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Posted on Wed, Feb 17, 2010 : 5 p.m.

Greg Banks and Michigan football team's revamped defensive line try to replace Brandon Graham

By Dave Birkett


Brandon Graham, shown sacking Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, recorded 10.5 sacks last season, more than the rest of the Michigan football team's defensive line combined. (Photo: Lon Horwedel |

Brandon Graham had more sacks (10 ½) and tackles for loss (a nation-leading 26) than the rest of Michigan’s defensive line combined last year.

So how does the Michigan football team replace its best player for what looks like a make-or-break season?

By committee.


Greg Banks

“We’re all looking for a rotation because great defensive teams have great rotations,” defensive lineman Greg Banks said last week. “You can’t replace BG. We take characteristics from him, we take things that we seen from him like his emotion, his passion for the game, the way he played and how hard he played it, and try to incorporate them into our own way of being.”

Banks is one of a half dozen or so Wolverines who’ll play an expanded and slightly different role on Michigan’s defensive front this fall.

He said he expects Ryan Van Bergen to take over Graham’s pass-rushing defensive end spot - “I think that’s the plan,” he said - while he plays both end and tackle.

Nose tackle Mike Martin could see time outside, especially if sophomore Will Campbell emerges as a force in the middle, and senior Renaldo Sagesse and bulked-up redshirt freshman Anthony LaLota also should be in the mix.

“See, that’s a guy that nobody’s seen,” Banks said of LaLota. “He’s gotten his weight up, he’s gotten a lot stronger, he’s learning more and more about the defensive schemes, offensive schemes and plans and stuff of that nature. He’s coming up.”

After serving as a dependable if under-the-radar backup last year, Banks is, too.

He said he’s up to 278 pounds - he played in “the low 260s” most of last year - and feeling needed like he hasn’t since high school.

“In high school they really counted on me on defense,” Banks said. “We’re all trying to replace Brandon Graham, even the guys like (LaMarr) Woodley and all them, we’re trying to get the D-line back like that. Me, personally, I’m trying to step up my level of game like I did in high school. But this isn’t high school. This is college. I’m trying to take it to a whole 'nother level.”

Banks, who’s still looking for his first career sack, said he turned to Graham, his former roommate, for advice on how to prepare for his senior season.

“He’s like, ‘You have it physically, you just have to get it mentally,’” Banks said. “He’s like, ‘When you believe that nobody can stop you, then you’re going to go out there and do it.’ So I’ve been working on the mental aspect of my game.”

So have his teammates, who Banks said share his vision of an improved defense next season despite the loss of Graham.

“Everybody’s excited,” Banks said. “We’re doing some new things on defense, new people, new places, but me personally, I’m just excited to help my team out.

“I finally got a chance to not only show my coaches but my teammates what I can do, that goes along with showing the nation. A lot of people are sleeping on us, which is good.”


Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.



Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 6:22 p.m.

Three names to watch going into spring practice. 1. Isiah Bell has bulked up from his safety spot to add some much needed speed to the linebackers. 2. Jeremy Gallom special teams punt returner is expLosive. 3. Terrence Robinson yes the other lightning quick Robinson. The guy is as fast as shoelace and will see the field this year. IN ROD WE TRUST GO BLUE.


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 11:44 a.m.

RR will win this year, many of his top recruits were redshirted so they didn't play last year. To u azwolverine, idc about his past when he lost, like sparky said RR only lost his first 2 seasons. I see major improvement this year on both sides of the ball. UM will try to recruit top-notch LBs who are big and fast like Depriest, Frost, and Grant. they already have 2 CBs on ESPNU150 watch. defense wins championships but offense keeps u in a game. u may have a great defense but when ur off sux, not a NC team. As long as the Defense does their job and the offense i s dynamic then UM will be in g shape. Imagine thou UM with a beast D, and a dynamic offense like its goin to be next year. NC!!!!!!! i give it 2 more years till that happens, but next year we could smell roses =D. GO BLUE!!!!!

Blu in Ohio

Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 10 a.m.

Just joining on.Great story.I`m sure we will be better down the road. But, how long will we wait? Not long.I`m tired of hearing we`ll be better.Time to step it up. These buckeyes got some big heads down here.


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 12:20 a.m.

Correction on stats rankings: Rush yds 2008 - 1771 (T7); 2009 - 2234 (4).


