Michigan Football Preview 2015

2015 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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102 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2015 FOOTBALL PREVIEW LINEBACKERS BY MICHAEL SPATH S eniors Joe Bolden, Desmond Morgan and Royce Jenkins-Stone combined for 23 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and an interception in the Wolverines' 2015 spring game. Classmates Mario Ojemudia and James Ross sat out the game due to injury, but it is easy to imagine the two adding greater statistical output to the entire linebackers' haul — something in the neighbor- hood of 30 total stops, seven behind the line of scrimmage, possibly another sack, a pass breakup or a fumble. Michigan's linebacker corps, on paper, is nearly unprecedented in recent memory. The five have started a combined 70 career games during their previous seasons, ranking second for the most starts by a senior linebacker class from the past 25 years. Incredibly, Bolden and Co. reached that mark before their senior seasons, while the quartet of Erick Anderson, Neil Simpson, Brian Townsend and Chris Bohn reached 72 starts after totaling 28 starting assignments in 1991. With Morgan and Bolden the expected starters at two middle linebacker positions, Jenkins-Stone and Ojemudia competing to start at outside linebacker/rush end, and Ross vying to start at strongside linebacker (when Michigan does not use a 4-2-5), the cohort of five seniors will likely finish with another 30-40 starts, eclipsing the 100-start mark for their collective careers. Veterans that they are, the seniors still have much to prove, though, not one earning all-conference honors yet. "Most Michigan linebackers that have played as much as these guys would be going into their senior seasons as dominant players with all kinds of personal accomplishments, but who's leaving a legacy?" former player and Big Ten Network analyst Marcus Ray asked. "This linebacker corps needs to play better. A lot better." The 6-3, 232-pound Bolden has played in 38 games in his career, seeing the field defensively for 12 games in his true freshman cam- paign. He racked up 31 tackles and offered a preview of what many expected to be a distinguished career, but Bolden saw only a small uptick in his 2013 performance — 54 tackles in 13 games, with four starts — and even with 102 stops a year ago, Bolden still has his critics. "Bolden has played way too much football to not be the best line- backer in the Big Ten going into his fourth year," Ray said. "Joe looks good in practice. He's anticipating where the ball is go- VETERAN PRESENCE With 70 Combined Career Starts, Five Senior Linebackers Look To Produce Their Best Seasons Yet Senior Joe Bolden (No. 35) and fi fth-year senior Desmond Morgan (No. 48), Michigan's expected starters at middle linebacker in the 3-4 defen- sive alignment, have already made a combined 47 career starts at U-M. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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