Michigan Football Preview 2016

2016 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 109 of 179

108 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2016 FOOTBALL PREVIEW LINEBACKERS BY JOHN BORTON D efensive line? Check. It's loaded. Secondary? Check. It fea- tures an All-American and a host of veteran talent. That just leaves the woebegone Michigan linebackers, charged with stepping into the gap with all new starters at those positions. Mention that scenario to them, and they crack a knowing grin. Save your pity, they convey without actually saying the words. We'll be ready to go. Of course, it helps when the hole-pluggers for last year's cast of starters consist of a senior with three years of playing experience; a redshirt junior who would have challenged for a starting spot a year ago, if not for a spring practice injury; and a redshirt sophomore who's arguably the best athlete on the team. So no, defensive coordinator Don Brown, linebackers coach Chris Partridge and the U-M 'backers themselves aren't exactly hanging their heads these days. They're fired up and ready for a fight. "We'll be fine," Partridge said. "I think they'll be really good and impressive, and what Michigan linebackers should be. I have no qualms about it. We have the guys we need to win." He'll still have an opportunity to challenge them with the question that could become a common refrain: the defensive line and second- ary are well established, while the linebackers represent the question mark. "I always tell these guys, the linebackers are the heart of the team, the heart of the defense," Partridge said. "They need to be leaders, the energy guys, the guys who need to be all over the field. "If they start getting overshadowed in camp by the D-line and the DBs, that will be our role on this team. I think these guys will make enough plays that they'll exceed expectations. "They'll just do what we need to do to win games. They'll be the voice. They'll be the leaders. If the D-line is playing that well to get the attention, that's great, or the DBs. We'll just play hard, put our head down and do what we have to do." Brown refers to his defense as "linebacker friendly," which Par- tridge sees as helping the cause this season. "It means those guys need to make plays all over," Partridge as- serted. "He does an unbelievable job of keying those guys into what they need to look at and what they need to read to be able to go and make plays. "Our linebackers will do a lot. They'll cover, they'll come off the corner, they'll come up the middle, they'll be in base zone stuff. They do a lot, and it's fun for them." The Wolverines have veterans to plug into the starting jobs, but feature some significantly younger back-up performers. That doesn't matter, Partridge assured. "You coach everybody the same, no matter if you have depth or not," he said. "You try to get everyone ready and make them knowl- edgeable, good football players. "We'll be secure in our two-deep, and then someone is going to have to step up. That's just the beauty of the game. You think you New Crew IN Blue U-M's Linebackers Don't Accept The "Weak Link" Label Senior Ben Gedeon has appeared in 37 games during his Michigan career, starting once and totaling 70 tackles. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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