Michigan Football Preview 2017

2017 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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96 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2017 FOOTBALL PREVIEW DEFENSIVE LINE BY CHRIS BALAS G raduated Michigan defensive line- man Chris Wormley was part of what could be considered one of the best defensive lines in Michigan history. He and two of his teammates, Taco Charlton and Ryan Glasgow, went in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft, and all of them made their pres- ence felt last year. It stands to reason there'd be concern for this year's defensive line, then, given all four starters are gone. Wormley, though, is confi- dent the first four in 2017 — fifth-year senior Maurice Hurst Jr. and redshirt junior Bryan Mone at tackle, plus sophomore Rashan Gary and redshirt junior Chase Winovich at the ends — will be more than adequate to replace last year's group. "I'm excited for this defensive line," Worm- ley told reporters in one of his exit interviews. "I think it's going to be a lot different than last year's D-line, but very productive. I'm athletic, but Rashan is a freak and Mo [Hurst] is different than [graduated senior Matt] Godin. Mone is bigger and stronger than Glasgow, and Chase is 6-2, 240. They're going to be more athletic, 100 percent. "I'm excited to see what they can do."' So is former Michigan All-Big Ten offensive lineman Doug Skene, who squared off against some outstanding defensive linemen in his day. Skene has studied film of the Wolverines' lines over the past several years, and he envisions a scenario of very little drop-off. "Not much at all," Skene said. "I was think- ing about that recently, starting from the inside out — Mone and Hurst in the middle, that's a pretty doggone good duo there. Both guys have shown the ability to be difficult against the run. "There are some other bodies there, but if you're looking beyond the first four … at this point, you'd say you'd better hope no one gets hurt. Otherwise there could be a problem in the middle." But there's no concern about the big two. Hurst gave the defense a preseason shot in the arm when he announced he'd return for his fifth year, following Wormley's lead after lean- ing on his good friend for advice. Skene has experience playing against elite defensive linemen, and he sees similarities be- tween Hurst and one in particular — D'Marco Farr, a former standout for the Washington Huskies. Farr was 6-1 and cat-quick like Hurst, and he parlayed it into a seven-year NFL ca- reer, including a 1999 Pro Bowl season. "It was really, really big for him to return," Skene said of the 6-2, 282-pound Hurst. "He's going to be a guy that can play on Sundays, but more importantly he's the best interior lineman they have. "He's got a ridiculously quick first step, really quick twitch and the hands to get off blockers. He brings that persistent pass rush threat on interior of line." That's a critical element to a defense, he noted, and almost a luxury. But the best de- fenses have pass rushers at all positions on the line. "To be able to do that when you have all that traffic — the guards, centers, fullback or tailback — and you're still causing problems, it changes things dramatically. It moves the pocket back because of the pressure," he said. "The job of the center and guard is to estab- lish the pocket, and it's up to the tackles to pro- tect the edge. Guys like Hurst that can move it back cause problems, and it's an enormous positive to have. "His quickness out of the stance is a difficult thing for an interior lineman to deal with." Hurst is extremely motivated, as well, given that he was snubbed for any of the All-Big Ten teams. He even tweeted, "At least my mom thinks I'm All-Big Ten" after a season in which he notched 34 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, one pass broken up, one fumble recov- ery and one forced fumble. Next to him, Mone is ready for his own breakout season. The 6-4, 310-pounder was the No. 3 player out of spring ball in Harbaugh's first year, the coach reported, and then was lost for the season with a knee injury. He started strong last year, too, before an injury in the opener slowed him again, forcing him to miss three games. Mone finished with 12 tackles in a backup role after starting the opener against Hawai'i. He has the potential to dominate the position, however, and will be called upon to do just that. "I saw him get better later in the year," Skene said. "I wonder how healthy he was along the way. I've always expected him to be the guy that clogged the middle, and though he doesn't have that great burst of speed, he will QUICK FACTS Position Coach: Greg Mattison (third straight season as U-M's DL coach and 12th overall at U-M). Returning Starters: None. Departing Starters: DE Chris Wormley (30 career starts), DT Matthew Godin (16), DT Ryan Glasgow (33) and DE Taco Charlton (15). Projected New Starters: DE Rashan Gary, DT Maurice Hurst (4), DT Bryan Mone (1) and DE Chase Winovich (2). Top Reserves: DE Carlo Kemp, DT Michael Dwum- four, DT Donovan Jeter, DT Aubrey Solomon and DE James Hudson. Newcomers: Solomon, Jeter, Hudson, DE Luiji Vilain, DE Deron Irving-Bey, DE Kwity Paye, DE Co- rey Malone-Hatcher and DT Phillip Paea. Moved In: None. Moved Out: None. Rookie Impact: Solomon, Vilain, Hudson and Jeter. Most Improved Player: Winovich. Best Pro Prospect: Gary. Still Stout All Four Of Last Year's Starters Up Front Have Moved On, Three As NFL Draft Picks, But The Unit Remains A Team Strength PRESEASON ANALYSIS: DEFENSIVE LINE STARTERS ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Last year's line was very good, but the 2017 group has a chance to match it. Sophomore Rashan Gary is a future star, and the inte- rior duo of redshirt junior Bryan Mone and fifth-year senior Maurice Hurst Jr. is poten- tially outstanding. Redshirt junior end Chase Winovich showed flashes as a pass rusher last year. DEPTH ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ There are good players, but there's not much experience. Freshmen are going to have to help out here, including a few that weren't on campus until summer. Those who have been in the program have yet to prove themselves, and the newcomers will push them. X-FACTOR Defensive line coach Greg Mattison was extremely happy with the rush defense this spring, but he wanted to see more from his pass rushers. Getting pressure with four line- men is always a plus, and there were positive signs in the spring game — but consistency is key. OVERALL ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ There are a few question marks, but if this group stays healthy, it has the potential to be as good as any front in the nation, and it appears to be the class of the Big Ten. Gary, Mone and Hurst should all play in the NFL, and some of the young guys coming in have a chance, too. Note: Star rankings are made on a scale of 1-5 stars.

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