QB having a bad time [Bryan Fuller]
|STRONG DE||Yr.||NOSE TACKLE||Yr.||3-TECH||Yr.||WEAK DE||Yr.|
|Rashan Gary||Fr.||Ryan Glasgow||Sr.*||Chris Wormley||Sr.*||Taco Charlton||Sr.|
|Lawrence Marshall||So.*||Bryan Mone||So.*||Maurice Hurst||So.*||Chase Winovich||So.*|
|Carlo Kemp||Fr.||Michael Dwumfour||Fr.||Matt Godin||Sr.*||Reuben Jones||Fr.*|
Amongst other far more important things, DJ Durkin's departure means the end of the irritating "buck" terminology. Michigan spent all off-season talking about this crazy DE/LB hybrid who would do all sorts of things at the WDE spot. They tried that against Utah, discovered that Mario Ojemudia was as good a linebacker hybrid as Craig Roh, and settled into a completely standard 4-3 for the rest of the season. (Yes, Michigan was "multiple" as all defenses are; all non 4-3 sets were exotic changeups.)
Michigan will continue with a bog-standard 4-3 this year, especially after Taco Charlton officially moved to weakside end in fall camp. There's zero reason to drop any of Michigan's defensive ends into coverage except as a very rare curveball.
Because when they are in coverage they are not feasting on souls, as one does.
WEAKSIDE DEFENSIVE END: IN SOVIET RUSSIA, TACO EATS YOU
Ah, screw it.
a bad time [Eric Upchurch]
TACO CHARLTON doesn't have the kind of returning production that generally warrants a FIVE out of FIVE ranking in this here preview, but counting stats, man. Counting stats. Because of the "buck" dream, Charlton got locked behind Chris Wormley until late in the year despite performing excellently in limited opportunities. This persisted so deep into the season that James Ross was called on to play WDE against Minnesota. It went badly; Charlton finally got a run out at his destination this season in the aftermath.
So while Charlton acquired a modest 5.5 sacks and 8.5 TFLs, that was on just 43% of Michigan's snaps. A version of Charlton who gets 75% of Michigan's snaps instead of 43% has a 10 sack, 15 TFL season(!). And extrapolating those numbers linearly may actually understate his production: PFF has him the #1 returning end in pass-rush productivity. Number one. As in there are no better numbers to be:
After compiling only 11 pressures on 120 rushes in 2014, Charlton notched six sacks, nine QB hits, and 26 hurries (41 total pressures) on 229 rushes last season.
The #1 pass rush DE in the nation is almost certainly optimistic, but Charlton isn't an average player trying to get better. He's a very good player who is about to inherit a bunch more snaps.
In addition to already being pretty good, Charlton retains considerable upside. He didn't redshirt because reasons. He came to Michigan with a reputation as a sushi-raw moldable athlete, and despite making massive progress over the last three years the NFL still looks at him in the same way. Brugler:
Charlton certainly passes the eye test with a tall, long frame with a moldable body type to bulk up or slim down. … With his combination of strength, length and long-striding acceleration, there aren't many college offensive tackles who can control him, but scouts are looking for improved hand use at the top of his rush. Regardless, the traits make him a very attractive lump of clay that NFL teams will want to develop.
NFL.com listed Charlton amongst the top NFL prospects to watch going into this season because of his "freaky athletic traits and functional power to go with them".
Charlton can be capital-E Elite because his package of speed around the edge…
…and pocket-crushing strength…
…adds up to a tough handle for most OTs. Charlton's mostly a power rusher; the speed is more about getting to OL quickly and then using that power. He doesn't go around guys, but he's able to get upfield fast enough that a rip back inside is extremely viable.
He was also agile enough to deploy the occasional spin move in this situation. His combo of speed and power also made him a valuable bit of Michigan's stunt game a year ago. He was able to get to the point the drive man cleared out and power through an out of position OL with frequency. Charlton brings raw power not far off Hurst and Wormley; many of his rushes last year featured him pushing the pocket closed.