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 12:18 a.m.

OK, all you "no improvement" posters - let's look at the DATA from the stats instead of your opinions... Pts/game 2008 - 20.3 (11th in Big Ten); 2009 - 29.5 (4). Yds/gm 2008 - 290.8 (11); 2009 - 384.5 (7). Passing yds 2008 - 1718 (11); 2009 - 2380 (8). Rush yds 2008 - 1771 (4); 2009 - 2234 (T7). 1st Downs/gm 2008 - 15.5 (11); 2009 - 19.6 (7). In every part of the offense there was improvement in 2009 over 2008, and THAT was primarily with freshmen and sophomores making big contributions. And what type of improvement will we see from the offense above the stats from 2009? 35 pts/gm? 450 yds/gm? 2900 pass yds? 2600 rush yds? 23 1st downs/gm? Those numbers would put UM at the top of the league in offense and they would be improvements LESS than the improvement from 2008 to 2009. With more of a focus on defense this year in the recruiting class and the bulk of the team that were freshmen and sophomores in 2009 returning as sophomores and juniors, why do you think they will be worse instead of better? Data, please...


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 9:26 p.m.

The King will bring us back to THE national power. Our spread will bountiful and we will most likely average about 70 points a game so no need for a gread D even though we will have one next year. National Championship next year???


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 9:19 p.m.

tz if he was hired in December then he had the entire month of January to recruit. More than a couple of weeks. I am tired of the excuses. I was at Toledo last year and could not believe what I saw. Then all the talk of greaatness in RR second year. Well I missed and I watched every game so you tell me where the great strides were made. O can't hold the ball for more than 45 seconds and we have NO D.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 8:59 p.m.

Precisely, tz. Let's not forget, RR took over a team in '08 full of fat, slow, old-school players. Our King is building, speed, speed, and more speed.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 8:10 p.m.

Engineer Apparently you don't follow MI football very close. This was RR's second full class. He was hired in mid-december and took over in Jan his first year. He only had a couple weeks prior to signing day to grab a few gems such as Roundtree, Ricky Barnum and Mike Shaw.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 5:03 p.m.

ENOUGH with this talk about "defense." Wake up and smell THE SPREAD! It's a Force that simply cannot be stopped, or even contained! King Rod is getting ready to rule with an Iron Fist!


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 4:53 p.m.

Players like Van Bergen, Martin, Roh, and Campbell MUST step up their games and be better for this D-line to be a big factor. Losing Graham makes this absolutely critical. If that happens, we at least have a chance to stop some teams. Hopefully, some of the younger guys can step up and provide much-needed depth. I thought one big problem we had last year was playing the same guys for too many minutes. But, our linebacking is still a train wreck. I don't see the guys we had last year getting that much better, with the exception of maybe Fitzgerald. There are some young guys with potential, but not enough experience or size to make an impact. RR MUST step up the recruiting at LB to get better athletes. We need guys who can run and can hit.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 2:52 p.m.

Im lovin the fact that from now on our secondary will be loaded and be a very strong component of our D. We already have 2 ESPNU watchlisters committed for next year. The Big Ten is going to be our *itch again very soon and im going to thoroughly enjoy watching us slap all the scrubs around.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 2:27 p.m.

Like it or love it, this is the Michigan team taking the field tin the you can either be a fan and support the TEAM, or go root for the flavor of the month. Maybe CMU will be more to your liking...


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 2:22 p.m.

Maize is funny. An appearance in the Pizza Pizza Bowl would be lucky at that. No way U of M beats PSU, Iowa, MSU, ND, Wisc or OSU. Conn will be hard.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 2:08 p.m.

We will win 9 games next year with our signature victory coming against the *uckeyes. Then we will play Texas or Alabama in our bowl game and do absolute work son. NC in 2011


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 2:03 p.m.

RR hasn't proven anything especially on the defensive side and it's defense that wins championships, history has bore that out. While Banks and company realize the task at hand it is highly unlikely they will replace BG's numbers. Oh by the way he was a Carr recruit. The only thing this king to some is, is king of BS. Say goodbye to your king after this season.


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 1:51 p.m.

We will be a beast on the D line. Our secondary will be much improved with explosive speed and experience. But it wont matter because our offense will be truly amazing probably averaging 60 points a game. LONG LIVE THE KING


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 2:34 a.m.

