In this edition of the Michigan Football position preview series, I will take a look at the linebacker corps. Jake Ryan continues to make great progress in his recovery from an ACL injury suffered in spring practice. The Wolverines have a wealth of talent at his position and several emerging playmakers.
What we know
Jake Ryan is the best player on Michigan’s defense and it was devastating news when he tore his ACL in spring practice. He was the one player opposing offenses had to account for on every snap last year. Losing him for any length of time is a bad news for a defense that has been on the rise. The good news is that he continues to make incredible progress in his rehab and there have been whispers that he could take the field as early as the Notre Dame game.
After spending two seasons at outside linebacker, Desmond Morgan has moved back to his natural position of middle linebacker. He is as fundamentally sound as they come. Time and time again, Morgan puts himself in the right position to make plays. He needs to improve on shedding blocks, which has been a point of emphasis for all the linebackers in fall camp.
A position of strength for Michigan is WILL (weakside linebacker) where James Ross III is primed for a breakout season and Royce Jenkins-Stone is ready to make an impact. Both sophomores, Ross and Jenkins-Stone are looking good in camp and Ross had a solid freshman campaign last year with 36 tackles, including a career-high 12 stops in the Iowa game
Areas of concern
As mentioned above, losing Ryan is a crushing blow. Last year, he led Michigan in tackles (88), tackles for loss (16), sacks (4.5) and forced fumbles (4). He is an explosive player who can’t be replaced. Cam Gordon and Brennen Beyer will fill in admirably, but neither has the playmaking ability of Ryan nor the presence to command the respect of opposing offenses on every snap. Gordon is a 5th year senior with 98 career tackles. Beyer started eight games at defensive end last season and tallied 19 tackles.
It sounds like Ryan will be back sooner than expected, but it remains to be seen if he will be his usual hulkish self, hurdling opposing players, pulverizing quarterbacks and striking fear into the hearts of offensive coordinators across the Big Ten.
Potential breakout player
James Ross III has great quickness and great instincts. He is one of those players who has a nose for the football and knows what to do when he finds it. We saw in small doses last year what he is capable of and that was just the tip of the iceberg. Ross has unlimited potential matched only by his fierce work ethic.
Not just somebody, he laid a couple people out,” Frank Clark said last week. “He laid somebody out today. James works hard on the field. He’s one of those guys you rarely see just playing around. It means he’s serious. He wants to be that run-stopping linebacker that everybody loves.
SAM: Cam Gordon (RS Sr, 6-3, 237)
MIKE: Desmond Morgan (Jr, 6-1, 228)
WILL: James Ross III (So, 6-1, 220)
Key reserves: Royce Jenkins-Stone, Joe Bolden, Brennen Beyer
Incoming freshmen: Ben Gedeon, Mike McCray
If you would like to receive an email notification each time a Michigan Football and/or Basketball story is posted you can fill out the Email Notification Form.
You can follow me on twitter @isportsRob