2015 Season Countdown: #12 Desmond Morgan

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19Aug 2015
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2015 Season Countdown: #12 Desmond Morgan

Desmond Morgan

Desmond Morgan
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 236 lbs.
High school: Holland (MI) West Ottawa
Position: Linebacker
Class: Fifth year senior
Jersey number: #3
Last year: I ranked Morgan #22 and said he would be a starting linebacker with 80 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks. He made 6 tackles in the first game before missing the rest of the season.

Last year Morgan had to deal with outside linebacker Jake Ryan encroaching on inside linebacker territory, and Morgan found himself as the odd man out behind Ryan and Joe Bolden. Unfortunately, Morgan got hurt in the first week and missed the rest of the season. Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise for Morgan and the team, though, because he has a chance to make a bigger impact this year. The Wolverines did fairly well on defense with Ryan (112 tackles) and Bolden (102 tackles) leading the way, and it would have been a logjam with those three and then-sophomore Ben Gedeon all clawing for playing time.

This year Morgan should step in for Ryan. The former lacks the same athleticism and knack for making plays, but he averaged 80 tackles and 5 tackles for loss during his sophomore and junior campaigns. Instead of a quartet of quality players, the Wolverines have three guys inside who should be able to rotate without missing much of a beat. Morgan is perhaps the heaviest hitter of the bunch, and opponents are rarely able to break free once he gets his hands on them. He has improved his pass drops, has a good head on his shoulders, and is looked upon as a leader. The #48 Legends jersey he has worn for the past couple years, in honor of Gerald Ford, has been re-retired. Instead of returning to the #44 he sported early in his career, Morgan will don the #3 he wore as a quarterback/linebacker in high school. Morgan should be a strong, level-headed leader in the middle of Michigan’s defense this year, and he might even earn some all-conference votes from people who give extra juice to fifth year seniors who seem like they’ve been playing since the Clinton administration.

Prediction: Starting middle linebacker; 90 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 1 sack

18Aug 2015
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2015 Season Countdown: #13 Wayne Lyons

Wayne Lyons

Wayne Lyons
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 193 lbs.
High school: Fort Lauderdale (FL) Dillard
Position: Cornerback
Class: Fifth year senior
Jersey number: #24
Last year: Lyons played for Stanford. He was a part-time starter and made 30 tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 3 pass breakups.

Michigan recruited Lyons out of high school, and he was interested enough that I went ahead and did a scouting report on him in December of 2010 (LINK). Despite my assertion that he looked like a safety, he played cornerback at Stanford. He had a decent year in 2013 with 69 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 pass breakups. Last year those numbers dipped and he was demoted to a backup role, which was probably part of the reason he ended up taking a graduate transfer exception to end up in Ann Arbor. Jim Harbaugh was the one who was recruiting him to Stanford initially (Lyons was a 2011 recruit, and Harbaugh coached the Cardinal through the end of the 2010 season), and current Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin was on the Stanford staff back then.

The arrival of Lyons forced out Blake Countess, and I’m not sure if that’s a fair trade. The story goes that Michigan wants to run press man coverage, but while Lyons is a bigger and stronger player, he’s not necessarily better. After all, he lost his starting job at Stanford while Countess was a former All-Big Ten corner. Now that fall camp has started, word is trickling out of practice that Lyons might not even win the job over the guys who were supposed to back up Countess, such as Channing Stribling and Brandon Watson. Redshirt junior Jeremy Clark, who played some corner in practice as a freshman, is back at cornerback to provide some competition, and sophomore Jabrill Peppers has been practicing some at corner, too. I think Lyons is a valuable asset to the team if the coaches want bigger and stronger cornerbacks, but I still see a safety when I watch his play at Stanford. If the Wolverines do end up putting Peppers back at corner, I think Lyons could still fill a role as a safety or slot corner, but I do not have great confidence in the development of Stribling and Watson at this time. The position-switchers throw a wrench into my projected depth chart a little bit, but of the guys who have been at corner since the spring, I think Lyons is probably the second-best guy behind Jourdan Lewis.

Prediction: Starting cornerback; 50 tackles, 2 interceptions

18Aug 2015
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2015 Season Countdown: #14 Mario Ojemudia

Mario Ojemudia

Name: Mario Ojemudia
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 252 lbs.
High school: Farmington Hills (MI) Harrison
Position: Defensive end
Class: Senior
Jersey number: #53
Last year: I ranked Ojemudia #33 and said he would be a backup weakside end with 30 tackles and 3 sacks. He started three games and made 32 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and 1 pass breakup.

The main beneficiary of Frank Clark’s late-season dismissal from the team, Ojemudia put up decent stats for a backup defensive end. His season included 2 sacks against Northwestern, 5 tackles against Maryland, and 2.5 tackles for loss against Utah. He had some big moments. The problem has been that he seems to disappear for stretches of time. He can also get swallowed up a little bit in the run game, because his size is more like that of a stout middle linebacker.

This season Ojemudia is Michigan’s leading returning sack artist with 6 career quarterback takedowns. He would seem likely to start at the Buck position, which is an outside linebacker/defensive end hybrid. We did not see him play in the spring game due to injury, but he is reportedly healthy and ready to go. Reports out of summer camp have him receiving a challenge from Royce Jenkins-Stone – who has finally bulked up as a senior and seems to have a fire lit under him – and redshirt freshman Lawrence Marshall, who has packed on 15 lbs. in the off-season to get up to 255 lbs. I thought Jenkins-Stone looked okay in the spring game against the run, but Ojemudia is the more versatile guy who can get a pass rush going. Even if there’s a lot of rotation, I think Ojemudia is the most proven pass rusher on the field and needs to play on passing downs to give the Wolverines some semblance of an outside rush.

Prediction: Starting Buck linebacker; 45 tackles, 5 sacks

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