Michigan Football Preview 2013

2013 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Sudden Change The Wolverines Are Rallying To Cover A Big Loss R LB By John Borton oy Manning was all set to look like a genius in his coaching debut with the Wolverines. The former U-M player could polish up All-Big Ten performer Jake Ryan a little more, turn him loose and collect the collateral superlatives from the havoc Ryan wreaked. Nobody can predict the twists and turns a season takes, though, sometimes even before it begins. Michigan's spring twist involved Ryan's knee, a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and a whole new script at outside (Sam) linebacker. Suddenly, Manning and the Wolverines all had to work just a little bit harder. "Losing him just a few practices in was a devastating blow," Manning said. "It's kind of fitting that things are all good, then something like that happens. It's how life works sometimes. For me, it's a challenge. I'm definitely going to earn my keep. "He's one of those guys, those leaders who has played a bunch of ball here. More than just to me, it was a big blow to the team." "When it does happen, you hope you've built your team with enough depth and enough people that can step in and take over the responsibilities until Jake gets back," added Mark Smith, U-M's inside linebackers coach. "It's a loss we don't want to happen. We'll move on, and the guys that will step in and play for Jake will do a great job. We've got a lot of confidence in those kids." The 'backers coaches are not only confident in the ability to get Sam linebackers behind Ryan (6-3, 241) up to speed, they're focused on a group effort that sees key performers getting better at the inside spots. They share the spring mantra that, as a whole, Michigan's defense will be faster, more cohesive and better overall than the ones directly preceding the 2013 aggregation. With Ryan, few would argue. Without him, the Wolverines have something to prove. Now it's just a matter of backing it up. Next Men Up Manning saw in a very short time what Ryan could have provided at the start of the 2013 season. The Big Ten's third-most-prolific tackles-for-loss generator last season (16) and new single-season Michigan record-holder for forced fumbles (five in 2012) looked as good in person as on the video clips Manning watched. It's never easy losing a difference maker, and Ryan proved the very embodiment of that term. "He's a special player, in that he has the size and speed," Manning marveled. "At the outside linebacker position, that's critical. You have to be big enough to hold your own in the trenches. At the same time, we ask him to do things that require a little more athleticism, being able to run a little bit, cover guys, not just out of the backfield, but lining up on a slot receiver. "He is a natural football player and a ball hawk. He just loves hitting and contact and all those fun parts about playing defense. Those are his strongest points." The love for contact has been put on hold, replaced by Ryan's determined fight to prepare for future battles. In the meantime, a couple of familiar names emerged front and center as replacements. Junior Brennen Beyer and fifth-year senior Cameron Gordon can provide a two-headed solution to the no-Ryan puzzle for the Michi146  ■  The Wolverine 2013 Football Preview Junior Brennen Beyer started the spring game at linebacker after posting 19 tackles and one forced fumble a year ago while playing defensive end. photo by lon horwedel Leading Returning Tackler At Linebacker YearPlayer Solo Asst. Total TFL Sacks 2012 Jake Ryan 563288 16.0-71 4.5-35 2011 Demens Kenny 494594 5.0-20 3.0-18 2010 Demens Kenny 473582 1.5-2 0.0-0 2009 Obi Ezeh 274269 5.0-8 0.0-0 Obi Ezeh 593998 7.0-27 1.0-7 2008 2007 Obi Ezeh 333568 4.0-18 2.0-14 2006 Crable28937 Shawn 10.5-40 4.5-26 David 7-20 1-4 2005 Harris 444488 2004McClintock Scott 342458 6-220 2003 Reid552782 Lawrence 6-25 1-10

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