The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 157 of 275

156 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW LB Ryan led the team in tackles as an outside linebacker in 2012 with 88. He was 10th in 2011 in his redshirt freshman campaign with 37, though he was second on the team in tackles for loss (11.0), and last year he ranked 13th with 30 stops after missing five games. Mattison sees an enhanced version of the 2012 Ryan emerging this fall. A player that at 6-3, 235 pounds (and still adding weight) will not be run over by the likes of a Carlos Hyde; the 6-0, 235-pound Buck- eye rushed for 226 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, averaging 8.4 yards per rush, in the 42-41 win over Michigan in 2013. "Ryan's huge," Mattison said. "It's really hard to play with small- statured linebackers because the offensive linemen have gotten so big, and everything is zone schemed, and if you're not a guy that can see over a lineman or be big and physical to get off blocks, you're not going to be a guy that on every play has a chance to make the tackle. "That was a big thought process with moving Jake. That Mike has to be physical, has to be able to run any ball carrier down and has to be able to blitz, and Jake has shown all of those things in his career." Competition is the buzz word this summer, and it's in effect at linebacker, but while Bolden and Jenkins-Stone have two incumbents nipping at their heels, Ryan stands clearly ahead of sophomore Ben Gedeon on the depth chart, and Gedeon enjoyed a strong spring. So did redshirt freshman Mike McCray, who at 6-4, 242 pounds represents the textbook physical dimensions Mattison is looking for. "Mike is going to be a really good linebacker at Michigan some- day," he said. "He's that young guy that might not look very good on one play, but on the next play his ability shows up and you go, 'Whoa.' "Ben Gedeon is a kid that a year ago showed some really good things as a true freshman, and his learning curve is faster than most guys his age, and he's someone that is going to push Jake because if he takes one play off — but Jake's not the kind of guy we have to worry about with that. He only has one gear. He's all out with every- thing he has." In the spring, McCray served on the third-string defense alongside redshirt sophomore Allen Gant at Sam and early-enrolled freshman Michael Ferns at Will. All three showed potential to one day take the reins from veteran teammates, and could become bigger threats to the older Wolverines with superlative preseason practices. "Just because you're a senior, or a junior or a redshirt junior, you have no right to a starting job anymore than a freshman or a sopho- more does," Mattison said. "There is no entitlement here. "We're going to play the best players, the guys that consistently make the most plays because you win with those guys, so I look around my room and I see Royce and Bolden with that hunger in their eyes, but I see James Ross and Desmond Morgan unwilling to back down. "You have Allen Gant, Mike McCray, Gedeon, and then we're go- ing to have three more freshmen show up this summer, and those kids will get their chance. The competition has been ramped up, and not necessarily because of anything specific we've done as coaches, but because there is a lot more talent and a lot more experience at every position defensively, and guys want to play." ❑ BIG TEN RANKINGS PLAYERS 1. Jake Ryan, Sr., Michigan — If he can make a successful transition from Sam to Mike, he should be the Big Ten's top playmaker. 2. Mike Hull, Sr., Penn State — Carries on the tradition at Linebacker U., and notched 78 tackles and 4.5 for loss last year. 3. Taiwan Jones, Sr., Michigan State — Boasts 123 career tackles and takes over as the leader of the Spartans with two senior departures. 4. Steve Longa, So., Rutgers — A 2013 Freshman All-American after leading the Scarlet Knights in tackles with 123. 5. Matt Robinson, Sr., Maryland — Recorded 73 tackles and 10 tackles for loss in 10 starts at outside linebacker. 6. Chi Chi Ariguzo, Sr., Northwestern — Top returning tackler in the Big Ten with 106 stops during the 2013 season. 7. Mason Monheim, Jr., Illinois — Two-year starter racked up a career-high 97 tackles in 2013, including 6.5 for loss. 8. James Ross III, Jr., Michigan — Battling to retain his job, but was Michigan's top tackling linebacker last season with 85. 9. Zaire Anderson, Sr., Nebraska — Started five of NU's final seven games, and was the top Husker linebacker in the spring. 10. David Cooper, Sr., Indiana — Led Hoosiers in tackles with 85, and added six tack- les for loss and 2.5 sacks last season. UNITS 1. Michigan — With all three starters returning, and an ability to go two-deep at Mike, Will and Sam, the Wolverines should feature their best linebacker corps since 2006. 2. Maryland — Returns three starters in seniors Cole Farrand, L.A. Goree and Matt Robinson that combined for 233 tackles last season, including 19 for loss. 3. Nebraska — The Cornhuskers return three players that started in 2013, with junior David Santos and senior Zaire Anderson the early favorites to lead a powerful unit. 4. Michigan State — The Spartans receive the benefit of the doubt even replacing two longtime starters because of how dominant their linebackers have been under Mark Dantonio. 5. Ohio State — Redshirt freshman Raekwon McMillian leads a resurgent OSU line- backer corps that will see a spike in production playing behind one of the nation's top defensive lines. Junior James Ross III ranked first among Michigan linebackers in tackles last season (85) despite missing the Ohio State game and most of the Iowa game due to injury. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL Leading Returning Tackler At Linebacker Year Player Solo Asst. Total TFL Sacks 2013 James Ross III 46 39 85 5.5-23 1.5-17 2012 Jake Ryan 56 32 88 16.0-71 4.5-35 2011 Kenny Demens 49 45 94 5.0-20 3.0-18 2010 Kenny Demens 47 35 82 1.5-2 0.0-0 2009 Obi Ezeh 27 42 69 5.0-8 0.0-0 2008 Obi Ezeh 59 39 98 7.0-27 1.0-7 2007 Obi Ezeh 33 35 68 4.0-18 2.0-14 2006 Shawn Crable 28 9 37 10.5-40 4.5-26 2005 David Harris 44 44 88 7-20 1-4 2004 Scott McClintock 34 24 58 6-22 0 152-158.LBs.indd 156 6/20/14 9:17 AM

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - 2014 Michigan Football Preview