The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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138 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW DL merous times with the position changes we made among the coaching staff that I'm very blessed because I didn't inherit any plow horses — I have thoroughbreds. These kids, all the way across the board, are athletic enough to make plays. "One of the quotes that we use in our room everyday is 'Every play is our play.' It's not our job to grab a hold of blockers and keep them off our linebackers. We're going to have technique and fundamentals that we use within the scheme of the defense and our play-calling, but I expect our kids to make plays." Smith is careful not to offer too many plaudits to this group before the Maize and Blue have earned them, but he has a difficult time wiping the smile off his face. He knows in his meeting room there is a great opportunity to impact this season positively. "It's been 12-14 years since I've coached defensive linemen, but I did it quite a bit early in my career. I've always felt that the line — whether it's the O-Line or D-Line — controls the outcome of the game," he said. "I tell my guys all the time that no matter what happens at the sec- ond level or third level, if we're playing well, it doesn't matter how anyone else on our team is playing. "That defensive back can get beat deep, but if that quarterback doesn't have time to get it there or is under pressure and can't scan the field, it doesn't matter. You obviously want all of your kids to play well, but my point is I expect our linemen to make plays. "The direction we're headed is we're going to be very aggressive, attacking, allow them to be thoroughbreds. Don't over-coach them." Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, in charge of ends a year ago, acknowledged early in the 2013 season that, perhaps, Michigan was over-coaching Frank Clark. The chiseled, 6-2, 270-pound senior weakside end recorded only two tackles in U-M's first two games, and had 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks through five weeks of play. Clark rebounded from his slow start, picking up two sacks, a pass breakup and two fumble recoveries (returning one 24 yards for a QUICK FACTS Position Coach: Mark Smith (fourth season overall, first season as defensive line coach). Returning Starters: Strongside defensive end Brennen Beyer (21 career starts) and weakside defensive end Frank Clark (17). Departing Starters: Defensive tackle Jibreel Black (16) and nose tackle Quinton Washington (16). Projected New Starters: Nose tackle Ryan Glasgow and defensive tackle Chris Wormley. Top Reserves: Strongside defensive end Taco Charlton, weakside defensive end Mario Ojemudia, nose tackle Ondre Pipkins, defensive tackle Matt Godin and defensive tackle Willie Henry (6). Newcomers: Bryan Mone, Lawrence Marshall and Brady Pallante. Moved In: None. Moved Out: None. Rookie Impact: Mone. Most Improved Player: Godin. Best Pro Prospect: Wormley. FYI: Frank Clark's 21.5 career tackles for loss rank ninth among U-M defensive line- men since the 2000 season, and he needs six more to move into the top three at that position over the last 15 years … The rest of the defensive linemen combined have 17.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage in their careers, with Chris Wormley and Brennen Beyer second to Clark with 4.5 apiece … Clark is one of four active players with both an interception (one) and a fumble recovery (three) during their careers, joining senior cornerback Raymon Taylor (six interceptions, two fumble recoveries), senior linebacker Desmond Morgan (one INT, two FR) and junior safety Jarrod Wilson (two INT, one FR) … Beyer joins Clark as the rare defensive linemen with an interception, picking off a pass against Iowa in 2013 … Beyer endured a 24-game streak without a sack to begin his career, had one in back-to-back games to open the 2013 season and has now gone 11 straight games without a QB takedown … Wormley is the first U-M defender to record at least one full tackle for loss in his debut appearance since Craig Roh had one in 2009 … Michigan's returning defensive linemen accounted for only 11 of the Wolverines' 25 sacks a year ago … Defensive linemen occupy 14 scholarships, eating up 16.4 percent of the Maize and Blue's 85 allotment, right on cue with four positions representing 16.7 percent of 24 starting posts between offense, defense and two special teams kickers. PRESEASON ANALYSIS: DEFENSIVE LINE Starters ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ Seniors Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer have each started at least 16 games along the defensive line (Beyer also has five starts at linebacker). While neither player has been all-conference worthy yet, they at least give U-M competent four-down players that are strong against the run and are also burgeoning pass rushers. Inside, it remains a battle for the two tackle posts, but with eight legitimate challengers, there is complete confi- dence that whoever emerges will have a chance to be one of the Big Ten's best interior linemen — they'll just have to hold onto that job. Depth ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ Line coach Mark Smith must use all 10 fingers and then some when he counts off the players competing for the four defensive line positions. The Wolverines are enjoying a luxury few teams will ever experience, boasting 14 scholarship players and a deserving walk-on (redshirt sophomore Ryan Glasgow) competing for four spots. That is almost four per post. Michigan's biggest issue might be finding playing time for third- and fourth-stringers that could potentially start on half the teams in the Big Ten. X-Factor Is there a bona fide pass rusher among this group? Clark may hold the spotlight, but his career-best season was 4.5 sacks in 2013. No Wolverine has had double-digit QB takedowns since Brandon Graham had 10.5 in 2009, with Ryan Van Bergen's 5.5 in 2011 the best tally during the last four seasons. In today's game, the emphasis on disrupting the quarterback has grown considerably, and U-M needs at least one player that creates consistent havoc even if double-teamed. All eyes are on Clark to live up to his potential, but if he cannot, will a teammate prove to be that guy? Overall ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ It is very tempting to look back to 2013, when so many bought into the preseason excitement only to be disappointed by the results, and say the same thing could occur this fall. And it could. Though there is great depth along the line, there has been little production thus far. However, the optimistic view is this group has the physical talent and now the mental maturity to be the Big Ten's most feared front four, and they know it's time to deliver. Note: Star rankings are made on a scale of 1-5 stars. Senior defensive end Frank Clark earned second-team All-Big Ten no- tice from the coaches last season after posting 43 tackles, including 12.0 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, and recovering two fumbles. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL 137-143.DLs.indd 138 6/19/14 1:15 PM

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