The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 153 LB tion with Bolden is fierce, pushing both players to achieve higher levels of performance, according to Mattison. Juniors James Ross III and Royce Jenkins-Stone completed the transitions by moving from the weakside to the strongside, and they, too, are engaged in a heated duel to start. In a perhaps encouraging sign, the challengers, Bolden and Jen- kins-Stone, had usurped their more experienced teammates at both positions in the spring, and are primed to claim those jobs in the fall. "Joe Bolden was the most improved player in the spring, based on what I evaluated he didn't do well in the past," said Mattison, who took over as position coach this season after three years mentoring defensive ends. "I felt at times he wasn't very physical. At times, he didn't fit as well as he should have, and that could have been about getting off a block. This spring you saw that. "When he didn't do what he was supposed to, I didn't even need to say something to him because he would turn to me and say, 'I get it.' "When a guy like that, with his physical ability, goes from an OK player and then has a great year, that's when you see real improve- ment in a defense because you're better at a spot than you were a season ago, and that's what we're seeing everywhere." The 6-3, 225-pound Bolden appeared in all 13 games last year, starting four contests, and tallied a career high in tackles (50), includ- ing three for loss. With his height, he has the ideal frame for an inside linebacker, but he has to utilize his given traits. "The first year where we here, our tallest linebacker was a 5-11 Kenny Demens, and the next year you had Desmond and he's not much taller than 6-0 and James Ross is the same way," Mattison said. "Joe Bolden has more stature, but he needed to get stronger and play stronger, and that's what he did this spring. "He has to do it in camp and then throughout the season, but he looks like a kid that is figuring it out, and should have a really big year for us." Morgan will not be content to sit on the sidelines in his senior year after starting 31 games in three seasons, and at least seven each fall, but the 6-1, 232-pounder has to elevate his game because Bolden has. "Desmond is a smart player, a player you can trust, and he's a com- petitor, and I know that competition is not over with, but Joe really QUICK FACTS Position Coach: Greg Mattison (fourth season overall, first as linebackers coach). Returning Starter: MIKE Jake Ryan (29 career starts). Departing Starter: None. Projected New Starters: SAM Royce Jenkins-Stone and WILL Joe Bolden (4). Top Reserves: WILL Desmond Morgan (31), SAM James Ross III (11), MIKE Ben Gedeon and MIKE Mike McCray. Newcomers: Michael Ferns, Noah Furbush, Chase Winovich and Jared Wangler. Moved In: None. Moved Out: None. Rookie Impact: Ferns. Most Improved Player: Bolden. Best Pro Prospect: Ryan. FYI: Morgan is one of only six linebackers all time at Michigan to start as a true fresh- man, joining Steve Morrison (1990), Trevor Pryce (1993), David Bowens (1995), Craig Roh (2009) and Carvin Johnson (2010) … Morgan's 63 stops were also a rookie linebacker record … Gedeon's six tackles against Ohio State last season are the second-most ever recorded by a true freshman linebacker versus OSU, behind Morgan's 10 in 2011, while he and Morgan are the only two rookie backers to ever notch a sack versus the Buckeyes … Seven of the Wolverines' 12 scholarship linebackers hail from the state of Ohio, the highest percentage (58.3) of any position group on the team with at least 10 players, but second overall behind tight ends (60.0 percent, five scholarship athletes) … Allen Gant has put on 23 pounds since arriving at Michigan, up to 222, the biggest gain of any current linebacker … Ross has a younger brother, Joshua, that is a 2017 recruit holding a Michigan offer … U-M's linebacker corps features three players with more than 100 career tackles: Morgan (223), Ryan (155) and Ross (121) … Bolden has recorded a tackle for loss once every 11.6 tackles, while Ryan ranks second all time amongst Michigan linebackers with at least 100 career tackles, at one every 4.9 stops; Shawn Crable is first with a tackle for loss every 3.4 stops from 2004-07. Junior Royce Jenkins-Stone has not started a game at U-M, but he may have emerged from spring practice as the Wolverines' front-run- ner for the No. 1 spot on the Sam (strongside) linebacker depth chart. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL 152-158.LBs.indd 153 6/20/14 9:16 AM

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