The Wolverine

February 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 28 of 75

FEBRUARY 2017 THE WOLVERINE 29 One of them may have to play left tackle if sophomore Grant Newsome can't return from a devastating knee injury suffered this year. DEFENSE WILL BE YOUNG, BUT TALENTED There's bad news on the other side in terms of losses, but plenty of good news, too. Defensive coordinator Don Brown's return is the best news of all. The 61-year-old has been nominated for the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant for the last five years, three of them at Boston College, and his defense finished tops in the nation last year. The defensive line figures to be the strength of the unit again, even after losing four All-Big Ten starters. The front won't be as deep, but a quar- tet of returnees — frosh Rashan Gary, redshirt sophomores Chase Winovich and Bryan Mone, and redshirt junior Maurice Hurst — will be ready. "We've got guys who can step up right now and take over," departing senior Matt Godin said. "The D-line, you'll have guys who can obviously play." The returning foursome played extremely well together this year as U-M's second group, and Gary is ex- pected to shine in his second year. Mone, too, can dominate when healthy. They'll need to find backups for them among guys like rookie defen- sive tackle Michael Dwumfour, fresh- man end Ron Johnson, redshirt sopho- more Lawrence Marshall and others. The back seven will be all new mi- nus linebacker Mike McCray, but his return is huge. He earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors in his first season as a starter. Senior Ben Gedeon leaves, but freshman Devin Bush has earned rave reviews since his arrival on campus last spring. He's come a long way in that time. "When I first got here, I had no clue where to line up, no clue what to look for," he said. "By the end of the season, I got good at recognizing different for- mations, what people would like to do out of formations." Bush played primarily on special teams but saw some action at line- backer, too, notching 12 tackles. His former high school teammate, fellow rookie Josh Metellus, is among the frontrunners to replace Jabrill Pep- pers, an early departure to the NFL, at the outside linebacker position. He played well in the Orange Bowl after struggling early and finished the sea- son with 15 tackles. Fellow freshmen Devin Gil, Elysee Mbem-Bosse and Josh Uche are also in the mix for playing time. "I'm going to take it personally, be- cause I feel like they're trying to doubt us," Bush said. "People saying, 'Oh, they're losing these people. They're not going to be good anymore.' "The group I came in with, we have just as much potential as the group we have now. We played with each other this whole season. We know what to expect from each other. We've just got to keep pushing each other." Metellus, classmate Khaleke Hud- son and sophomore Tyree Kinnel are in line to step in for departing safeties Delano Hill and Dymonte Thomas. "They've been doing a real good job," Hill said of the young guys. "They know their time is coming, so they've been a little more focused. We tried to prepare them all year." At corner, Jeremy Clark is expected to receive a sixth year of eligibility af- ter tearing his ACL this season, a huge boost. The other 2017 cornerbacks will be young, including Hill's brother La- vert Hill and fellow frosh David Long. Redshirt freshman Keith Washing- ton will also be asked to step up, as will redshirt sophomore Brandon Wat- son. "He's doing good," Delano Hill said of his younger brother. "I see him out here once in a while in different roles, him and David Long, all the second- ary. They're improving a lot." The Wolverines will also need to find a new kicker/punter to replace Kenny Allen, with frosh Quinn Nor- din, widely regarded as the nation's top kicker in the 2016 recruiting class, the frontrunner. Regardless, Lewis noted, the future is bright. "I'm just excited for the future, hon- estly," he said. "It's not about me. It's about those brothers that I have that are younger than me, that are going to go out there and compete for a few more years. I'm just excited to see what they do." ❏ Rashan Gary saw immediate playing time as a true freshman, but will be counted on for more next fall after the Wolverines graduated both starting defensive ends. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN Redshirt junior linebacker Mike McCray will be the lone returning starter on the defen- sive side of the ball after ranking second on the team with 76 tackles, tied for third with two interceptions, and fourth with 12.5 tackles for loss and seven passes broken up. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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