Friday, August 22, 2008

Michigan Preview 2008: Part 5-Defensive Line

While the O-line lacks any depth, the defensive line has plenty of depth and plenty of talent. While the departure of Marques Slocum (grades) and John Ferrara (O-line) hurts the depth at Defensive tackle, there are still very talented young guys to step in and provide depth there. This is arguably one of the best defensive fronts if not the best defensive front in the Big Ten. Nobody will call them the best due to last year’s pretty bad performance, but enter Scott Shafer’s attack/react scheme and Mike Barwis, the talent here should shine brightly this season. The D-line will need to wreak havoc and lead the defense which needs to be outstanding and tremendous (hey Lloyd) to make up for the work-in-progress offense. They will get after the quarterback, and force the QB into bad decisions that will lead to turnovers. Scott Shafer stresses attacking, making plays, and SCORING POINTS for his defense. That would help too. It all starts up front.

Defensive Ends:


#90 Tim Jamison 6’3” 263 5thSr. Riverdale, IL (Harvey Thornton)
Jamison has plenty of experience starting all 13 games last season and playing in 38 games throughout his career. He was third on the team last year with 5.5 sacks while he had 5 sacks the year before as a backup. After going through Barwis’ strength and conditioning program and learning Shafer’s scheme of letting the D-ends go after the quarterback all the time, Jamison set this lofty goal of 24 sacks. He figured two per game for twelve games leads to 24. While there is no chance he gets to that figure, don’t be at all surprised to see him get half way there to 12 which would tie Lamar Woodley’s single season record. I have a feeling that either Jamison or Graham will reach this mark due to Shafer’s scheme. Jamison will be ready to prove himself again after a sub-par 2007 campaign. He should be great and fans will start to see him in the backfield a lot getting to the quarterback.

#55 Brandon Graham 6’2” 270 Jr. Detroit, MI (Crockett Tech)
Despite only starting 5 games last year (in Carr’s doghouse), Graham still led the team in sacks with 8.5. That was just as a sophomore, without Mike Barwis, and without Shafer’s scheme which will have him go after the quarterback all the time. Did I mention he probably will start every game this year too. Big things are expected from Graham this year, and barring injury, he should deliver. Highly touted as soon as he stepped onto campus two years ago, Graham will be able to make himself a household name, not only for Big Ten football fans, but college football fans in general. He forced three fumbles last year, as well, and I expect to see those numbers go up too. It will be very exciting to watch these two guys play all year. The one concern I have, however, is that if they are always getting after the quarterback, draw plays could lead to big yards for opponents. I will talk more about that with the linebackers, but it is something to watch for IMO. But they will get to the quarterback often.


#92 Greg Banks 6’4” 258 RSSo. Denver, CO (Montibello)
He played in eleven games last year on special teams and, towards the second half of the year, was playing a little D-end in almost every game. He should be one of the top backups this season at D-end and I think he will play well. He has good strength and speed off the end and, in this scheme, he should be able to make some plays.

#53 Ryan Van Bergen 6’6” 265 RSFr. Whitehall, MI
Redshirted last year, but impressed the coaches a lot in the spring. Rodriguez has said he has continued improvement in camp and will play quite a bit this year at D-end. In the spring he rotated in and did look impressive, but that was against the Michigan O-line. Still, he has a lot of talent and in this system that will let him loose, he should also make plays. The coaches have said that defensive end is probably one of the most fun positions to play in this scheme. That plays right into the hands of Van Bergen who should be able to blow by tackles if put in one-on-one situations with them. He will be a key backup if not the most important by season’s end.

#99 Adam Patterson 6’3” 259 Jr. Columbia, SC (Richland Northeast)
He has played in 18 games throughout his career as a backup D-end including 12 last year. He recorded a sack in the Northwestern game last year. Nothing has really jumped out at me watching Patterson, I just never think I noticed him, but he will probably rotate in a little bit. Again, the scheme should make all these guys look successful when they are playing.

#88 Andre Criswell 6’2” 264 RSJr. Detroit, MI (Renaissance)
Yes, Criswell was a tight end last year. Criswell was also on the receiving end of the only returning pass completion (Yes, David Cone’s throw). But the coaches really liked Criswell at defensive end, and moved him there in the spring. Criswell now has played a different position each year he has played here. As a redshirt freshman he played some fullback. As a sophomore last year, he was a tight end. Now a D-end. They should have probably moved him to the O-line, I'm just saying...I don’t know whether he’ll play, but since the coaches moved him, they must like him there and he’ll probably play some.