Great article. There will be no replacing BG he had way to much emotion for the game. and too much love for the team he played for. This article is exactly what i want to hear. These kids that want to try and match his intensity and tenasity. good luck boys! hope you can get there. GO BLUE!!


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 : 12:03 a.m.

jeff, jeff, jeff.... You must trust in Our King! Is putting a 7 or 8 win mandate on Our King for next year really fair considering that he is building an empire that will rule for years to come? Patience! The offensive weaponery will be so explosive, the rules of the game may have to change to allow 12 people on the defensive side of the ball just to make it fair! In King Rod We Trust


Wed, Feb 17, 2010 : 10:41 p.m.

We're not sleeping on the d-line. It just puts us to sleep watching them. If RR doens't win 7 or 8 games and make a decent bowl then he's gone. People that say "Just wait until he gets the right type of kids in there" are idiots.


Wed, Feb 17, 2010 : 9:44 p.m.

Even if it takes 10 years for RR to have a winning season in Ann Arbor, it's worth it! Trust me, once his system takes root (and it may take 10 years), it will be a force to be reckoned with! In The King We Trust


Wed, Feb 17, 2010 : 8:55 p.m.

Sparky how many classes does RR need to win. This was his third. I wonder how long the honeymoon is going to last. I thought last year should have had some noticible improvement but I saw none. Yeah more wins but last in the big ten is totally unacceptable. Should never ever be in the bottom half. Look at the previous coaches since 1969 and their records. Nothing even close to RR and most years more wins than RR could muster in 2 full years. He needs to make huge and I mean huge strides to even be considered for a 4th year.


Wed, Feb 17, 2010 : 8:40 p.m.

That's stretching it a little, azwolverine. Yes, RichRod has six losing seasons vs. four 10+ win seasons. But look at when those losing seasons happened. His first three years as a head coach (one year at Salem, followed by two losing seasons at Glenville State before turning them around), his first year at West Virginia (followed by six winning seasons), and his first two years at Michigan. Everywhere he has coached he hasn't done well the first year or two, but by that fourth/fifth year (once he's had four/five full recruiting classes that have matured), he has won. Give him the time to get his style of players in and he has shown he can get the results.


Wed, Feb 17, 2010 : 7:12 p.m.

Line will be fine, it's the LB's who really struggled yast year, safeties weren't much help either, however with the redshirts coming in and some new recruits, Dorsey and Christian, I see a quicker D, it really depends on LB's...


Wed, Feb 17, 2010 : 7:12 p.m.

Buzz, I wish I could believe you about UM being ranked in the "top 5 every year." My only question is: What do you base that assumption on? RR, in 9 years at D1 has been top five once. Once. In 17 years as a HC, he's had more losing seasons (6) then 10+ win seasons (4). Keep the faith, but the track record doesn't indicate the type of future success many RR backers predict.


Wed, Feb 17, 2010 : 6:50 p.m.

It doesnt take one man to win championships, its a team effort. Losing BG has made the D-Line work harder. It wont be one guy carrying the defense like wat BG did, its the team carryn each other. They work together and all of them make plays, UM looks to be in g shape. There is no replacing BG but having him leave is a huge wake-up call for the defense.


Wed, Feb 17, 2010 : 6:46 p.m.

i think the D-line despite not having the greatest De ever in UM. We have Campbell in NT, LaLota rotating wit big physical guys. The defense looks to be in g shape. Not a NC type but they are a winning D-Line. this is jus another stepping-stone for RR scheme. Once its done he'll have UM ranked ranked in top 5 every year. Hopefully lots of the other stubborn fans dont chase him out or convince the AD to fire RR. I like to see RR be successful next season and so on. I like how the D-line is tryn to improve and work their butts off. Thats shows they will make plays next season. GO BLUE!!!!


Wed, Feb 17, 2010 : 5:57 p.m.

As optomistic as I want to be, there is no replacin it sounds once again like michigan is in trouble once again..greg banks, ha next jt floyd is the next charles woodson..


Wed, Feb 17, 2010 : 5:27 p.m.

Awesome article. I am really impressed by Banks. Hint to the rest of the Big Ten...there are a lot more guys that you haven't seen that will be unleashed in the fall of 2010. All these guys have been doing is getting bigger, stronger, faster, and studying the playbook...UH OH