ESPN has a good summary:
Power-based bass rusher that does a good job of using his long arms and explosive power to get into offensive linemen's pads, and then grinds through contact. Shows above average torso flexibility and strength to work through blockers while engaged. Keeps his feet and hands moving throughout. Flashes a quick inside move to cross the OT's face. Developing an effective push-pull move late in 2015. Lacks elite speed off the edge but shows above average closing burst. … Has some shock in hands. Should continue to improve array of pass rush moves because he has the required violent hands.
Brugler says he can "convert his edge speed to power before blockers are able to sink and anchor" and praises his overall strength and power before critiquing his hand usage. You can't teach the former. You can teach the latter.
The flip side of Charlton's remaining potential is the fact that he's not quite there yet. When we get to Ryan Glasgow in a bit I'll note that I didn't clip anything resembling a mental error from him over the course of the season. The same cannot be said for Charlton. Here he's to the top of the Michigan DL and seems to forget that he's part of a stunt and needs to contain Hackenberg:
He would occasionally hesitate, unsure of what to do, and get blocked as a result. He wasn't great at keeping smaller guys away from his knees. He was more prone to pick up a minus than Wormley or Glasgow. ESPN's profile notes that Charlton "needs to be more disciplined with gap assignments" and is "occasionally late locating the ball," and both of those critiques are on point. When NFL guys note his rawness they're not wrong.
Or at least they were not wrong when talking about Charlton's junior year. After a spring where he was close to unblockable and a fall camp that generated torrents of hype, it's clear everyone around the program expects him to blow up. That includes Charlton himself:
When you’re rushing against [Bredeson], not to say that he gives you problems, but is there anything that he does that maybe is a challenge for you, specifically?
I don’t want you to dog a guy, but what is it he does that’s good?
“He’s a guy who has good hands, strong hands. Once he latches on to you he does cause problems getting off. But for me…”
Meanwhile the insiders are like dang. Lorenz says Charlton is "in line to blow up"; Webb has repeatedly referenced Charlton, not Wormley or Glasgow or Hurst or Mone, as Michigan's most impressive defensive lineman in fall camp. It's to the point where Webb is talking about Chris Wormley like this:
The newly crowned captain has taken his game up a notch, and after Charlton he has arguably been the top performing defensive lineman.
If Taco Charlton is better than Chris Wormley this year, quarterbacks might as well show up wearing a jersey that reads "MEAT PASTE."
It's tough to project Charlton's numbers since there are only so many counting stats to go around and Michigan's entire front seven will clamor for them. Really good DEs can get shut out through vagaries of circumstance—Bosa had just five sacks a year ago. Charlton should get a ton of pressures, many of which turn into numbers. Double digit sacks are a strong possibility, and those TFL numbers should easily crest double digits and approach 20. He won't last long in the draft.
[After THE JUMP: Some guy. Rashad? Something like that. ]
Redshirt sophomore CHASE WINOVICH [recruiting profile] returns to defense after an odd and wasted year at tight end, or H-back, or whatever. He didn't play, so we don't know. He dropped a pass in the spring game and then went poof.
A move back to defense makes sense. As a recruit, Winovich was the subject of a fierce Michigan-OSU battle and regarded as Jake Ryan 2.0…
…instinctive first step and blows plays up before they even happen. Winovich plays with outstanding aggression and is very explosive. He has excellent speed and can make plays from sideline to sideline. Winovich … a force coming off the edge as an outside linebacker and can really close on the quarterback.
…and those two positive indicators seem to be paying off. With Don Brown erasing the Jake Ryan role from the defense, weakside end is Winovich's most natural fit as a relentless vertical attacker.
Charlton spent the entire spring on the strongside, so Winovich had ample opportunity to practice against the offensive starters. By all accounts he impressed. Webb reported back from Florida thusly:
Chase Winovich had himself a day at defensive end. We’d said all week that he was a bigger, stronger version of his former self. Grant Newsome definitely learned that Friday. Winovich won their one on one match-up, and was one of the best edge rushers on the day. On one play he literally flattened Newsome with a bull rush to get into the backfield.
He also mentioned that Winovich repeatedly lost contain a la Jake Ryan, so there's work to do there. No surprise given his vagabond career so far.
