Michigan Preview 2006 - Defense
Michigan Wolverines
Posted Aug 6, 2006

Michigan Wolverines Preview 2006 - Michigan Defense

What you need to know ... New defensive coordinator Ron English will be the man under the microscope as he attempts to unwrap the athleticism and talent that have been hiding behind the just-safe-enough-to-get-beat D. There won't be wild blitz schemes or anything crazy, but there'll be a bit more aggressiveness in an attempt to come up with more big plays. The potential is there to be great with a fast back seven with too many good safeties to get on the field at once. The line should be better with the likely emergence of Alan Branch as a star tackle and LaMarr Woodley about to blow up as a pass rushing terror on the outside.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: David Harris, 88
Sacks: LaMarr Woodley, 7
Interceptions: Leon Hall, 4

Star of the defense: Senior DE LaMarr Woodley
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore CBs Morgan Trent and/or Charles Stewart
Unsung star on the rise: Junior LB Shawn Crable
Best pro prospect: Woodley
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Woodley, 2) CB Leon Hall, 3) DT Alan Branch
Strength of the defense: Safety, overall speed and athleticism
Weakness of the defense:
Proven big plays from the linebacker, proven second corner

Defensive Line
While there aren't any household names on the line, there are rumblings that this should be among the best Michigan lines in over a decade. LaMarr Woodley should be one of the Big Ten's leading pass rushers, and Tim Jamison appears on the verge of stardom with a little more time. The tackles should be fantastic with Alan Branch and Terrance Taylor each appearing ready to be All-Big Ten performers. Expect plenty of big plays in the backfield from all four spots.
The key to the unit: Rondell Biggs needs to be a steady pass rusher on the other side of Woodley, and Branch and Taylor have to be every bit as good as they were this spring.
Defensive Line Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- DE
Tim Jamison, Jr. - 10 tackles, 3 sacks, 3.5 TFL
Part linebacker and part end, Jamison came in this spring stronger and even faster than ever. A pass-rushing specialist so far, the 249-pound junior was all but unblockable at times in spring ball now appears ready to make a big impact. He'll also be a big hitter on special teams.

- DT Terrance Taylor, Soph. - 1 tackle
Back after spending last year as a true freshman reserve. He's a strong 305 pounds who dominated at times during spring ball showing the quickness to grow into a steady pass rusher to go along with his tremendous strength.

- DT Alan Branch, Jr. - 31 tackles, 5 sacks, 7 TFL
Branch is the big run stuffer on the inside at 6-6 and 330 pounds. While he's big, he's in good shape with the quickness to play end if needed. He's great at getting into the backfield and is active at shedding blockers and getting to the ball-carrier. It'll be a shock if he's not up for All-Big Ten honors.

- DE LaMarr Woodley, Sr. - 48 tackles, 7 sacks, 14 TFL
Part linebacker, part defensive end, the 268-pound All-Big Ten star has 11 tackles and 30 tackles for loss over the last two seasons. While he's active against the run making 70 stops in 2004, he's better used on the line when he gets to fly into the backfield. While he didn't see too much time this spring, he appears on the verge of making a jump to All-America status.

Top Backups
- DE Rondell Biggs, Sr. - 8 tackles, 1 sack, 1.5 TFL
A spot starter last year, the big, talented 275-pound senior appears ready to shine in a bigger role. He wasn't able to stay healthy last year and only ended up playing in eight games, but he came out roaring this spring with too much speed for the Wolverine line to handle.
- DT Marques Walton, Soph.
Walton saw action in one game and didn't do much. He has the potential to grow into a factor after becoming a leaner, stronger 291 pounds. He'll start out behind Terrance Taylor but could play either tackle spot.

Expect the linebackers to be more aggressive and use their speed and athleticism more after struggling last year
to come up with enough big plays. Dave Harris, Prescott Burgess and Chris Graham are veterans who'll be productive, but now that they're in better shape and have a year of starting experience together, they have the potential to downright dominant. There's decent depth, but true freshmen Brandon Graham and Cobrani Mixon will have to play key roles right away. 
The key to the unit: Be more disruptive. There's too much talent to not be one of the Big Ten's better linebacking corps.
Linebacker Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- Chris Graham, Jr. - 42 tackles, 3 TFL
Graham stepped in and became a spot starter on the outside. He hasn't been consistent and while he put up decent numbers, he's still an X factor. He's an active player with excellent speed, but he has to start using all his talents to be more of a disruptive force.

- Dave Harris, Sr. - 88 tackles, 1 sack, 6 TFL, 3 broken up passes, 2 forced fumbles
Harris went from being a promising reserve to the team's leading tackler. While he cranked out the stats and was usually solid against the run, he was way too inconsistent. He made 18 tackles against Minnesota, but was nowhere to be found at times against Ohio State. After the off-season conditioning program, he became a more cut 242 pounds and showed off more range.

- Prescott Burgess, Sr. - 81 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception, 4 TFL, 6 broken up passes
Burgess was supposed to come up with a big season after moving over from free safety. He didn't disappoint finishing third on the team in tackles and looking like a natural at times on the outside. However, he didn't come up with as many big plays as expected and didn't use his great range to become a steady pass rusher.

