|Desmond Morgan (#44)
There have been a couple major position changes and a couple minor ones during the offseason. In an attempt to allay some people’s fears, here are my thoughts on how things are developing.
Ross Douglas from CB to RB. Michigan failed to nab a running back in the 2014 class, largely for a lack of trying. There were some candidates out there that the Wolverines simply chose not to pursue, and then rising senior Thomas Rawls chose to transfer to Central Michigan. Michigan needed to add some depth at running back, and Douglas was a pretty good one in high school. I do not think Douglas is in danger of turning into a feature back anytime soon, but he may provide some change-of-pace skills for Michigan’s Thunder Squared combination of Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith. Douglas played some running back on the scout team last year, and I think this switch is likely to stick, at least until Michigan has a chance to bring in more running backs in 2015 or 2016. He could also be a guy who bounces back and forth from offense to defense.
Wyatt Shallman from RB to H-back. I have long believed that Shallman would not make much of an impact on the running back position, except perhaps as a short yardage guy. I think the need for a short yardage back is relatively non-existent with Green and Smith on the team. Additionally, new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier seems like a guy who’s going to run a lot of single back sets and a lot of spread formations, meaning the fullback will likely be phased out for the next couple years. The 6’3″, 243 lb. Shallman could help out as a blocker and pass catcher out of the backfield, and he has the size to be a second tight end on the field like an Aaron Shea.
Keith Heitzman from DE to TE. Heitzman was the starter at strongside end to begin last season, but a hand injury combined with competition from other players bumped him down in the lineup. With other guys emerging at strongside end (Brennen Beyer, Taco Charlton, Chris Wormley), Michigan has the flexibility to put Heitzman at tight end to shore up the position after Jake Butt’s ACL injury. Butt might be back by week three, but Heitzman could be a long-term solution as a blocking tight end, since junior A.J. Williams has struggled in his first two seasons. Heitzman played tight end in high school, and while he probably won’t run away from anyone or dazzle people with his moves, he should be a quality in-line blocker and has the potential to catch a pass here or there.
Jake Ryan from SAM to MIKE. Royce Jenkins-Stone from MIKE to SAM. James Ross from WILL to SAM. Desmond Morgan from MIKE to WILL. Did I catch all the moves? I think so. A couple of the younger inside linebackers are staying inside, so I won’t bother analyzing that. The new starting lineup will look a lot like the old starting lineup, except Morgan will be on the weak side, Ryan will be in the middle, and Ross will be on the strong side. Head coach Brady Hoke announced that Michigan would be running more Over looks in 2014, which means that the protected linebacker (formerly WILL James Ross) will now be middle linebacker Jake Ryan. This also likely changes Michigan’s front seven slightly, from a “hold your gap” defense to more of a penetrating unit. Against base 12 personnel previously, Michigan had six defenders from tight end to tackle (four defensive linemen, the WILL, and the MIKE). In an Over look, the defensive front will have seven defenders inside that box (four defensive linemen and all three linebackers). This should allow Ryan to roam from sideline to sideline while keeping Ross relatively clean, and Morgan will still be the guy who has to take on lead blocks from fullbacks, which he does fairly well.