Winovich followed up on the strong spring with an equally strong fall. Lorenz reported that Brown "really likes the energy Winovich brings to the table" and that he will be in the rotation; Greg Mattison had some encouraging—and unprompted, so probably legit—noises at Media Day:
And then Taco, talk about...
"Taco will start out—he played both the anchor and the end, but we'll play him more as the open-side end this year. With him playing that position will be Chase Winovich. Chase has showed some great things this spring, having never played the position, but he's a young man that we're looking for—he's got a lot of things going for him. He's very aggressive, very fast for his size, he's gotten bigger, and that gives us the two that you're looking for, at least, at that position."
He's listed on the roster at 245 but per insidery reports I can't track down anymore he's actually pushing 260 and is thus ready to go physically.
Winovich is another guy hoping to make his mark on 2017. He should be a regular rotation piece and rack up some impressive plays as he looks towards a two-year starting gig.
Reuben Jones, #4, presented by yogurt you shouldn't buy [Fuller]
Redshirt freshman REUBEN JONES [recruiting profile] is the other guy at this spot. Michigan flipped him from Nebraska during Harbaugh's scramble for dudes in the immediate aftermath of his hire, and we haven't heard much about him since. A bit of unsolicited praise from Jake Butt when he gets tot talking about the scout team is about it:
Going against guys like Reuben [Jones] and Shelton [Johnson] really helps because they’re going to be really good players some day.”
The dubiously accurate roster still lists him at 222, which is miles from DE playing weight. If that's true, or even close to it, it'll be another year of apprenticeship. I did not write about him in spring I seem to remember that when Jones and Carlo Kemp got in at DE they were getting thumped.
STRONGSIDE DEFENSIVE END: HAHAHAHAHAHA
seems nice but has vowed genocide [Upchurch]
Yea, and in the sixteenth year of the third millennium he did declare unto the people "I shall travel to the Arbors known as Ann and slay all that threaten its boughs; I shall bring down my wrath on the Canaanites and the Hittites and the sundry peoples of the world who irritate the fringes of my ankles. My wrath shall be as never known yet on this earth. In my wake there shall be glory for few and misery for the remainder. Yea, I am upon you. Cower. Cower and die."
Is that not what other people heard?
Seth says that is not what RASHAN GARY [recruiting profile] said on Signing Day. He is insistent that RASHAN GARY [recruiting profile] said rather normal things about which school he would be attending, did not threaten anyone with wrath of any wrothness, and in fact seems like a much better-adjusted person than me. It is my opinion this is quite a lot of sass to deploy on your boss.
Anyway, RASHAN GARY [recruiting profile]. How does he work?
For one, immediately. Despite returning one of the best SDEs in the country Michigan looks set to slide Chris Wormley inside and roll with Gary. Physically, he is absolutely ready for this. As a high school junior his combine performances were above-average for NFL combine participants, and after his arrival at Michigan he put up 26 bench press reps of 225 pounds—also above-average for NFL aspirants. The roster lists him at an NFL-ready 287 pounds, and the testing numbers are evidence enough that weight is the good variety. He is an absurd person, which he demonstrated at every camp or combine he attended. As a high school junior at the Opening, which I'll remind you is an invite-only event with exclusively high-level prospects, he did this:
He out-jumped a wide receiver, he out-shuttled a defensive back and he out-40'd a BCS safety commit. At 287 pounds, that's insane.
So when Jake Butt says "he runs like a wide receiver" you can actually believe it. He can absolutely play now, and will.
There is no doubt going to be an adjustment period wherein Gary adapts to the increased level of opposition. This should be relatively brief since in addition to his physical skills, Gary was repeatedly praised for his coachability and quick uptake of new concepts. That has carried over to college. When you are super elite and this is the first thing your teammates say about you…
"He's a worker, honestly," Lewis said. "I haven't seen him on the field yet, but I'll give you one thing: he works. As talented as he is, he will work."
"There's a lot of hype surrounding him, but he seems to have a hard-work mentality," Butt added. "I'm sure he'll be a high motor guy this fall, too."
…it's just a matter of time. Probably measured in weeks.
