Michigan Museday If the Dudes Get Dinged: D-Line Comment Count

Seth July 18th, 2012 at 7:46 AM

BWCNebraska-Heiko2  BarnumRoundtreeRohSpringGame-Heiko

♪ Well a whole season played with the first string guy is usually quite lucky.
And a squad who plays with the second team out can be anything but fussy.
But a team whose seen an important guy down—head concussed, knee on the ground!
If they ain't got depth around, then
all goes to poopie.
To poopie, to poopie, to poopie, but depth is hard to get!
To poopie, to poopie, to poopie, but we can get there yet! /♫


This is a continuation from last week when I went through the expected offensive depth chart and tried to predict what would happen—what's the dropoff? how do we react?—if each starter is injured for an extended time. Now, I'm not here trying to roll into town and stir up trouble, see? I'm a purveyor of portents and hedger of predictions only. What I seek to do is prepare us for any one of these dings, so that if one occurs we can say something intelligent like "it hurts to lose Roh but Black is probably the less replaceable!"

Why not all defense? Things slow down from here because the defense has a lot of intermeshing parts, and because there actually is depth in places to speak of. Mattison's er Michigan's defense has been characterized by interchangeable positions but really each spot is more of a sliding scale from NT to field corner where each one overlaps the things on either side of it. The listed spring/recruiting weights play this out (click e-bigitates):

Roster for HTTV

saturn-puntingzoltanQuickly again. Photos are all by Upchurch unless otherwise noted. Ratings are given in Saturn-punting Zoltans. Think of them like stars except more heavenly. Five is an all-conference-type player (Denard to Kovacs); four is a guy you'd call "solid" (RVB to Demens); three is an average B1G player (Morgan to Hawthorne); two is a guy with a big hole in his game (freshman Kovacs); one is trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for Poole.

Nose Tackle (Avengers)

Geeks / O. Ryan Hussain|TheWolverine / 247 Sports

Starter: Will Campbell 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5 ???

Backups: Ondre Pipkins 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o ???, Richard Ash 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5 ???

In case of emergency: I'll be honest; this one is impossible to call straight. The 4-3 under is like the 3-4 in that it leans on the nose to suck up double teams and create mismatches elsewhere. The ideal is a superhero, and for the last few years we've had one of the best (by Ghost of Bo).


Hulk is gone but the franchise must go on, and for now that means we are 100% committed to making Thor work.


If the old 5-star takes up the hammer he's the pivot point of a great defense. If he doesn't then one of two mystery men could be anything from serviceable to disasters, and most things in between.

The upside on all three of Michigan's nose tackles is mighty. Weirdly, we think we know more about the true freshman, Ondre Pipkins, than the redshirt sophomore. Pipkins was a 4 or 5 star whose huge, squat, Tongan frame and jovial, Hoke-impersonating character made him and Michigan's need for nose tackle a cosmic destiny. If he's got the goods we'll see Pipkins early in spells of Campbell. True freshmen (Martin, Gabe Watson) of his caliber have fared well enough in rotational duty. The later this season goes, the more comfortable you can feel about Pipkins when he's called upon. Caveat: until he's called upon you have no idea if he can hack it, and for every huge dude you can name who could play right away (Marcus Thomas, Suh, Ngata, [sigh] Johnathan Hankins, DeQuinta Jones) there's 30 who need to spend a year as Ben Grimm before being The Thing. /metaphor used up.

In case of dire emergency: …break glass on Richard Ash. Nobody knows on this guy, who was recruited by Rodriguez as the last Pahokeeian project for Barwis to tear down and rebuild. The tear-down went unnoticed through 2010 and '11 and we caught a glimpse of possible rebuild when, 20 lbs. svelter, he made a few plays nice in the backfield. Ash could be anything from ahead of Pipkins to Adam Patterson. If that's where we are I could see Quinton Washington sliding down.

Rush Tackle (3-Tech)

6932489716_dcc6100ca6_oIMG_5048 - CopyKenny Wilkins
Right: Dell Callihan|

Starter: Jibreel Black 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5

Backups: Quinton Washington 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, Ken Wilkins 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Matt Godin ???, Willie Henry ???, plus nose tackles

In case of emergency: The coaches have made it clear that Jibreel Black can play, and moving him two slots down the size/speed slide chart of defensive positions means they want him on the field, and that they want 5-tech-ish skills at the 3-tech. This being a swing position means the backups could be different things.

