The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 153 of 275

152 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW BY MICHAEL SPATH S can through the annals of Michigan's storied football history looking for the strongest defenses, and they tend to share a commonality — great linebacker play. Greg Mattison's 2011 unit, which allowed only 17.2 points and 322.2 yards per game, featured emerging standouts Jake Ryan an the strongside and Kenny Demens in the middle, while the 2006 defense (15.9 points and 268.3 yards allowed per contest) boasted All-Big Ten performers David Harris (first team), Shawn Crable (second team) and Prescott Burgess (honorable mention). The 2003 defense, which helped lead Michigan to its most recent outright Big Ten championship while surrendering only 16.8 points and 297.2 yards per game, saw starters Carl Diggs, Lawrence Reid and Pierre Woods all earn all-conference honorable mention recogni- tion. And the list goes on through the years. In 2013, the Wolverines struggled defensively, allowing Brady Hoke-era highs in total yards (371.5) and points (26.8), and the tra- vails of the linebackers played a big role. Ryan missed the first five games of the season after recovering from offseason ACL surgery, and upon his return in week six he was not the same impact player he was the year before. U-M trotted out three different starters at the weakside spot, but rarely received consistent production. And in the middle, Desmond Morgan and Joe Bolden — undersized at 6-1, 228 pounds and 6-3, 225 pounds in their junior and sophomore seasons, respectively — combined for only 79 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss in their 13 starting assignments at that position. The linebacker corps wasn't necessarily the defense's biggest weakness in 2013, but the group was not a strength either. This fall, the linebackers should be a unit the coaches can count on for consistent production and playmaking. Ryan is back, albeit at a new position, moving from the Sam to the Mike during spring practices to provide Michigan's most ac- complished defensive difference-maker — his 31.5 career tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks are both highs among active players — a greater opportunity to impact sideline to sideline on every snap. Meanwhile, Morgan has returned to the weakside post he occupied in 2011-12 bigger, stronger and more comfortable, but the competi- Time To Shine Michigan's Linebacker Corps Possesses The Talent And Experience To Anchor The Wolverines LB Junior Joe Bolden posted a career-high 50 tackles last season, including 25 solo hits, and he may have the edge to be U-M's starter at the Will (weakside) linebacker position this fall. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL 152-158.LBs.indd 152 6/20/14 9:16 AM

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - 2014 Michigan Football Preview