I addressed potential offensive attrition last week (LINK), and here’s the defensive edition. As I mentioned in that previous post, this is about the depth chart and opportunity for playing time; these posts are not about rumors or talent judgments.
DEFENSIVE LINE: First of all, it’s important to note that there are few places in the country where defensive linemen get better coaching than Michigan. If you want to be good and have the ability, Michigan gives you as good of a chance as anyone. It’s not like Alabama or Clemson, where elite recruits simply continue to be elite. It’s a place where walk-ons (Ryan Glasgow) and lowly 3-stars (Frank Clark, Maurice Hurst) can be turned into high draft picks. But if you’re not on their level, you won’t get on the field. In that regard, there are a few guys who are buried on the depth chart. One is defensive end Reuben Jones (RS Jr.), who has been passed by younger guys, and another is Ron Johnson (RS So.), who has bounced between defensive end and defensive tackle. Both are finding it difficult to find the field. Meanwhile, interior players Lawrence Marshall (RS Sr.) and Bryan Mone (RS Sr.) have both been passed by younger guys, most notably Aubrey Solomon, a 2017 signee. Michigan rotates defensive linemen quite a bit, so there’s playing time available for both, but becoming a starter would be a tall order. Most importantly of all, there’s a chance that Chase Winovich (RS Sr.) might enter the NFL Draft.
Hit the jump for a discussion of the linebackers and defensive backs.
LINEBACKER: Unlike the defensive line group, Michigan gets pretty set in their linebacker usage and doesn’t use backups very often. Starters Mike McCray II, Devin Bush Jr., and Khaleke Hudson each played the vast majority of defensive snaps, while Noah Furbush was the extra linebacker when Michigan went to a 3-3-5. The loser(s) of the sweepstakes to replace McCray at WILL would seem the most likely to depart. Devin Gil (RS So.) would be the most likely to start, considering he played the backup role in 2017, but there are numerous players on his heels. Joshua Uche (Jr.), Elysee Mbem-Bosse (RS So.), Josh Ross (So.), Drew Singleton (RS Fr.), and Jordan Anthony (RS Fr.) could all win – or lose – that spot.
CORNERBACK: Depth is already rather thin at cornerback, but the two starters are pretty solidly entrenched after playing very well in 2017. Brandon Watson (RS Sr.) played a lot of snaps as the third corner but might want a full-time gig. Elsewhere, Benjamin St-Juste (So.) struggled a great deal early in the year, though he played some special teams, and he’s behind the starters, Watson, and Ambry Thomas (So.).
SAFETY: Michigan seems to have a pretty solid top three at the safety spots: Tyree Kinnel (Sr.), Josh Metellus (Jr.), and J’Marick Woods (So.). The only other scholarship guys on the roster are Jaylen Kelly-Powell (So.), who played a fair amount in 2017, and Brad Hawkins (So.), who played mostly on special teams. A significant uptick in playing time doesn’t appear to be imminent for anyone, since all five guys return in 2018, but they’re all being used in at least one phase of the game.
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