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Predicting Michigan 2015: The defensive line

August 19th, 2015 by Derick Hutchinson


PredictingMichigan-DefensiveLine

Willie Henry(Jim Rogash, Getty Images)

For fans who watched Michigan football struggle through a miserable 5-7 season a year ago, including the team’s first shutout loss in decades and another pounding at the hands of Michigan State, encouraging signs were few and far between.

But the defensive line stood out as a strong unit in 2014, holding opponents to just 3.2 rushing yards per carry and picking up 29 sacks on the season. Michigan was the 11th toughest team to run against in the country and the second toughest in the Big Ten, behind Penn State (No. 1 in the nation).

Unfortunately, Jim Harbaugh will have to fill a huge hole on both ends of the defensive line as Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer have moved on to the NFL. Some of the depth players who contributed in the regular rotation last season will have to step up and take on a bigger role.

Probable starters

With openings on both ends of the line heading into camp, veterans Chris Wormley and Mario Ojemudia are likely to step into the starting roles. Wormley, a Toledo native, started six games as a redshirt sophomore and picked up 21 tackles, five tackles for loss and three sacks. He played his best football down the stretch, recording 13 of his tackles in the final four games of the season. Wormley is one of the most explosive Wolverines off the line and could turn into their best defensive lineman as a junior.

Ojemudia, who recorded 32 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in 11 games last season, is just 6-foot-2 and around 250 pounds. He played a rotational role from 2012-13, but burst onto the scene as a key contributor last season. Like Wormley, Ojemudia has a good burst from around the edge, but he’s also a strong run stopper. With Clark and Beyer gone, fans will get their best look at the senior this season.

The middle of the defensive line will be a familiar sight as starters Ryan Glasgow and Willie Henry return for their redshirt junior seasons. Glasgow started 11 games at the nose tackle position last season, making 22 tackles, four for loss. Henry had 20 tackles, 5.5 for loss, three sacks and an interception while starting six games. This duo specializes in clogging the middle and stopping the run, though Henry does offer a slight threat to find the quarterback up the middle.

Michigan lost a candidate for a starting spot when Bryan Mone went down for the season. The defensive tackle played in all 12 games as a freshman, recording nine tackles. He was primed for a breakout season in the middle of the line in 2015, but will instead miss the year with a broken ankle.

Instead, Taco Charlton will have to step up as a top rotational player for the Wolverines after picking up 5.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks as a sophomore. Charlton is one of the few Michigan defensive linemen who can really wreak havoc in the backfield, so he’ll likely see a ton of snaps in a rotation with Wormley and Ojemudia.

Projected Stats – Wormley
Total Tackles Tackles for Loss Sacks
30 8.0 6.0
Career Stats
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
25 19 21 40 5.5 9.5 0 1 0
Projected Stats – Ojemudia
Total Tackles Tackles for Loss Sacks
40 8.0 5.0
Career Stats
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
34 37 26 63 6.0 11.5 1 2 1
Projected Stats – Glasgow
Total Tackles Tackles for Loss Sacks
25 3.0 0.0
Career Stats
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
23 13 11 24 0.0 4.0 1 1 0
Projected Stats – Henry
Total Tackles Tackles for Loss Sacks
25 5.0 3.0
Career Stats
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
21 27 25 52 3.5 8.5 0 0 1
Projected Stats – Charlton
Total Tackles Tackles for Loss Sacks
30 6.0 5.0
Career Stats
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
22 15 6 21 3.5 6.0 0 0 0

Returning contributors

Michigan developed solid depth in the middle of the line last season with Matt Godin and Maurice Hurst each playing in over half of the team’s games. Hurst, a four-star recruit in 2012, picked up three tackles in his redshirt freshman season, playing sparingly at defensive tackle. He’s quick for a lineman and was brought to Ann Arbor to disrupt the quarterback, which will keep him in the rotation.

Godin is much bigger, 6-foot-6 and 290 pounds, and plays more of a run-stopping game. Unlike Hurst, he’ll likely be used as a plug in the middle of the line.

Tom Strobel is the only returning defensive end (other than those listed above) with any on-field experience for the Wolverines. He played in five games last season and recorded his only tackle against Minnesota. He’s 6-foot-6 and was recruited as a pass rusher, but he’ll be behind a few others who can do the same.

Lawrence Marshall did not see the field last season, but could be a factor as a sophomore in 2015. The former four-star has perhaps the highest ceiling on the line, and could emerge as an elite pass rusher when he earns regular reps.

Career Stats – Godin
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
11 4 5 9 1.0 1.5 0 0 1
Career Stats – Hurst
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
8 3 0 3 0.0 1.0 0 0 0
Career Stats – Strobel
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
7 2 1 3 0.0 0.0 0 0 0
Career Stats – Marshall
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 0 0 0

New faces

The 2015 recruiting class brings a pair of defensive ends to the Michigan roster – Reuben Jones and Shelton Johnson.
Johnson was the more highly-sought recruit out of high school, where he was a regular in opposing backfields. He has the tools to be a solid lineman for the Wolverines, but he likely won’t play much of a role as a true freshman.

Jones figures to have a better chance to play early in his career because of his ability to both defend the run and disrupt the quarterback. The more experienced linemen will likely push Jones out of the rotation in 2015, but he has an outside chance to play a role.

Meet the rest

Cody Zeisler — sophomore, 6’3″, 255 from Ann Arbor, Mich. (Skyline), no career stats
Brady Pallante — sophomore, 6’1″, 276 from Naples, Fla. (Barron Collier), no career stats
Garrett Miller — junior, 6’4″, 270 from Adrian, Mich. (Sand Creek), no career stats