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Monday, April 18, 2005

Defensive End
1. Lamar Woodley (Jr.) / Tim Jamison (R. Fr.)
2. Pierre Woods (R. Sr.) / Jeremy Van Alstyne (R. Jr.)
3. Rondell Biggs (R. Jr.) / James McKinney (Fr.)

The spot opposite Woodley is one of the biggest tossups on the entire team--expect the battle for that spot to last well into the season. Van Alstyne, Jamison, and Woods all have legitimate shots at the position. The prediction here is that Jamison emerges by midseason, Van Alstyne gets a share of time, and that Woods rides off into "what could have been" history, taking his place in the Colossal Waste of Talent hall of fame next to David Bowens and Kelly Baraka.

Defensive Tackle
1. Gabe Watson (Sr.) / Pat Massey (R. Sr.)
2. Alan Branch (So.) / Will Johnson (R. Fr.)
3. Marques Walton (R. Fr.) / Will Paul (R. So.)
4. Terrance Taylor (Fr.) / Marques Slocum (Fr.)

All eight of these players could see time this fall. Branch was impressive in limited time as a freshman and continued his strong play into the spring. He will probably see extensive time spelling the two starters. Will Johnson seems healed from an ACL tear and has a size/speed combination rarely seen in defensive tackles. Walton and Paul have generated a minor amount of buzz.

Then you have the two freshmen. Taylor will be ready to play in the fall. He'll step on the practice field as Michigan's strongest defensive lineman. Slocum is also a candidate to see immediate time. With six linemen capable of playing in front of them, Michigan will have to quickly assess whether its worth burning redshirt years for Taylor and Slocum.

1. Chris Graham (So.) / David Harris (R. Jr.) / Prescott Burgess (Jr.)
2. Jacob Stewart (R. Jr.) / Scott McClintock (R. Sr.) / Shawn Crable (R. So.)
3. Brandon Logan (Fr.) / John Thompson (R. Fr.) / Pierre Woods (R. Sr.)

The linebackers were far and away the team's most disappointing position group last year. Pierre Woods went AWOL, Lawrence Reid was slowed by a degenerative neck condition that eventually ended his career, and Scott McClintock was all right but nothing special. Next year Michigan seems prepared to throw out three super athletes and see what sticks.

Graham has generated immense buzz since his arrival at Michigan and has a solid lock on the weakside linebacker position. Graham's probably only 5'10" but can fly and arrive with a pop. Harris was looking very good two years ago when he suffered an ACL tear. He's a better athlete than McClintock and will probably split time with him this year; McClintock is the most proven linebacker in pass defense (2 interceptions and 6 PBU's last year) but lacks big-play ability. The strongside position will be Burgess's first opportunity to prove that his five-star rating was for real. He's more of a weakside athlete but since Graham has a death-grip on that spot he'll have to play over the tight end. Crable will also figure in here and potentially as a pass-rushing defensive end.

1. Leon Hall (Jr.) / Grant Mason (Sr.)
2. Brandon Harrison (Fr.) / Charles Stewart (R. Fr.)
3. Darnell Hood (R. Jr.)/ Morgan Trent (R. Fr.)

The thinnest area on the team by a country mile. Lloyd Carr did recently say that Leon Hall "had a chance to be one of the best cornerbacks we've ever had here." mgoblog isn't buying that, but Hall has the capability to be a solid All Big Ten-type in the Jeremy LeSeuer mode. Grant Mason has a season's worth of experience as a nickel/dime back and will probably be all right in a starting role. Past that there is a lot of nothin'. Michigan WRs have been torching the DBs all spring and while it would be nice to think that everyone on the offensive side of the ball is Jerry Rice, the truth probably isn't so nice. Michigan has a major depth issue at CB. Brandon Harrison will be given every opporunity to leap into playing time this fall. Johnny Sears will also be given a close look, but he's probably headed for a redshirt since he's so raw.

1. Ryan Mundy (Jr.) / Brandent Engelmon (R. So.)
2. Willis Barringer (R. Jr.) / Jamar Adams (So.)

The strong safety position is another that probably won't be resolved until midseason. Jamar Adams seemed like Shazor's heir apparent last year but made a couple of glaring errors when he saw the field late in the year. Engelmon has made a push. Michigan seems to want to give the physically imposing Adams the job, but Engelmon is probably the smartest kid on the team and would be the safer choice. After the spate of huge plays the defense gave up last year, Michigan will likely err on the side of caution and Engelmon will win the job.

Mundy will be the free safety. He'll have to improve his tackling and angles to become a net benefit. There has been some mention that Mundy has been playing well, but not a ton.