Michigan Football Preview 2013

2013 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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LB gan defense. Beyer, who moved back in from defensive end, provides muscle at the point of attack and a strong presence in run support. Gordon, the well-traveled veteran who has seen both sides of the ball, offers speed and mobility in the open-space portion of the Sam linebacker duties. Each is looking to become as well rounded as he can in the weeks and months ahead. Beyer (6-3, 254) started the spring game and came out of the workouts performing with the first unit in practice. He posted 19 tackles and one forced fumble a year ago, starting eight games for the Wolverines up front. It's not like Beyer has never seen his present position before — he began his career at Michigan as a Sam linebacker. According to Manning, it didn't take him too long to shift gears after Ryan went down. "When he got thrust back into the Sam position this spring, he really responded well," Manning said. "From day one, things came back, slowly but surely, remembering how to play different blocks and defenses from that position. "Brennen Beyer is one of the hardest-working guys on this football team. You never see him loafing out there or taking plays off. He's going to go all out from the minute that ball is snapped until the whistle blows. "He's good sized and very strong at the point. He has no issues holding his own." The summer, Manning cautioned, is all about Beyer fine-tuning himself at the linebacker spot once again. He didn't move to outside linebacker until after the fourth practice, leaving him 10 workouts and the spring game to get re-acclimated. "The summer is big for him and all those guys," Manning said. "Pass coverage, after playing with his hand down so much the last year, is something he can keep bringing along. "We ask those guys to do a lot. The philosophy has always been, the expectation is for the position. We're going to prepare every single guy the same way and won't get caught with our pants down if a guy goes down." Gordon has switched from receiver to safety to linebacker in his time at Michigan. The 6-3, 233-pounder can move, and Manning plans to take full advantage of that aspect of the veteran's game. Last year, Gordon got into 10 contests as a backup, and he will have his chance to step forward in a significant way during his last season in a Michigan uniform. "I was extremely proud of Cam, the way he dealt with the entire spring," Manning said. "He was fully prepared. His number got called, probably earlier than he expected. He definitely answered the call. "He was thrown into the fire early on, and he was ready. It wasn't a deal where, 'Okay, Cam you're going to be taking over these No. 1 reps,' and he just slowly moved into it. He jumped right in and took off, and I was pleased. "He's a senior. He's played some ball here and he gets it. He knows the defense, and he's another one of those guys where you hate to lose Jake, but you've got a dang good player behind him, too, in Cam Gordon." Manning won't compare Beyer and Gordon, but how they complement each other seems fairly evident. The new position coach appreciates Gordon's mobility. "He can run," Manning said. "He is an athlete. The guy came here as a receiver, played safety, and has bounced around to some different positions. That's a telltale that this guy has some natural ability that you can't coach. "He is physical. It was one of those things where you've got to keep on — keep on developing, keep on working on his pass rush. We ask those guys to do a lot. I don't worry about things when Cam is out there." Meanwhile, 6-2, 215-pound redshirt freshman walk-on Mark Lawson is working hard behind both Beyer and Gordon, Manning pointed out. "I love this kid's attitude and his whole approach to football, to practice, to everything," Manning said. "He's great in meetings. The guys in the room love him, and the guys on defense love him. He's a favorite of most of the coaches. Mark Lawson is going to help this football team out before it's all said and done, whether it be on defense or special teams." Man In The Middle Smith is dealing with a graduation rather than an injury loss at middle (Mike) linebacker, but has plenty of experience to settle into that spot. Kenny Demens — second only to Ryan (88) in tackles last season with 82 — departed, but his sidekick last year at the weakside (Will) linebacker moved over. Desmond Morgan (6-1, 227) started 16 games in his first two years as a Wolverine, including as a true freshman on the Sugar Bowl champion 2011 squad. His task this year involves moving to the Mike and supplying mobility and toughness at a spot that requires plenty of both. Meanwhile, sophomore Joe Bolden (6-3, 222) saw extensive time at the Mike a year ago and isn't going anywhere. Smith likes the competition there. "They both are very capable of playing," Smith noted. "One guy does something a little bit better than the other, and the other guy does this better than that one does. Whether it be Joe that plays the most plays or Desmond that plays the most plays, that will be determined on a weekly basis, based on how they practice and how they prepare." Morgan wound up third on the team in tackles a year ago with 81 and always seems to find himself in the middle of the action. Lightly regarded as far as recruiting hype, he's made a career out of becoming a survivor who provides too many positives to overlook. "I have a lot of respect for Desmond," Smith said. "He's played a lot of football here. Desmond is a very intelligent football player Quick Facts Position Coaches: Mark Smith (third season) and Roy Manning (first season). Returning Starters: SAM Jake Ryan (24 career starts), MIKE Desmond Morgan (18), WILL James Ross III (2). Departing Starter: MIKE Kenny Demens. Projected New Starter: SAM Brennen Beyer (8 starts at defensive end in 2012). Top Reserves: SAM Cameron Gordon, MIKE Joe Bolden, WILL Royce Jenkins-Stone. Newcomers: MIKE/WILL Ben Gedeon, MIKE/WILL/SAM Mike McCray. Moved In: Beyer, from defensive end. Moved Out: None. Rookie Impact: Gedeon and McCray. Most Improved Player: Ross. Best Pro Prospect: Ryan. FYI: Michigan's three top tacklers in 2012 were linebackers, including returners Jake Ryan and Desmond Morgan … Two of Michigan's linebackers wear commemorative jerseys, honoring greats of the past — Ryan in No. 47 (Bennie Oosterbaan) and Morgan in No. 48 (President Gerald R. Ford) … A linebacker with free-flowing locks throughout the 2012 campaign, Ryan cut his hair short at the start of a comeback from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee … Morgan played quarterback as well as linebacker in his time at West Ottawa High School … Joe Bolden played extensively as a freshman in 2012, including starting the second half of the Air Force game … Gordon has been a man on the move in his Michigan career, switching from wide receiver to safety prior to U-M's 2010 spring drills and from safety to outside linebacker before the 2011 spring practices … McCray's father, an outside linebacker in college, performed as a team captain at Ohio State … Gordon represents Michigan's only senior on the projected two-deep roster for the linebackers this season … The linebacking corps is now split in terms of its guidance, newcomer Roy Manning taking the Sam (outside) linebackers, with Mark Smith retaining the Mike and Will (inside) linebackers, after coaching all three spots last season … Ryan earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from the media and honorable mention by the coaches in 2012 … Michigan's last first-team All-Big Ten linebacker was David Harris in 2006. The Wolverine 2013 Football Preview  ■ 147

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