How good are our linebackers?

Submitted by Cold War on December 3rd, 2013 at 8:09 PM

On WTKA Monday morning, Andy Mignery and Marcus Ray were agreeing how poorly the linebackers played.Mignery said they  had been swallowed up by Ohio's O-line, and Marcus said something that really surprised me - how Hoke and Company needed to go out and recruit some that are athletic enough to compete at a higher level.

I was  under the impression we have a pretty good  group of young  linebackers. Thoughts?



December 3rd, 2013 at 8:18 PM ^

Our linebackers have played very well this year, if you've been paying attention to Brian's UFRs.  While UFRs not the be-all, end-all when it comes to evaluation, they carry more weight than what some radio hacks say about our linebackers based on observations from one game against one of the top offenses in the nation.


EDIT:  Ok, fine, Marcus Ray and Andy Mignery are not hacks, but my point still stands.  The general consensus is that our linebackers are probably the strongest unit on our defense.


December 3rd, 2013 at 10:28 PM ^

Mignery was also a quarterback. Both of these guys know the game, and know Michigan's football program very well. They are dialed into every game, every year, and comment on them every week. I think they could probably cut the LBs some slack, and one thing not mentioned much the past few days on TKA has been fact that James Ross was out on Saturday. Still, we could use better talent at LB - hopefully most of it is age at least for some of them. But there is an uneven level of talent amongst them.


December 4th, 2013 at 12:06 AM ^

I am kinda sick of Mignery. All year he took callers who criticized the coaches to task for not supporting the team and the threw the kids under the bus. He constantly stated players who were being asked to do things they could not do had to step up and lead. While not ever acknowledging the Offensive coaching staff had any culpability, the guy is a third string hack. And why the hell does he get away with saying "winged-tipped helmet"? What the hell is that?


December 4th, 2013 at 12:12 AM ^

I can't believe anybody who's watched us this year actually believe our linebackers are a strength. Morgan is slow and small can't tackle anybody in open space. Ross is the best of the bunch but he can't get off a block. Bolden is still recovering from Mono and Ryan is still getting back into shape. Our depth is pretty much non existent and the kids we have coming in are all very slow as well. We need guys who cover sideline to sideline not big lumbering guys who got by in High School cause they where bigger than everybody else. Our Cornerbacks are the strength of our Defense and the only position of honest strength on that side of the ball.


December 4th, 2013 at 7:38 AM ^

That's pretty serious for a football player in the season. When did this happen? First I heard of this.

TE's had quite a bit of success against Michigan this year whether that be on the LB's or S's probably a little bit of both. 

Not sure they will be able to keep Ben Gedeon off the field now. 

I think they should be able to redshirt the LB class coming in hopefully and get a year seperation.



December 4th, 2013 at 10:17 AM ^

With all due respect to Brian's UFR, you want us to take a blogger's UFR over the assessement of guys who not only played football at this level but are in Ann Arbor and involved with the program in terms of being close to the players and staff being on the 'flagship' local station?  God bless Brian but I doubt he even played HS football ;)

If nothing else I bet they are parroting a lot of things they are hearing from other former players...

We have a nice group of LBs but compared to Iowa's, MSU's it is a step below and probably near Wisconsin's.  Which is not bad but not great.


December 4th, 2013 at 3:28 PM ^

Our lb's were pretty horrendous in passing situations all year and bit on play action a lot, obviously some of the issues in the running game stem from poor d-line play but there is no reason every te that played against us was wide open over the midle multiple times a game.


December 3rd, 2013 at 8:22 PM ^

Umm this is a DL issue, Marcus Ray should no this.  It's that simple.  Are our LB's world beaters?  No, I mean Jake Ryan might be, but they're pretty damn good (and that's with JRIII not even playing...a small-ish yet very athletic LB).


December 4th, 2013 at 12:20 AM ^

I know, former players are never wrong or have an opinion that maybe isn't 100% correct.  Dude, in a  vacuum our LB is fine.  Why is it hard to understand the lack of good and consistent DL play would affect the LB play? Their flow, their reads, their timing, etc.  All important things for a LB.  It all starts up front, offense and defense.


December 4th, 2013 at 7:29 AM ^

Right. Back then, Michigan didn't lose any games (actually true in '97) and throttled teams that tried to "spread things out" against them, like Syracuse. Remember how they held Donovan McNabb to negative rushing yards? They were TOUGH!

Until this picture leaves the collective memory of Michigan fans, Marcus Ray will continue to be remembered as one of the all-time greats, rather than a fringe NFL player (which is very impressive, but not commensurate with the praise he gets).


December 4th, 2013 at 1:29 PM ^

Why should we remember Ray for his NFL career?  Many great college players don't pan out in the pros.  Mark Messner was one of our best defensive linemen ever, but he didn't do anything in the pros.  Mike Hart didn't have a distinguised NFL career either.

I don't know if I agree with Ray on this issue, but his success or lack thereof in the pros is completely irrelevant to me.



December 3rd, 2013 at 8:24 PM ^

I seen a couple of plays that the LBs got caught in the same hole and there were a couple of plays when the ball was snapped the LBs never moved until the OLine were there to block them.  They are young but they have mustly been playing that position for a long time. Filling the same holes is a BIG no no thats one of the first things they shouldve been coached not to do. 


