Michigan Football position preview: Defensive line

The 2014 Michigan Football season is quickly approaching, 30 days to be exact. There are many expectations going into the season and one of the key positions that will help the Wolverines this year should be the defensive line.

The Wolverines return a lot of experienced players and there is an abundance of depth on the defensive line. Seniors Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer headline the unit and there are some rising stars as well. Taco Charlton is poised for a breakout season, more on that later, and keep an eye on Chris Wormley and Willie Henry.

What we know

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Frank Clark

The defensive line is in pretty good shape heading into the upcoming season. In fact, it’s probably one of the stronger position groups on the team. Frank Clark will be a player to keep an eye on during his last season with the Wolverines. He will provide the most experience on the defensive line and will be one of the leaders of the defense. He had an impressive 2013 season, registering 43 tackles and a whopping 12 tackles for loss. He finished the season ranked 11th in the Big Ten in tackles for loss and is on the 2014 Bednarik Award watch list for the college defensive player of the year. He also received the Richard Katcher Award for being Michigan’s top defensive lineman in 2013. Going into the 2014 season as a senior with lots of playing time and experience, Clark will be one of the many strengths and focus of what should be a stout defensive line.

Redshirt sophomore DT Willie Henry was named to ESPN.com’s All-Big Ten Freshman Team. He made an impact in his first season last year, appearing in 12 games, notching 32 tackles, 0.5 sack and a blocked kick. He’ll be valuable this season as a defensive tackle and projected starter.

The defensive line has three incoming freshmen, two of which are 4-star recruits. Bryan Mone was the #7 defensive tackle in the 2014 class. He stands at 6-4, 315 pounds. Put him and Ondre Pipkins together and that has all the makings of a formidable interior.

Areas of Concern

As a team last year, the Wolverines registered just 25 sacks which was seventh best in the Big Ten and 17 behind the conference leading Buckeyes. The defensive line must take control of the line of scrimmage and be a disruptive force. We haven’t seen that happen in the last few years, but all the pieces are seemingly in place for it to occur this season. Games are won and lost in the trenches and this is the single biggest question mark surrounding Team 135, can the defensive and offensive lines start to take control of the line of scrimmage?

Potential breakout player

Sophomore defensive end Taco Charlton comes to mind. Charlton played in eight games his freshman year, but demonstrated a lot of potential. I think he’ll most likely start this season and will be an impressive addition to the defensive line. Hopefully he’ll be motivated by Clark’s leadership and will prove his talent on the field. Charlton has the potential to rack up a bunch of sacks and tackles for loss.

Projected starters

DE Frank Clark #57 (Sr, 6-2, 273)

DT Ondre Pipkins #56 (Jr, 6-3, 315)

DT Willie Henry #69 ( RS So, 6-2, 306)

DE Taco Charlton #33 (So, 6-6, 270)

Key reserves:  Mario Ojemudia, Brennen Beyer, Chris Wormley, Keith Heitzman, Matthew Godin, Tom Strobel, Henry Poggi
True freshmen: Lawrence Marshall, Bryan Mone, Brady Pallante

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