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Posted on Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Michigan starting linebacker Jake Ryan could split time at defensive end due to Frank Clark's suspension

By Kyle Meinke


Jake Ryan had a standout redshirt freshman season, when he started at strong-side linebacker, but could be headed to defensive end on a part-time basis.

Joseph Tobianski |

The Michigan football team currently has two non-freshmen scholarship players at weak-side defensive end.

One, Brennen Beyer, played linebacker last year. The other, Frank Clark, is indefinitely suspended and has yet to be cleared to practice.

The Wolverines are sorely lacking depth at a position that requires it, and may -- somewhat reluctantly -- turn to sophomore linebacker Jake Ryan to fill out the ranks.

Clark was expected to compete with Beyer for the starting job, but now is accused of stealing a MacBook Air laptop from a campus dorm earlier this summer and has been charged with second-degree home invasion. He won't be back in court until Sept 11.

That puts the sophomore's status for games against Alabama (Sept. 1) and Air Force (Sept. 9) in serious doubt.

Beyer is expected to assume the starting spot, but who backs him up?


Jake Ryan

That role could fall to Ryan, who spent some time at end last season in specialty packages.

"That goes along with the idea that you put your best 11 on the field, wherever they are," defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said Wednesday. "Obviously, if a guy is used to playing one position and you have to move him, you may not be as good, but that other guy coming in -- the combination of the two -- might make you just as good.

"You always have to have the best players on the field."

Although Ryan has played some end, there's no question Mattison and coach Brady Hoke would prefer to keep him full time at strong-side linebacker. He earned the starting job there last year as a redshirt fresman, and quickly was tabbed with a well-earned reputation as a playmaker.

Ryan finished with 37 tackles, just 10th on the team, but 11 of them were for a loss. That trailed only defensive lineman Ryan Van Bergen.

He also had three sacks, two fumble recovers and one forced fumble.

Mattison would prefer to continue to develop him at the position, but might not have that luxury.

The only other alternative at this point might be backing up Beyer with true freshman Mario Ojemudia. But defensive line, much like offensive line, is a position at which coaches prefer to sit out freshmen a year so they can bulk up and learn the system.


Michigan linebacker Cam Gordon played in only one game on defense last year, after being passed on the depth chart by Jake Ryan and Brennen Beyer. But with the uncertainty at defensive end, Gordon could again be called upon.

Melanie Maxwell |

Ojemudia, a Farmington Hills Harrison product, checks in at 6-foot-3, 231 pounds. Craig Roh played the position last year at 269 pounds.

Beyer is 252 pounds and Clark 262.

One ripple should Ryan play some defensive end: It could signal the re-emergence of Cam Gordon.

The junior started every game two years ago as a redshirt freshman, but a back injury limited him early last season and he lost his job to Ryan.

While he was out, Ryan became a star and Beyer secured the primary backup role. Gordon was left without a position, and ended up playing only one game on defense.

But if Ryan must split snaps between linebacker and weak-side end, and Beyer already out of the equation, Gordon could find his way back onto the field. Is he ready for it?

“Based on the spring and based on last year, I’d say yes," Mattison said. "You expect a guy that has played three years to really be advanced in how he plays. Cam Gordon went from safety to SAM linebacker. That was a transition for him.

"He’s gained weight, he’s gotten stronger, now let’s see how he does when we start hitting, and then you’ll know.”

Michigan is scheduled to start hitting with pads on Friday.

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 5:04 p.m.

The content here on Michigan Football has really improved over last year. I'm looking forward to the actual season coverage once that begins.

Kyle Meinke

Fri, Aug 10, 2012 : 8:24 p.m.

GoBigBlue, you got it man. Any time.


Fri, Aug 10, 2012 : 4:27 p.m.

Thanks for the feedback Kyle.

Kyle Meinke

Fri, Aug 10, 2012 : 12:10 a.m.

Scott, thanks for the kind words my man. I see you in here a lot, and appreciate your frequent feedback/thoughts, whether positive, negative or somewhere in between.