Quinton Washington is a big dude who was an offensive guard until he and Will Campbell were swapped for each other in that experiment. He still looks like a guard, and has yet show much at tackle besides easily dismissible coach hokum right after the move in 2010 so it wouldn't look like Rodriguez was throwing substances at surfaces to see what sticks.

Q stuck although the OL he left is now about as leaky as the DL he came to save. That the coaches moved Roh and Black down the line tells you something about their faith that Washington is ready, and going into his redshirt junior year that might mean he'll never be. He's seen time on goal line situations and is likely to again. Early in the year I wouldn't be surprised if he or Ash—whichever wins—is backing up both interior line spots, and that later on we see some Pipkins and Campbell together time.

In case of dire emergency: Ken Wilkins has been absent enough from chatter that people email me asking if he's still on team. Yes he is on the damn team, and he's still just a RS sophomore, but yeah, there's room for true freshmen on the three deep. Those two seem to be Godin and Henry, the lesser heralded of the heralded class, both of whom would benefit from redshirts. Henry is the larger. Chris Wormley, whom I rate at 5-tech, seems a more likely backup.

Strongside End (5-Tech)

IMG_0886-- Chris Wormley

Starter: Craig Roh 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o

Backups: Nate Brink 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Keith Heitzman 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Chris Wormley ???, Tom Strobel ???, plus 3-techs.

In case of emergency: Craig Roh has to be the hardest four-year starter to project in history, thanks to many different careers as too-small WDE in a 4-3, a miscast OLB in the 3-3-5, then as the edge rushing WDE in Mattison's 4-3 under. Now he moves to RVB's old spot.

The backup here is almost assuredly Nate Brink, whom the coaches love but the fans hardly know because he's been hurt (he missed Spring because of it). When the coaches talk about the one-time walk-on they make sure to hit all of the Ecksteinian points: "coachable", "hard worker", "toughness", "great technique", "great motor." To that I might add he's 6'5 and 263, which is normal for the position. He's not Heininger (who as a sophomore backed up Brandon Graham), except in that he's some of the things you wrongly thought about Heininger. Then again I remember Brady Hoke making all sorts of guys into effect tech linemen.

If you'd rather see stars, Keith Heitzman is your guy. The beneficiary of the spring time Brink missed, the redshirt fresham was rated higher at tight end out of high school yet apparently good enough at SDE that the coaches moved Jordan Paskorz instead of him. Either this was a promise made at the time of his last-minute recruitment—likely since Tim reacted strongly when I say him and the TE depth chart together—or an endorsement by Hoke that he can play, or both. Best guess is it's both.

In case of dire emergency: Any of the freshmen linemen but Pipkins and Ojemudia are ready built for 5-tech. Of these Chris Wormley was a longtime high school star, which tells me he is probably physically ahead of the other guys right now. Tom Strobel is the other proto-RVB here. One day I expect we'll see the two of them playing next to each other at 3- and 5- respectively.

Weakside End


Starter: Brennan Beyer 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, or Frank Clark 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5

Backups: Mario Ojemudia ???, plus 5-techs

In case of emergency: Well if one goes down the other starts. Following a trend, both Clark and Beyer were OLBs last season, while this spot was rotated between Black and Roh. Though technically a unit change, the job they did last year—outside rusher—and what they'll be called on to do this year are not all that dissimilar. It speaks well to both that they played as true freshmen ahead of once-touted Cam Gordon. Read less into that, since Gordon was hurt to give them the opening and their skillsets are different from his.

They're also different from each other. Beyer was the more highly regarded and will get called "solid" more often because he's less eventful than Clark. Clark has the greater athleticism (see: interception in Sugar Bowl) though has been convicted of multiple accounts of giving up the edge, a freshman mistake repeated in spring. The rest of the D-line by design is meant to free these guys up for sacks, thus I see both rotating. If one goes down we lose the rotation.

