Linebackers Preview: Michigan vs. South Carolina

Linebackers Preview: Michigan vs. South Carolina

December 29, 2012
Jake Ryan is Michigan’s best defensive player

Starters: Redshirt sophomore SAM linebacker Jake Ryan (6’3″, 242 lbs.) is the best defensive player on the squad with 84 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 3 pass breakups; he also plays some defensive end in passing situations.  Senior MIKE Kenny Demens (6’1″, 242 lbs.) struggled early in the season, but has played well down the stretch to notch 81 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and 1 interception.  Sophomore WILL Desmond Morgan (6’1″, 227 lbs.) has 78 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, and 2 pass breakups on the year.  Whereas South Carolina’s defensive linemen make a lot of plays, Michigan’s defensive linemen eat up space and have allowed these linebackers to all make 80-ish tackles this season.
Backups: Freshman WILL James Ross (6’1″, 225 lbs.) was named to the conference’s All-Freshman team and made 34 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and .5 sacks during the regular season; despite his youth and lack of size, he has been the most consistent backup.  Fellow freshman linebacker Joe Bolden (6’3″, 223 lbs.) backs up Demens at the MIKE and has 28 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 1 fumble recovery on the year.  Redshirt junior Cam Gordon (6’3″, 236 lbs.) hasn’t made as many plays as I expected from him this year, but he has made 17 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and 1 pass breakup while spelling Ryan.

 The Gamecocks basically run a 4-2-5 defensive, but safety-ish player DeVonte Holloman mostly plays like a linebacker, so I’ll include him in this portion.  Senior Holloman (6’2″, 241 lbs.) plays the Spur position, a strongside outside linebacker position much like former Wolverine Steve Brown played in 2009; Holloman has 54 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 4 pass breakups, and 3 interceptions.  Fifth year senior middle linebacker Reginald Bowens (6’3″, 254 lbs.) has put up mostly modest numbers with 55 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 1 pass breakup, but has created several turnover opportunities with 3 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries.  Senior weakside linebacker Shaq Wilson (5’11”, 224 lbs.) leads the team with 77 tackles and has 4.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, 1 pass breakup, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 fumble recovery.

Backups: Senior middle linebacker Damario Jeffery (6’4″, 233 lbs.) has 22 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and 1 pass breakup on the year.  Senior weakside linebacker Quin Smith (6’1″, 239 lbs.) has 47 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks on the year.  Holloman rarely comes off the field.
This is a tough choice.  While Michigan’s guys put up bigger tackle numbers, South Carolina’s guys create more big plays with sacks, turnovers, etc.  Additionally, all five  Gamecocks who see significant time at linebacker are seniors.  Both units are pretty good, but the playmakers and seniority are on the other side.
Advantage: South Carolina

One comment

  1. Comments: 21381
    Dec 31, 2012 at 7:19 PM

    At over 240 lbs, I think it's safe to include Holloman as an LB. I don't think too many conventional DBs are that size.

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