Top Backups
- Shawn Crable, Jr. - 14 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 broken up passes
Crable has been a good backup and now should push hard for time on the strongside behind Prescott Burgess. While he's not going to take over the starting job, he'll push. He's great against the pass and will see plenty of time when the Wolverines go to a 3-4.
- John Thompson, Soph. - 19 tackles, 3 TFL
Thompson is a decent reserve on the inside behind Dave Harris and will be a key special teamer. He'll have to perform well all fall with true freshman nipping at his heels for time/. With 4.5 speed and good strength, he has the tools to see more playing time if he can be more consistent.

Defensive Backs
This could be a fantastic group if the coaching staff figures out where to put everyone. Leon Hall will start at one corner spot, and then everything is up for grabs with too many good safeties to find spots for now that Ryan Mundy is back and healthy after a shoulder problem. Brandent Englemon, Willie Barringer, Jamar Adams and Brandon Harrison will all see starting time this year at one or both of the safety spots. Charles Stewart appears to be the answer on the other side of Hall, but Morgan Trent will also be in the hunt.
The key to the unit: More interceptions. Leon Hall picked off four passes. The rest of the Wolverines took away eight.
Secondary Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- CB Leon Hall, Sr. - 61 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 4 interceptions, 9 broken up passes
Hall always had the potential to be a star, but he didn't put it all together until last year when he was one of the Big Ten's best all-around defensive backs. While he's not huge at 5-11 and 193 pounds, he has decent size to go along with his 4.42 speed. He led the team in interceptions and turned into a safety-like tackler finishing fourth on the team. He'll be the team's number one cover corner and in the hunt for the Thorpe Award if he has another season like last year.

- SS/FS Ryan Mundy, Jr.
Mundy almost saw his career end last year with a major shoulder problem, but he's back and will be in the hunt for a starting safety job. But where will it be? All his speed and athleticism is back, as well as a big-hitting attitude. At the very least he'll see time in nickel situations.

- FS Jamar Adams, Jr. - 27 tackles, 2 broken up passes
Will he get lost in the shuffle with Ryan Mundy back? The 6-2, 215-pound Adams hasn't stood out and will have to fight for a starting spot. He has the size and good enough range to be a top playmaker, but he has to be more physical and has to do something special to grab the job.

- CB Charles Stewart, Soph. - 4 tackles, 1 broken up pass
Stewart will either take over one of the starting jobs or be a top backup behind Leon Hall. He has great size at 6-1 and 196 pounds and showed off good quickness and cutting ability against the faster Michigan receivers this spring.

Top Backups
- SS Willie Barringer, Sr. - 43 tackles, 2 interceptions, 3 broken up passes
It'll be Barringer and Ryan Mundy for playing time in a neck-and-neck battle for a starting gig. Barringer has good size and enough experience to potentially be a leader of the secondary, but he's not Mundy. However, if Mundy plays free safety, Barringer will likely be the main man at strong safety; at least for a little while.
- FS Brandent Englemon, Jr. - 42 tackles, 3 TFL
Out this spring hurt, he'll have to shine this fall to make sure he gets his job back. He's not the team's biggest defender at 5-11 and 205 pounds, but he's a good hitter who'll be physical as a free safety. He could move to strong safety and bring his speed to the spot.

- CB Morgan Trent, Soph. - 22 tackles, 1 interception, 5 broken up passes
He's fast and experienced, now the 6-1, 192-pound Trent has to build on a good freshman season and challenge for a starting job. While he came out of spring ball looking like a key reserve, the coaching staff is high on him thinking he can grow into a dangerous coverman.
- SS Brandon Harrison, Soph. - 24 tackles, 2 interception, 4 broken up passes
The coaching staff will have to find a spot for him. He's more of a corner than a safety with 4.25 speed, but his range will be too much to keep off the field for long in nickel and dime packages.

Special Teams
The kicking game is more than serviceable, but it could use a little more range from PK Garrett Rivas and a few more blasts from punter Ross Ryan. There's no concerns about the return game with All-America Steve Breaston back after averaging 12.3 yards per punt return and 28.1 yards per kickoff return.
The key to the unit: A slightly better year from the kickers would mean this will be among the nation's best special teams.
Special Teams Rating: 8.5

Projected Starters
- PK Garrett Rivas, Sr. - 19-26 FGs, 33-35 extra points
He's not going to hit any bombs, but he's a steady kicker from inside 40 yards. Four of his misses came from beyond 39, but he also missed some key short kicks in games against Nebraska and Michigan State. Even so, he should be in the mix for All-Big Ten honors if he can connect on a 50 yarder or two.
- P Ross Ryan, Sr. - 52 kicks, 1,992 yds, 38.3 yards per kick, 16 inside the 20
Don't let the 38.3 yards per kick fool you; Ryan was great at preventing the big return with 21 fair catches and 16 shots inside the 20. Even so, he'll have to fight off a challenge from Zoltan Mesko all fall.

Related Stories
Michigan Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 6, 2006
Michigan Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 6, 2006
Michigan Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 6, 2006

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