Position switch: Steve Watson

Position switch: Steve Watson

March 8, 2009

With Greg Robinson as Michigan’s new defensive coordinator, the Wolverines will probably be running a hybrid 4-3 defense in 2009. Robinson’s employment of the 4-3 often involves a stand-up defensive end/outside linebacker.

Unfortunately for Michigan, the Wolverines don’t have an established player who is an ideal fit at that defensive end position. Shawn Crable would be an example of a player who could play the position well, but he’s entering his second year in the NFL. Incoming freshman Craig Roh was told by Robinson that the coaches wanted him to be used as that DE/OLB, but he’ll be new to the college game and might need some extra time to adjust.

Three Michigan players have been identified by the staff as potential contenders: linebackers Marell Evans and Brandon Herron, as well as converted tight end Steve Watson.

The Evans idea makes some sense. He was a star in spring 2008 practices but vacated his starting outside linebacker job early in the season to John Thompson. At 6’3″ and 231 lbs., he has the size and the speed to be a decent contributor. He’ll probably need some size and strength to hold up against the run, but he has an entire offseason to bulk up a bit.

Brandon Herron also seems to fit. He’s slightly smaller than Evans at 6’2″ and 218 lbs. He played some on special teams as a redshirt freshman in 2008, but never garnered much attention as a full-time linebacker. Herron is only a redshirt sophomore, but he perhaps seems destined for a career on the bench.

The Steve Watson position switch is the most intriguing. As the #15 (Rivals) or #19 (Scout) tight end in the class of 2007, he was supposed to battle for the tight end position after Carson Butler left. But with class of 2008 tight end Kevin Koger apparently outplaying everyone on the roster – causing Butler to move to defensive end – that position seems to be filled for the foreseeable future. While Koger, Martell Webb, and Brandon Moore compete for playing time at tight end, it seems Watson has decided to try his hand at defense.

The problem? Watson barely even played defense in high school. At J.K. Mullen High School in Denver, Colorado, he accumulated a total of 15 tackles and 3 sacks in his career. He does not seem to be possess a great chance of contributing on defense, but I admire his willingness to give up his most familiar position to compete elsewhere. At 6’4″ and 242 lbs., he has the size but probably lacks the instincts and technique to be successful. The good news is that he’ll only be a redshirt sophomore in 2009, which means he has a couple years to hone his skills. He might contribute down the line, but I expect that Evans or Roh will develop a stranglehold on the position before Watson can adjust.

Predicted depth chart:
Marell Evans – Jr.
Craig Roh – Fr.
Brandon Herron – RS So.
Steve Watson – RS So.

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