The only other designated WDE is freshman Ojemudia, who is about 200 lbs. right now and would be 2009 Craig Roh'ed by most of the OTs and TEs on our schedule. Far more likely, in the event we lose one of the sophomores, we'll see one of the 5-techs or SLBs move in before the shirt is lifted from Mario. Craig Roh has played WDE more than any other spot, and Brink has the coaches' trust to fill in at 5-tech.

In case of dire emergency: Packaging still covers but there's Ojemudia if you need him. Packaging means in pass situations you just put Jake Ryan here and have Cam Gordon or Brandin Hawthorne or a nickel corner come in; otherwise go "big" (for a certain definition of such) with Roh back to wide and whichever backup DT/SDE in the game instead.



July 18th, 2012 at 11:20 AM ^

First of all, no mullett is shitty, especially on a football player.  If you have the balls to pull of a mullett, you're good in my book. 

Also - that's not a lot of bad weight on Roh.  It might be a little, but but he's bulking up to move from WDE to SDE.  There aren't a lot of 280 pounders with 6-pack abs.  I would bet that RVB looked pretty similar to that with midriff exposed, and no one accused him of having bad weight. 


July 18th, 2012 at 9:22 AM ^

I think you're right in that we'll see a lot of different looks regarding our D-Line.

While our base 4-3 Under will look something like:

Beyer/Black/Campbell/Roh ... SLB Ryan

I wouldn't be shocked if our nickel package/pass line was:


Which is a ton of speed and pass rush. Last year the coaches regularly ran Heininger off in passing downs and put Ryan at the 4th pass rush spot, so our D went from:

Roh/Heininger/Martin/RVB.... SLB Ryan to Roh/Martin/RVB/Ryan.

I'd expect that we'll do something similar this year, remove our "worst" pass rushing DL and slide Ryan down, rather than remove a LB from the game. Unless we start getting gashed because our DL weighs about 1000lbs between the 4 guys.

Blue in Seattle

July 18th, 2012 at 11:05 AM ^

Clark has already impressed as a pass rush end, I don't see him replaced by Ryan, and then there is Beyer who is moving from SAM to rush end. I think Mattison wants speed over bulk all the time, not just onNickel package. That's why Black and Roh have moved down and are trying to bulk up. The OL doesn't change for a passing down, so you still need Campbell to take two OL so the rest are one to one.

I foresee less nickel, and more blitzing of Ryan or the WILL.


July 19th, 2012 at 10:00 AM ^

Sure. But last year RVB stayed on the field whether he was playing the 3 or the 5 tech. I'm guessing Roh will be on rather than Campbell, obviously we should continue this debate for 40+ days until they line up in the nickel for the first time.

I guess we'll see what happens in September!

Sextus Empiricus

July 18th, 2012 at 10:16 AM ^

It looks like you are going to do the guys behind these guys later but Demens is significantly more beef relative to the rest of the candidates at MLB. He is poised for a big delta this year with his experience, though LB intermeshes vertically with NT and the loss of Martin won't help him.

Q intermeshes with NT as well. I'm curious as to what percentage he plays, where he lines up and how quick he can be. He's been shuffled like BWC and could be a good story in the middle. Ash is behind BWC because his talents are best suited for NT but where and how the DL played in the spring is going to change in the fall when development takes a back seat to getting it done.

The need for freshmen help is alarming on the line. I'm glad we have coaches who know what they are doing.


July 18th, 2012 at 10:31 AM ^

I wish I could compare this to averages for the rest of the conference because you'd see our defense is really pretty small. The reason Demens looks so beefy isn't because he's beefy, but because he's a senior. Look at the guys around him--other than two safeties converted to LB (Jones and C.Gordon) it's all underclassmen.


July 18th, 2012 at 11:55 AM ^

If I could plus one your post Seth, I certainly would.

Thanks for adding much needed perspective.  Our defense is still Small.  Our upperclassman, as limited as they are, were never going to be Big which was evident when they were recruited.

I think you should write a blog granting your own wish on Michigan's averages vs just the top half of the conference.  It's not a good sight. 

Positive note, word is, last year's spring compared to this year's spring and you can notice a reasonable increase in overal bulkiness of the team. 