Defensive Tackles:


#67 Terrance Taylor 6’0” 319 Sr. Muskegon, MI (Muskegon)
Everyone has heard now that Taylor went on Extreme Makeover with Mike Barwis and he looks like he’s in great shape. The roster still has him at 319, but we’ve all heard that weight has gone way down. Despite getting out of shape last season, Taylor became the first D-tackle since 1997 to register over 50 tackles in a season with 55. He was All-Big Ten second team, and after his great conditioning in the off-season, he should make that a first team, and maybe get some mention for All-America, maybe. Taylor, like the rest of the D-line, is excited for the scheme and the shape that they are in. This should be a spectacular year for Taylor. While Michigan will play mainly a 4-3, on passing situations it seems like they will play something like a 3-4 except with the fourth “linebacker” being a defensive back. Taylor will be the main nose tackle in this formation. I think he will need to do very well as a run-stopper. With the ends going after the quarterback, Taylor is going to have to get a sense of where the hole is going to be in the O-line on running/draw plays, and get there to stuff the run. That will be more important for him than getting into the backfield for TFL’s IMO.

#97 Will Johnson 6’5” 285 5thSr. Oakland, MI (Lake Orion)
This returning starter is best known for holding almost every current D-line record for strength and conditioning, while playing soft, or just not very well last year. While his size and strength have a lot of media who do not follow Michigan football closely hyping him up, many who follow Michigan closer say that they know better. I’m ambivalent on Johnson one day thinking he is overrated and will continue to play sub-par, and the next thinking he is going to play more aggressively this year and therefore better. Today, and seemingly more and more days as the season nears, I’m thinking that he will play more aggressively this year. For one, I do not think the current coaching staff would continue to praise him if they saw him playing soft. Two, it is his last season, and he has been Barwisified. We’ll find out soon, as in August 30th, when Michigan has to play a senior-laden, big Utah offensive line. I
think Johnson will be good though and if he’s not, there are young talent guys behind him waiting for their chance.


#95 Renaldo Sagesse 6’4” 308 So. Montreal, Quebec (Vieux Montreal)
He played in 6 games last year as a backup DT as a true freshman. His size, strength, and potential is what seems to have the coaches and fans excited. After Johnson and Taylor leave next year, he will be competing for the starting job. I’m sure the coaches have that in mind too and should rotate him in every game to get some experience. His size really sticks out and hopefully he can live up to the hype.

#93 Jason Kates 6’2” 339 RSSo. Harrisburg, PA (Bishop McDevitt)
Kates played in five games last year and in the last three games of the regular season, he came in a lot for goal line defense. His size really jumps out too, though I’m sure he has gone down from 339 since Barwis and co. arrived. His size might keep him from playing as much, since the current staff seems to like players a little lighter at every spot, but he does have that goal line experience in three big time Big Ten games. He should rotate in there as well.

#68 Mike Martin 6’2 285 Fr. Redford, MI (Catholic Central)
This hyped up Gatorade player of the year in Michigan will get to play as a true freshman at DT. With the departure of Slocum and Ferrara from the position, Rodriguez has said that Martin will play. He has a lot of talent and it will be interesting to see if he is up to the task at competing so early. These three backups might get to see an equal amount of time rotating in early in the season until a couple solidify themselves as the top backups. Martin will have his chance and should be fun to watch. He is very strong benching 420 and squatting 520 coming out of high school.

I think this defensive line is the best in the Big Ten especially under Shafer’s scheme. They will produce a lot of sacks, hit the quarterback a lot, and force him into bad decisions. They should also stuff the run in the backfield a lot. The one concern is draw plays with the ends attacking the quarterback so much. Holes should open up for off tackle runs and the DTs, linebackers (particularly Ezeh), and safeties, have to be up to the task of plugging up those holes. The D-line should do their part IMO, and the rest will be up to the LBs and safeties. This D-line will get a lot of national attention as the year progresses.

Current Grade: A-/A I really think the talent is here for something spectacular under Shafer’s scheme. Barwis got them ready, now they should really give OC’s nightmares.

Up next: Linebackers, the only big question mark on the defense.

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