So what are reasonable expectations for a freak of nature fresh out of high school? For one, it is reasonable to declare him a lock. From the recruiting profile:
Recruiting rankings are in fact gospel when it comes to the bluest of the blue chips. Aside from a few guys (Dorial Green-Beckham, Bryce Brown, Seantrel Henderson) who didn't make it for reasons other than their talent, every Rivals or Scout #1 player in the last decade has at least been good and has usually been excellent. And even Brown and Henderson stuck on NFL rosters, with Henderson starting every game as a rookie.
And Gary is an above-average #1 recruit. Whenever he showed up at a camp a trail of superlatives followed in his wake. Jamie Newberg said he was "the single most dominant player" he's seen in a decade of covering the UA game. Barton Simmons said his Opening appearance was "the best defensive line performance since the Opening's inception". Mike Farrell said he "as dominant as I've ever seen." Brian Dohn said he is "the most impressive prospect I've covered at the high school level."
If Gary was playing defensive tackle he'd have to wait it out. Even slam-dunk DTs have an apprenticeship year where they learn to hold up to double teams applied by college linemen. On the edge, Gary is much more likely to have an impact early. I mean:
Brown on Rashan Gary: 'We'd like to put him over tight ends and see how many want to block him.'
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) August 7, 2016
The closest comparable in recent memory is Jadeveon Clowney, another consensus #1 recruit. He was a defensive end who played at about 270; Gary is bigger but his role on the defense is well suited for a guy his size. Clowney's freshman year saw him named second-team All-SEC after racking up 36 tackles, 12 TFLs, and 8 sacks. Joey Bosa, another five-star DE, started ten games, acquiring 44 tackles, 13.5 TFLs, and 7.5 sacks. That's the baseline.
Last year's starter, CHRIS WORMLEY, spent all of spring at three-tech and is addressed as a defensive tackle. He retains the tight-end slaying ability he demonstrated last year and was spotted in a screenshot from practice at end opposite Gary; Michigan is going to bounce him inside and out all year as they look for mismatches. He could see anywhere from 20 percent to half of the SDE snaps. Chatter too recent for me to make big adjustments to these posts holds that Michigan has moved Wormley back to SDE and Gary to second string, but that's a distinction without a difference. Gary will play a lot, Wormley will play a lot, Hurst will play a lot.
MATT GODIN is very similar to Wormley: he is addressed as a DT but played significant SDE snaps a year ago and could fill in there.
two for the future [Upchurch/Fuller]
That doesn't leave much for the guys who will populate the deeper reaches of the SDE depth chart. Per Sam Webb, redshirt sophomore LAWRENCE MARSHALL [recruiting profile] has bulked up to 270, moved over from the weakside, and is now #2 on the depth chart, give or take the guys mentioned above.
This takes Marshall's career trajectory back up towards "contributor" after a 2015 spent almost entirely in the doghouse. Despite coming out of last year's spring practice with more hype than any other defender, Marshall was a ghost once the season rolled around. He acknowledged why to Sam:
"I'm mature (now). I'm not a little kid anymore. I feel like I'm a grown man now doing grown man things. I'm putting up grown man weight. My work ethic has tremendously changed from my freshman and sophomore years"
The proof will be in the playing time. Since we still don't have much to go on with him, a reminder that he was a pretty big deal as a recruit:
Very long frame. Has great athleticism, change of direction and speed in pursuit. Has all of the tools to be an elite pass rusher, just needs continued work on his technique. …Has to add some weight, but all of the raw tools are there.
Marshall is now of age and will hope to turn those raw tools into reasonable production.
This site projects that freshman CARLO KEMP [recruiting profile] eventually works his way over to the strongside. He's already listed at 255 and is likely to continue adding mass; even three-tech is a possibility. Kemp comes from an incredible football bloodline and is an excellent bet to be a contributor down the road; in year one playing time will be sparing or (hopefully) nonexistent.
Finally, redshirt freshman SHELTON JOHNSON [recruiting profile] won't be a factor this year. As of March he was 229 pounds. He's not going to be make it to a plausible SDE weight this year. Also concerning is his absence from the team picture and indeterminate suspension. Johnson was not in fall camp and will have to work his way back on the team this fall. A transfer is a strong possibility; even if he sticks he's going to spend the year observing.