Michigan Football will begin spring practice on Feb. 25 and they will play the annual spring game on Apr. 5 at Michigan Stadium. Leading up to the start of spring practice, we are previewing each position group. This edition will focus on the linebackers.
The linebackers should be a position of strength for the Wolverines in 2014 as they return all their starters from last year, including standout Jake Ryan. The group also has good depth, leadership and a plethora of experience.
At this time last year, folks were very excited about what kind of season Jake Ryan was going to have. After he had a stellar 2012 season, expectations were high for Ryan, think All-American. You know the rest of the story by now, he suffered a serious knee injury in spring practice. He did return to action in the middle of the 2013 season, but was not the same explosive playmaker he had been. Fast forward to 2014 and he should be at full strength and once again expectations will be high.
SAM: Jake Ryan (RS Sr, 6-3, 240): Ryan should have a sensational senior campaign. He is a playmaker on defense, somebody opposing offenses have to account for. He should easily reach double digits in tackles for loss. He will be one of the team’s leading tacklers and his leadership, he was a team captain last year, is just as important as his talent level. Ryan has great closing speed on tackles and engulfs ball carriers with a ferocity that was sorely missed with him out of the line up last year.
MIKE: Desmond Morgan (Sr, 6-1, 228): Morgan was third on the team last year with 79 tackles and is a fundamentally sound football player. He diagnoses plays with the best of them and always seems to be in the right position. He is a steady tackler and one of the team leaders in the locker room. Paired with Jake Ryan, he gives the Wolverines two experienced linebackers and team leaders.
WILL: James Ross III (Jr, 6-1, 220): Ross started nine games and was second on the team with 85 tackles last season. He has good quickness and a nose for the football. With two years of experience under his belt, Ross could have a break out campaign in 2014.
Brennen Beyer (Sr, 6-3, 250): Beyer is a hybrid defensive end/linebacker and he started games at both positions last year. Beyer totaled 27 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and an interception last year for the Wolverines. He is an underrated component of Michigan’s defense and should have a fine senior season.
Joe Bolden (Jr, 6-3, 225): Bolden started four games and was fifth on the team with 54 tackles last season. He also recorded four tackles four loss and two sacks. He is a versatile player with good quickness.
Ben Gedeon (So, 6-3, 240): As a true freshman, Gedeon appeared in six games last year and was a standout for the Wolverines defense in the Ohio State game as he notched six tackles and a sack against the Buckeyes. The fact that he cracked the rotation as a true freshman speaks volumes about his ability and what the coaching staff thinks about him. Look for Gedeon to have strong sophomore campaign.
Mike McCray (RS Fr, 6-4, 237): McCray, who redshirted last season, is a talented player who could force his way into the rotation this year. Keep an eye on his development throughout spring practice and into fall camp.
Incoming freshmen: Michael Ferns (early enrollee), Noah Furbush, Jared Wangler, and Chase Winovich.