Kyle Meinke

Fri, Aug 10, 2012 : 12:09 a.m.

GoBigBlue, Wormley was thought to be a little undersized to play as a true freshman, but the latest roster lists him at 279, which could be enough size to get him on the field. ... However, we've asked Hoke a few times about freshmen who have really stood out, and Wormley's name has rarely been mentioned. That's not to say he won't play -- but at this point, I might say it's not likely. Remember, DL is an extraordinarily tough position for a freshman to play well. And if one plays, it's normally out of necessity. One, DE Mario Ojemudia of Farmington Hills, has been listed already by Hoke as a standout and could play if Frank Clark misses time due to suspension, for example. The people I've talked to about Wormley absolutely rave about the guy, especially with regard to his athleticism. He just might not play right away -- and that's OK. It's very typical of DL. Guys like Mike Martin are the exception.


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 11:42 p.m.

Kyle, Any news on Chris Wormly? He was a BIG DE at Toledo Whitmer. I watched him play a few times and he definately has a college ready body. Curious if you think he sees the field this year now that the position is particularly thin.


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 10:08 p.m.

It sure has. When the season starts we readers will know the team inside and out.

Kyle Meinke

Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 5:59 p.m.

evenyoubrutus, thanks for the kind words. Any players you like to hear more about as the season gets rolling?


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

Ryan has great instincts. Getting him and Gordon back on the field at the same time may be an overall improvement over Clark playing.

Kyle Meinke

Fri, Aug 10, 2012 : 12:12 a.m.

Scott, remember Clark's interception in the Sugar Bowl? He didn't play a ton last year, but more and more down the stretch -- and then when I saw that play, I realized just how athletic that guy is. Michigan's got a good player on its hands, if he can get everything off the field in order.


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 10:06 p.m.

You might be right Kyle. I was thinking Gordon use to start but now remember that it was on an atrocious defense and he was displaced by a freshman (no matter how good). Looking at the picture above makes me realize how much smaller Gordon is than Ryan. We lose 20 lbs. in the exchange of Clark for Gordon. As much as I hate to admit it Clark made some fantastic plays last year; which makes his troubles a real blow to the team.

Kyle Meinke

Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 4:09 p.m.

Scott, I get the feeling Ryan is one of Brady Hoke's favorite players (not that he'd ever admit as much). He just heaped on the praise last year, and particularly regarding Ryan's instincts. He's kind of an unconventional player, but makes plays. 1 thing I might disagree with you on: I think having Ryan at LB and Clark at DE is much better for Michigan than having Gordon at LB and Ryan at DE. First, because Ryan is a natural linebacker, and taking him out of that element probably diminishes his growth there, and also because I believe Clark is a better DE than Gordon is a LB. But no matter what happens, Ryan will be on the field. He's that good. And hey -- he's just a sophomore. He's going to be around for a while.

Rabid Wolverine

Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 12:34 p.m.

OMG, RR left the cubboard so bare for Hoke. We must absolve Hoke of any resposnibility for how the team plays for a few years. ...See what I did there RR apologists...


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 6:03 p.m.

The M football custody battle still lives on inside some of you!


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 5:24 p.m.

Sure seems like Hoke gets a WHOLE LOT more out of the talent he has than that other guy ever did. And have you ever heard Hoke blame other people for his failures, like the other guy constantly did? In my opinion, there is simply no comparison between these two coaches when it comes to integrity, character, and results. Hail!


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 4:46 p.m.

And to be fair, if we had been 4-8 last year (which could have easily happened if Mattison wasn't a God), the blame would have been on RR's recruits.


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 4:31 p.m.

Hoke went 11-2. You don't do that in the Big Ten without talent, I don't care how good your coaching is.


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 12:20 p.m.

Unfortunately the recruiting shortfalls in the years before Hoke got here have led to a drop in desired depth a the DE position. They'll just have to patch things together until the incoming players arrive and the Clark situation is resolved.


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 2:51 p.m.

I think RR is responsible for my sore right ankle.