There’s only one week left until the Michigan spring game arrives with a new coaching staff. Here is your preview for the Wolverines’ linebackers. This year the linebackers will be coached by defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin.
The Michigan defense was ranked in the top ten in the country last season for total defense. Two of its linebackers were at the top of the Big Ten Conference for total tackles, Jake Ryan and Joe Bolden. Both had over 100 tackles each and Bolden even surpassed my preseason prediction for tackles by quite a few. I predicted he would have a tremendous season because his intense playing style. Linebacker Desmond Morgan was out 11 games last year due to injury so that allowed other guys to acquire more playing time. Jake Ryan was moved to middle linebacker and was one of the leaders of the defense. Ryan was a guy that was always breaking up plays. With a team high 112 tackles, No matter what side of the field the offense would try to go, Ryan would be right there. He will be greatly missed this year.
Michigan does not have any new recruits at the linebacker position, though Tyrone Wheatley Jr.—who’s listed as a tight end—could play linebacker. The unit will be delighted to return Desmond Morgan, who’s back from a season-ending injury in 2014.
Projected Depth Chart (2-deep)
|Strong-Side (SAM) LB|
|1st Team||James Ross III||Sr.||6-foot-1, 232 lbs.|
|2nd Team||Royce Jenkins-Stone||Sr.||6-foot-2, 240 lbs.|
James Ross has the speed and talent to make a big impact on the outside, chasing down all the mobile quarterbacks in the Big Ten. Royce Jenkins-Stone has been a part of special teams and looks to get more time at the SAM position in his senior year.
|Middle (Mike) LB|
|1st Team||Desmond Morgan||RS Sr.||6-foot-1, 236 lbs.|
|2nd Team||Mike McCray||RS So.||6-foot-4, 242 lbs.|
Fifth-year senior Desmond Morgan is back and anxious to return to work. After he gets a game or two under his belt, look for him to be one of the leading tacklers on the team.
|Weak-Side (WILL) LB|
|1st Team||Joe Bolden||Sr.||6-foot-3, 232 lbs.|
|2nd Team||Ben Gedeon||Jr.||6-foot-3, 231 lbs.|
Durkin will use a hybrid linebacker system, meaning he could run a 3-4 or a 4-3, depending on that week’s matchup. When going with the 3-4 look for Gedeon, McCray, Stone and sophomore Noah Furbush to all rotate time. Look for great things from this linebacker group. They have the size, speed, strength and instincts to give every opponent problems. Couple that with a top defensive coordinator and you will see something special.
Player To Watch: Joe Bolden
One of my favorite players on the Michigan football team is Joe Bolden. His high motor, fierce hard-hitting tackles and love for the game give us a fun player watch on the field. He does not give up on plays and has tremendous instincts. With Jake Ryan gone, Bolden will be the heart and soul of this defense, and I expect a second straight year with over 100 tackles. Look for him to lead the Big Tenand improve his draft stock for next year. As good as he was last year, wait until Durkin has the entire spring and summer to work with him.
Position Grade: A-
Chad Finley is a contributor for The Big House Report. Follow him on Twitter @finfive1.