December 3rd, 2013 at 8:23 PM ^

Well, I think that is fair to say that our LBs were productive over the course of the season. They account for:

 - 36.94% of total tackles

 - 42.42% of tackles for loss

 - 44.44% of TFL yards

 - 45.65% of all sacks

 - 47.95% of sack yardage

I would think that these quick overall stats indicate a reasonably effective linebacker corps.


December 4th, 2013 at 10:23 AM ^

Yep my thought as well- I am sure most LBs on most teams account for 30-40% of tackles for loss, sack yardage or whatever.   They are by definition 3/11ths of the defense so a baseline would be about 30% of all production...and being closer to the line they will do more than safeties or corners in the run game so 30-40% is standard.



December 3rd, 2013 at 8:36 PM ^

for the B1G as a group. Ryan has the size, speed and instincts to play at the highest level. Ross is too small at this point. Morgan lacks speed and size. Bolden lacks size (and sometimes instincts). Cam lacks the instincts. Gedeon seems to have potential in all three - but wait another year.

Agree with Ray, but Ross, a Bolden, Gedeon and now Ferns were rated as 4* and considered to have high level potential. Did UM mis-evaluate or has player development been lacking?

swan flu

December 3rd, 2013 at 8:46 PM ^

none of the above.  Those players are young.  


Our linebackers next year are going to be awesome.  As this blog has said many times, Ross was limited this year because the DL couldn't keep him clean.  When he was kept clean, he was a menace. See Northwestern.


JMFR never showed what he is capable of this year due to injury.  


I don't think Morgan is an all-big ten type Mike, but he's good, and he's going to be a senior next year.


Gedeon, Bolden, Jenkins-Stone, will all improve this off-season (Especially Gedeon. He's going to be a monster)


December 3rd, 2013 at 8:52 PM ^

Experience plays a big part in LB play. Being able to diagnose a play and simply react takes time. Poor Ben Gedeon was thrown into the fire and Iowa was able to expose him. The LBs can also play faster if the DL is creating problems for the OL. When we get better on the DL, we'll also see better play from the LBs.


December 3rd, 2013 at 9:03 PM ^

It doesn't help when your leading tackler misses the year's biggest game due to injury, and his replacement is a true freshman who would probably be redshirting in an ideal situation. Morgan isn't known for his athleticism. I like our current linebackers, but they're not the most athletic group in the country. Still, as others have said in this thread, I think a big part of them not having big games is the fact that our defensive linemen aren't great. Richard Ash and Ryan Glasgow don't help matters, Jibreel Black is small, Willie Henry is a redshirt freshman, Pipkins is out, and Quinton Washington has been dealing with a nagging injury. One reason a guy like Ryan Shazier makes so many tackles is because he has some hosses in front of him.


December 3rd, 2013 at 9:14 PM ^

I agree with Marcus Ray. To get to the Championship level, the linebackers need to be better than what's there now. I just think they are too short and definitely too light. Ross, Morgan, and Bolden aren't game changers who can consistently diagnose plays and beat the blocker to the point of attract.

I love their effort. They all try hard and all that, but no one is afraid of them. They all need to gain another 10-20 pounds. That's doable in one offseason.


December 3rd, 2013 at 9:24 PM ^

I think part of the problem is the d-line was allowing OSU's o-line to get to the next level.  They had a good o-line this year and are all big and upperclassman.  Also, most of our LBs (minus JMFR) are either undersized, young, or not super athletic.  Ross is athletic, but undersized and young.  Morgan is undersized and experienced, but not super athletic.  Bolden is a bit of a mystery still, but also young and undersized....same with RJS.  Gedeon is young but seems like he has potential and he has good size.  McCray is a highly rated recruit, but we haven't seen him play yet.  Ferns seems like the best of the group as he's already bigger than all the other LBs (minus JMFR) and from what I've seen of his videos has really good foot speed and athleticism.  I think we will improve next year too since we have them all back.  As a side note, Mouton in 2006(?) is the last non-regional LB I can recall us recruiting in recent memory.  All of our LBs are from MI, OH, and PA I think for quite a while, so that might have something to do with it.  When we can start pulling national LB recruits from other regions we will get with every position.


December 4th, 2013 at 10:30 AM ^

"As a side note, Mouton in 2006(?) is the last non-regional LB I can recall us recruiting in recent memory.  All of our LBs are from MI, OH, and PA I think for quite a while, so that might have something to do with it.  When we can start pulling national LB recruits from other regions we will get with every position."

I noticed that too and wonder why we are not going nationally more for "southern speed" at our LB level.  Most other positions we do seem to recruit more at a national level or perhaps thats just where we seem to be missing on landing some recruits.

On the other hand almost all of MSU's defense is from the Midwest's loins and they seem to have us beat on athleticism so I think some of it is just going off "recrooooting stars" and maybe not as much on finding bad ass athletes and developing them.  To that end, MSU's highest recruit on that D is Max Bullough who might be one of the least athletic.  (but the brighest).  So I dont know how much location matters - but when you watch a FSU or UF or LSU defense most years (forget Bama) we still appear to be 2 steps behind in athleticism.