starter Brennen Beyer was a midseason convert from strongside linebacker. U-M's inexperience led to incredible inconsistency, with spurts where the line looked unstoppable — it had four sacks and allowed only 1.9 yards per carry at Penn State — but too often was pushed around; the Maize and Blue surrendered 393 yards rushing (8.5 yards per carry) to Ohio State and recorded only three tackles for loss. The good news coming out of 2013 is that with so many linemen earning a heavy dose of snaps, the inexperience is gone, the depth is extraordinary and the talent is unrivaled during Brady Hoke's four seasons at U-M. "The expectations are very high," Smith said. "I've said this nu- Race HoRses Defensive Line Coach Mark Smith Believes The Talent Up Front Is Poised To Deliver Big Results DL Senior defensive end Brennen Beyer has appeared in 37 contests at U-M, making 16 starts on the defensive line and five starts at linebacker, while amassing 30 solo hits and 27 assists for 57 total tackles, with two sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL 137-143.DLs.indd 137 6/19/14 1:15 PM

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