On March 19, Michigan’s best defensive player in Jake Ryan tore his ACL and has been on a long road to recovery.
Well, not as long of a road as many expected. In fact, his recovery has been much faster than most other athletes who come back from the same injury. If Ryan returns this Saturday against Penn State, it would have taken him just 7 months to recover. Adrian Peterson’s injury took more than 8 months to heal.
Ryan has been cleared by team doctors to play and is a full participant in this week’s practices. If it were up to him, he would be playing in State College without a doubt and probably last weekend against Minnesota. However, Brady Hoke is very cautious when it comes to Michigan’s All-Big Ten linebacker.
“He wanted to play the last game, he wanted to play the week before,” Hoke said. “What do you think he’s going to say? ‘No, coach, I don’t want to play.’ ”
The coaches and doctors are focused on making sure Ryan is physically ready to play and to make sure everything is fine structurally in his knee. Ryan will more than likely wear a brace when he returns.
“We’ll just see,” Hoke said. “Playing football when you haven’t played in a long time, when you try to get him in, get him in, get him in, (it’s an adjustment).
“I’m probably more worried about it than anybody.”
Ryan totaled 88 tackles a season ago and the Michigan defense has surely missed him through its first five games. While sidelined, Brennen Beyer and Cam Gordon have stepped up to help solidify the defense. Beyer has come up with some big plays in Ryan’s absence.
Assuming Ryan returns to game action on Saturday at Happy Valley, the Michigan defense will get a boost from the active linebacker. So far this season, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison hasn’t had the luxury utilizing the speed of Ryan for blitzes. Ryan would give Mattison another weapon to use in what is quietly a pretty sound Michigan defense.
The Wolverines’ defense is ranked 13th nationally in terms of yards allowed per game (305) and is 9th best in yards rushing allowed per game (90.4).
The presence of Ryan on the field on Saturday could be huge for Michigan. I’m sure Mattison plans to put all kinds of pressure on Penn State freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
Jake Ryan’s return will either come this week at Penn State or next week against Indiana. Whenever he suits up for the Wolverines, they will become a much better team. Michigan will face its biggest road test of the season in a hostile environment on Saturday evening, and I think at this point we will see Jake Ryan on the field.
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