You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Mar 13, 2012 : 8:11 a.m.

Spring preview: Linebacker is Michigan football team's deepest position

By Kyle Meinke


The Michigan football team returns every player that started at linebacker last season, including Desmond Morgan (44) at the weakside position.

Melanie Maxwell |

To call the Michigan football team's linebacker position a revolving door in 2010 would be an insult to revolving doors.

Craig Roh started the season at outside linebacker before moving to defensive end. Carvin Johnson rotated with Thomas Gordon before both gave way to Cam Gordon at the strongside (SAM) spot. Obi Ezeh started in the middle (MIKE) before being surpassed by Kenny Demens.

Only Jonas Mouton held on to his spot. In all, nine players earned at least one start at the position.

Last year, five.

Demens and Jake Ryan went the whole way at the MIKE and SAM positions, respectively. Only the weakside (WILL) had any kind of turnover, and Desmond Morgan was the primary player there most of the year, anyway.

All three are back next year, and they have an infusion of talented freshmen with whom to compete. Quickly, this has become a fortified position for the Wolverines.


This is the fourth of an eight-part series previewing each of the Michigan football team's position groups heading into the opening of spring camp on Saturday.

Day 1: Receivers/tight ends
Day 2: Quarterbacks
Day 3: Offensive line
Day 4: Tailbacks/fullbacks
Day 5: Linebackers
Day 6: Defensive backs
Day 7: Defensive line
Day 8: Specialists

What they lose

Whenever your only losses are Brandon Herron and J.B. Fitzgerald, you know you're in good shape. And Michigan is.

What they have back

Everyone of note, more or less. Demens is back for his senior season, with 20 consecutive starts under his belt. He is the key, after leading the team in tackles last year and picking up the language of the system. Most communication and play calls begin with him.

Ryan could blossom into a star after a standout redshirt freshman season -- one in which he continually earned praise from coaches for his play-making ability. The staff is so confident in him, in fact, primary backup Brennen Beyer reportedly was shipped to the much-maligned defensive line.

Morgan is the only starter who is in any kind of danger of being demoted, and if he were, that would be a good sign for the Wolverines, since coaches love Morgan and would bench him only if someone were clearly better.

This state's top recruit, Royce Jenkins-Stone, joins the fray in the fall. Freshmen Kaleb Ringer and Joe Bolden will mix it up throughout spring as early enrollees, which could give them a leg up in earning playing time.

Spring mission

Iron out issues in edge containment. This consistently was an issue last year, even as the defense experienced its late-season rise, and could become of particular concern next year with personnel changes at both ends in front of them (Craig Roh reportedly is switching from the weak to strong side, and either Beyer or Jibreel Black is expected to take Roh's spot on the weak side).

Also, the linebackers will have to adjust to not having an impactful defensive line playing in front of them. Mike Martin, Will Heininger and Ryan Van Bergen are gone, and Roh is switching positions. It will take time for the replacements to get up to speed, and the linebackers must shoulder more of the onus for applying pressure.

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



Sun, Apr 15, 2012 : 8:49 p.m.

We'll miss Brandon Herron's class and community involvement.


Tue, Mar 13, 2012 : 5:56 p.m.

BTW>.. Here is a quote from Huerman (OSU's new Offensive Co-coordinator ...."Growing up in this system, when we first started, it was the 'underdog offense,' if you will," Herman said. "The places I've been have always had a talent deficit compared to 90 percent of the schedule, so I think this offense helped. I used to say, 'If I ever get to Ohio State or USC or Texas, we'd get in the I-formation and we'd just come off the football and maul people every Saturday.' And I took a step back the last few years and said, 'Why would I ever do that?' Now you've got an underdog offense and you put really good players in it and it's even better." One of the reasons I beleive it would be a good idea for Borges to let go of his stubborn beliefs.


Fri, Mar 16, 2012 : 6:18 p.m.

