By RICKY LINDSAY, Editor-in-Chief
Linebacker is going to look different for Michigan this season.
That’s because Jake Ryan, arguably the best defensive player for Michigan this decade, won’t be donning a winged helmet. The four-year starter for the Wolverines was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
How will Michigan fare without Ryan this season, and who will step up in his absence?
In the eighth of nine position previews on the Michigan football team before the 2015 season, Editor-in-Chief Ricky Lindsay takes a look at the linebackers.
It’s going to be difficult to replace Ryan. Maybe near impossible. But Michigan is deep at linebacker and has enough talent to alleviate the hole left by him.
Senior Joe Bolden and fifth-year senior Desmond Morgan lead the pack of game-ready linebackers.
If Ryan was Michigan’s 1A, Bolden was its 1B. The recently-named defensive captain finished second on the team in tackles last season with 102. Bolden has 38 games of experience under his belt, including 16 career starts.
Morgan was expected to be a key cog at linebacker last season, but an arm injury caused him to miss all but one game. He received a medical redshirt in February and returned for his fifth year of eligibility.
Morgan started his Michigan career with a bang, playing in 12 games (seven starts) and logging 63 tackles as a true freshman in 2011. Since then, he’s been a force at linebacker. He’s started 31 of 37 games and his return should be a significant upgrade to the defense.
After a breakout 2013 season, James Ross III’s production declined in 2014. His tackles decreased by 53 and he started two fewer games. A senior, Ross is capable of being a high-impact defender for Michigan, and he should be able to return to his 2013 form this season.
Junior Ben Gedeon and Senior Royce Jenkins-Stone are two players that have yet to live up to expectations at Michigan. Both players were four-star recruits and have been delegated to reserve roles. Gedeon has appeared in 24 games with no starts, while Jenkins-Stone has two starts in 36 games.
Another four-star recruit, redshirt sophomore Mike McCray appeared in 11 games last season. He should have a larger reserve role on Michigan’s defense in 2015.
Depth: Allen Gant, redshirt junior; Noah Furbush, redshirt freshman; Jared Wangler, redshirt freshman