Name: Ryan Van Bergen
Weight: 283 lbs.
High school: Whitehall High School in Whitehall, MI
Position: Defensive end
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #53
Last year: I ranked Van Bergen #18 and said he’d have about 20 tackles and 2 sacks. He finished the season with 40 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, and 4 pass breakups.
As a redshirt freshman in 2008, there was a fair amount of hype about Van Bergen. He apparently had a motor that never stopped, was quick off the ball, blah blah blah, and he recorded 13 tackles. I wasn’t that impressed. Then he moved to defensive tackle for 2009, and I thought, Great, a 6’6″ defensive tackle who’s under 280 lbs. getting blown off the ball is just what we need. Except he didn’t get blown off the ball all the time. He actually held his ground for the most part, although that’s partially due to the fact that he was playing on a line with Brandon Graham and Mike Martin, both of whom deserve to be double-teamed most of the time.
Now Van Bergen is back to defensive end, and he’s taking the place of the aforementioned Graham. Graham was a superior athlete who also happened to develop a non-stop motor by his senior year. I don’t expect the same kind of production from #53 as Michigan got from #55 for the past couple years, but Van Bergen’s numbers and impact should improve slightly. And frankly, for this defense to be successful, Van Bergen and Co. on the defensive line are going to have to take their game to the next level. The secondary is inexperienced, and the linebackers are questionable. Van Bergen should be able to hold his own in the run game, and another year of training and coaching should have improved his pass rushing ability. He’s an important cog in this year’s team, because the backup defensive ends are either nondescript (Renaldo Sagesse, Anthony Lalota, Steve Watson) or very young (Jibreel Black, Jordan Paskorz). I think Jibreel Black is going to be a very good player by the time his career plays out at Michigan, but he’s just a true freshman.
Prediction for 2010: Starting defensive end; 55 tackles, 7.5 sacks
Voters chose Van Bergen with 67% of their votes.
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