Which stubborn beliefs are those, exactly? His use of the shotgun 75%+ of the time, or going back to under center, or just what in the heck do you believe you're referring to?


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 2:02 a.m.

Oh Teddy. Isn't there an osu board you should be commenting on? Also, how is it you find time to comment at all? What with being the president of Urby's fan club. Lets wait and see how your boy Huerman feels after Michigan runs power vs Urby's finesse. I think we've all seen how well a finesse offense does in the big 10 against the good defenses.


Tue, Mar 13, 2012 : 10:22 p.m.

Because I think he makes sense. we can learn from our oppenents.

Ted Bundy

Tue, Mar 13, 2012 : 7:49 p.m.

Are you even a Michigan fan? Why are you benchmarking our offense to O$U's new OC?


Tue, Mar 13, 2012 : 5:12 p.m.

The starting front seven by game 7 is as follows ... mlb-Demens, Slb-Ryan, wlb-Bolden, WDE-clark, SDE-Roh, Dt-Pipkins, dt-Black. if anyone has any questions, just post them as a reply to me and I promise I will answer asap. Thankyou, Ted

Ted Bundy

Tue, Mar 13, 2012 : 7:48 p.m.

I disagree on Pipkins starting this season. I assume you meant to plug him into the nose tackle postion. Campbell is a senior and hes the strongest guy on the team, he will start at NT. I have no clue what will happen at the WILL position. Bolden is a sexy pick to take the starting position, but I am not a fan of plugging in true freshman before they even suit up. I expect Desmond Morgan to get first look.


Tue, Mar 13, 2012 : 7:27 p.m.

speaking of the starting front 7. . . have you ever been to MIS speedway in Brooklyn mi. we usually camp out on the infield, there is a lot to do and see from the infield. the time trial's are great and it's exciting to see who win's the pole position. the starting front seven by race time are usually the BEST DRIVER'S. make sure you bring your own food and drinks it will save you a bundle and don't forget the sun screen! no need to answer asap as the first race i believe is in june. . . GO BLUE!!!!!!


Tue, Mar 13, 2012 : 3:33 p.m.

The challenge of replacing the three defensive lineman is nothing compared to turning the 2010 defense into the 2011 defense. That was miraculous. I can't see how Mattison and Hoke won't succeed nicely in 2012. For there to be as much improvement this year as last year, the Wolverines would have to go undefeated and win the Superbowl.


Tue, Mar 13, 2012 : 1:54 p.m.

It's all good news and the hype keeps us fanaticle fans jazzed up but until that ball is snapped in that first game which oh by the way just happens to be Alabama the only thing we really have a clue about are the returning players. Brady is a good chess player so there's not much news there except the occasional tidbit which is seemingly scripted. Until I see the new kids on the block play in an actual college football game I tend to reserve my praise for what I do know and I know a bit about the returning players which I watched play and I'm assuming they have matured since the 2011 season. The one plus that I believe about the new kids on the block is that they will be in good hands to start their college carreers with coach Hoke and staff.

Ted Bundy

Tue, Mar 13, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

Kyle- I dont see mention of incoming fall enrollee James Ross out of Orchard Lake St. Mary. He could be the best of the bunch. Ive also been reading that Jibreel Black is going to get a look at the 3 tech DT position. The coaching staff really wants to get the best players on the field at the same time. Roh to SDE, Black to DT, BWC staying at NT, Clark and Beyer at Rush end. The front four on paper, doesnt look too shabby. Time will tell.


Tue, Mar 13, 2012 : 1:07 p.m.

Getting experience at the LB spot is probably the most important to our defense in AA. LB's do more because they enforce both the run and the pass, and I'm happy with what we have returning. I'm suspecting that a frosh or a special teamer will get valuable time , Ringer should impress early. The defensive line will determine the bulk of the success for our defense in 2012 because of the losses of experience, but I can see a more talented bunch stepping in. Go Blue, Baby!