July 18th, 2012 at 12:32 PM ^

Demens is beefy because he's beefy.  Age has very little to do with it.  As a redshirt freshman, he was 236.  Since that time, he's been 246, 248, and whatever he'll be this year (probably in the high 240s again).  At 6'1" and 248 lbs., he's about as big as he can get without it becoming cumbersome.  It's not often that college middle linebackers are 6'1" and 250+.  There are only so many Levon Kirklands in the world...


July 18th, 2012 at 3:29 PM ^

Well 230 is about average for all Michigan LBs since '93, not counting walk-ons who never got on the two-deep. That number includes freshmen.

Season Demens M Avg
1st 224 225
2nd 236 228
3rd 246 232
4th 248 233
5th 252 238

So yeah, you're right, he's a big dude. Then again Pierre Woods, Carl Diggs, Scott McClintock, Obi Ezeh, Mike Elston, Dave Harris, Sam Sword, Shawn Crable, Victor Hobson, J.B. Fitzgerald, Roy Manning, and Clint Copenhaver all played over 240 in their 4th or 5th years.

Player 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Brandin Hawthorne 198 205 214 x x
Mike Jones 203 208 224 x x
Cam Gordon 208 207 222 x x
James Ross (209) x x x x
Antonio Poole 212 x x x x
Royce Jenkins-Stone (215) x x x x
Kaleb Ringer 219 x x x x
Desmond Morgan 220) x x x x
Kenny Demens 224 236 246 248 252
Joe Bolden 225 x x x x
Jake Ryan 225 230 x x x
M AVERAGE 225 228 232 233 238

(numbers in parens are from Rivals since they're not on a roster yet)

That's what I was illustrating. Hawthorne, Jones, and Gordon are safety-sized LBs. Ross, Poole, Jenkins-Stone and Ringer are already almost as big as the safety-like objects will get, and only a little smaller than the average M linebacker at their ages, but emphasis on 'at thier ages' -- they're all 30 lbs lighter than Demens at this moment. Bolden and Ryan will probably grow in into the 240s by the time they're done, however they're still the same size Demens was as a freshman, which is average size for a freshman.

There's nobody within 2 years of him on the LB depth chart.

Sextus Empiricus

July 19th, 2012 at 2:46 AM ^

He's relatively beefy on the team ... but he's absolutely beefy by frame.

Borland is pretty beefy.

B1G Starting MLBs
Team Ht Wt Name BMI
wisc 71 250 Borland, Chris 34.9
mich 73 248 Kenny Demens 32.7
nw 72 235 Damien Proby 31.9
msu 75 252 Max Bullough 31.5
purdue 75 252 Antwon Higgs 31.5
ill 74 240 Robinson, Nejee 30.8
minn 74 236 Rallis, Mike 30.3
psu 75 238 Glenn Carson 29.7
ind 73 225 Cooper, David 29.7
neb 74 230 Compton, Will 29.5
iowa 74 230 James Morris 29.5
ohio 75 235 Grant, Curtis 29.4

Bullough and Higgs are the only above average LBs in Ht/Wt/Frame


Blue boy johnson

July 18th, 2012 at 11:39 AM ^

If either  Clark or Beyer are injured, I wouldn't be surprised to see Strobel slide out to WDE, Strobel is a  fluid athlete and would do well on the rush end IMO, and he is already a svelte 250 pounds.


July 18th, 2012 at 4:09 PM ^

Yes and no. Yes he played with his hand down a lot, but no he wasn't in the Black/Roh rotation. I have to go back over it again but I believe he was kind of a hybrid DE/OLB last year whom they used in certain packages, most notably as the nickel rush end.

When Heininger went out he got to play more as a true rush DE, e.g. on the pickoff play in the Sugar Bowl. Note however that Roh is the weakside DE and Clark is an SLB with his hand down. That's Gordon on the top of the screen, with Demens and Morgan in. If you forward to 8:52 you can see this same formation but with Jake Ryan on the strong side of the formation, putting his hand down (Roh is again on the weakside).

Now here's Clark again, but Michigan is in a 3-4, with Clark standing up and threatening from an ILB position while Kovacs (!) is the SLB (Raymon Taylor is in as the nominal nickel, but is rolled deep to a safety position). 

The rest of the line is Roh, Van Bergen, and Martin so draw your own conclusions. The point stands that Clark was kind of a joker card last year, a rush DE or a rush OLB, but that this year he has moved down from that to distinctly WDE.