Who might not return on defense in 2018?

Who might not return on defense in 2018?

December 11, 2017

Bryan Mone and Chase Winovich (image via iSportsWeb)

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.


  1. Comments: 313
    Joined: 8/17/2015
    Dec 11, 2017 at 9:51 AM

    Deontay Anderson would provide some excellent safety depth. Haven’t watched any Ole Miss games this year outside of Alabama. Do you think Anderson would be a major upgrade over any current starters?

    • Comments: 3845
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Dec 11, 2017 at 11:33 AM

      Personally, I am not impressed with Josh Metellus. I think Anderson would be a step up from Metellus. I didn’t see Anderson play at Ole Miss at all, but I liked Anderson’s high school film quite a bit back when we were recruiting him out of Texas.

      • Comments: 1357
        Joined: 8/13/2015
        Dec 11, 2017 at 3:24 PM

        I like Metellus better than you do, and I cut him slack on the basis that young safeties are mostly always inconsistent but …..

        I want Anderson more than I want the other two rebel kids combined. That kid is a beast of a safety.

  2. Comments: 1863
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    Dec 11, 2017 at 9:59 AM

    I thought Bosse was gone?

  3. Comments: 6285
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Dec 11, 2017 at 12:45 PM

    Mone has started at least one game every year he’s been healthy since 2014. Would it really be surprising if he started again in 2018? This could be situational or not. It could mean Solomon sliding to DT to replace Hurst in a 4-man front. It could mean sliding Solomon to DE in a 3-man front (if Winovich goes). Or something else!

    Michigan has repeatedly shown that it is very flexible in DL positions and personnel. Mattison talks about it regularly. They lose at least 2 starters from their front 6 and Mone is one of the most likely guys to get more snaps as a result.

    Marshall is behind but is already playing meaningful downs and has been getting unsolicited praise for his improvement. It’s probably not hard for him to remember Matt Godin being a key cog and frequent starter on two elite defenses, getting all conference honors, then graduating to glowing NFL practice camp reports (before a major injury) despite fans saying a range of negative things about him in 2015 and 2016.

    Everybody on the roster MIGHT not return. Calling specific guys out like this is just… well, lets put it in the nicest way possible: it’s not being a good fan. We’re talking about meaningful contributors. Seniors who have worked their tails off to make the team better. Guys like Mone and Watson – who started against Wisconsin – are critical to a team’s success. Michigan isn’t going to out-talent OSU right now but they can out-last them with depth and out-smart them with experience. You lose 5th year seniors, even potential backups, you lose that potential edge.

    On top of that we’re talking about some red-shirt freshman getting listed among potential losers who are “most likely to depart”. Mike McCray didn’t crack the starting lineup till he was a senior. Good thing for him – and Michigan – that he didn’t buy into this brand of negative rhetoric after being on campus for 4 months.

    I’m sure if players read these type of thing they don’t appreciate it much, especially from their own fanbase. I imagine they feel disrespected and not valued. It might contribute to stuff like Speight and Countess transferring.

    Things look really good for Michigan’s defense in 2018 if they can retain the players who still have eligibility. I hope they keep as many of them as they can. Of course there will be some attrition, particularly amongst players who aren’t contributing on the field, but we should all be rooting for the players on the 2017 defense to return fully healthy and strong.

    • Comments: 3845
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Dec 11, 2017 at 1:01 PM

      You’re certainly entitled to your opinion.

      We have seen numerous transfers in the last several years from players who either aren’t playing or aren’t playing enough – Shane Morris, Wyatt Shallman, Keith Washington, Blake Countess, etc. This is simply exploring those players who are low-ish on the depth chart. It’s not being a poor fan. Nowhere did I say that I want these players to leave. But realistically, these are the types of players who are most likely to depart.

    • Comments: 6285
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Dec 11, 2017 at 5:55 PM

      Attrition is a reality and nobody is arguing otherwise. BUT —

      You’re talking about people who started games.

      You’re talking about red-shirt freshman.

      You’re calling them out by name — most don’t even have an inkling of dissatisfaction in the public realm, most love Michigan with a passion, most work their tails off, some just arrived a few months ago — and you’re putting their name on a list of potential departures based on a speculative depth chart.

      The vast majority of people “who either aren’t playing or aren’t playing enough” stick around. Many of them become starters.

      My opinion is that this short of speculation and personal targeting of individuals goes beyond being insensitive it’s downright disrespectful. It’s highly negative, so even if you don’t care a wit about the players on the team as people – It’s bad for the program.

      Just my opinion. I’ll go back to shutting up.

  4. Comments: 359
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Dec 11, 2017 at 7:21 PM

    Not sure that attempting to make sense of today’s roster management is a tasteful exercise. But, if it making space is a reality, and it is, we will try. Thunder is just trying to make sense of things.

    At some point the roster has to stabilize and be competitive. The alternative is bad. There is no argument that things are not done the way we became familiar with over the last fifty years.

You must belogged in to post a comment.