Jake Ryan and Mario Ojemudia prepare for an Ohio State play. (Ricky Lindsay/MJ)
Jake Ryan and Mario Ojemudia prepare for an Ohio State play. (Ricky Lindsay/MJ)
Jake Ryan and Mario Ojemudia prepare for an Ohio State play. (Ricky Lindsay/MJ)

By RYAN PETRAS, Staff Reporter

Not much went well for Michigan in last season, but if there was one bright spot for the struggling program, it was a stout defense.

The Wolverines had the 7th-best total defense in the NCAA.

A big part of the Wolverines’ defensive success last year was the play of the linebackers and defensive line. Key contributors for the defense, linebacker Jake Ryan, and defensive ends Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer are now moving on to the NFL.

The defense will have a lot of new faces, not only from the players, but in the coaching staff as well.

Former Florida defensive coordinator and linebackers coach D.J. Durkin takes over the same position at Michigan, and former defensive coordinator Greg Mattison starts his first year as defensive line coach under head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Senior linebacker Joe Bolden will be looked on to be one of the main contributors for the linebacker core. Bolden had 55 solo tackles, four tackles-for-loss and two sacks last season.

The rest of the linebacker cast features seniors James Ross III and Desmond Morgan, alongside junior Ben Gedeon.

James Ross III played in all 12 games for the Wolverines last year. He finished the season with 19 solo tackles, 13 assisted, and seven TFL.

Desmond Morgan is a fifth year senior returning off a medical redshirt and is a big return for the Wolverines linebacker core. Morgan only played in one game last year and had four solo tackles.

In 2013, Morgan played a full season, having 40 solo tackles and 39 assisted tackles with 4.5 of them being for a loss.

Ben Gedeon played in 12 games last year, with 12 solo tackles and five assisted for the Junior. Gedeon has the size and athleticism to become a linebacker that pays huge dividends for the Wolverines.

The linebacker group has a lot of experience and should thrive well under Durkin.

Mattison is happy to be back coaching the defensive line, a position he’s very familiar with and has coached many years.

Mattison told ESPN on March 20 that he has been most impressed with redshirt junior Ryan Glasgow, Sophomore Bryan Mone, and redshirt sophomore Maurice Hurst.

Another player that should be looked out for is junior defensive end Taco Charlton, who had 3.5 sacks last season. Senior defensive end Mario Ojemudia joins Charlton, as the two are probably the best defensive ends on the roster. Ojemudia had 3.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss in 12 games last season.

Junior defensive tackle Willie Henry may be the most talented of the bunch. Henry had three sacks in 10 games, and if he can stay healthy he could be a huge weapon for Mattison.

A very interesting thing to look out for this season is the switching of schemes by Durkin. Mattison kept a steady 4-3 last season, but Durkin will look to switch it up depending on what he sees from the offense and continue to push new concepts to his defense daily.

“Every day I want our guys coming into meetings with the approach of, ‘I’ve got to sit down and be locked in and learn football,'” Durkin told ESPN on March 6. “Every day, whether it’s something small or big, we’re going to be installing [a] new defense for those guys to get them used to that.”