Offseason Question: Does Ryan move positions?

Submitted by StephenRKass on January 10th, 2012 at 8:57 AM

Rivals has a non-paywalled article (Link: asking and analyzing whether Michigan should move Ryan. He was at SAM linebacker this year, but could potentially have a position move to play weakside defensive end in the upcoming season.

As is typical with a Rivals or Scout teaser headline, the answer is "no." Their reasoning? First, it is questionable whether Jake Ryan's frame can sustain the additional weight needed. Second, and probably most important, between Roh, Jibreel Black, and Frank Clark, Michigan already has solid candidates at both SDE and WDE. Keeping Ryan as a SAM LB allows Mattison to put more of his best players on the field at one time.

This analysis makes sense to me. However, it makes me wonder whether we should expect any position changes in the coming year. I suppose to really answer that, we'll have to see how the incoming class performs, and which guys are truly strong enough and good enough to compete for PT right out of the gate. While there has been lots of love expressed for both Bolden and Pipkins, it is definitely too soon to slot them in as starters. Exhibit A is Ryan. As good as he was in this last campaign, Ryan was undoubtedly helped by a redshirt year. I'm sure that Mattison will get guys on the field right away if their practice time warrants it. He already did with Countess. When others perform the same way, position changes will become more obvious.



January 10th, 2012 at 9:09 AM ^

I thought Ryan moved extremely well as a SAM and showed good quickness, closing speed, strength, and toughness.  I like him right where he's at.  4 years of the same position makes for a damn good cog in an 11-man wheel.


January 10th, 2012 at 12:21 PM ^

Cute, but, it's the salmon that swim upstream, and the roe are deposited when they get there.

and ROH, he'll on the line where he should be, keeping both oars in the water, and pressured hard by the incomming frosh.


January 10th, 2012 at 9:14 AM ^

I think in the current scheme, Ryan as a SAM is great fit.  He deffinatly has shown improvement throughout the season in his acutal linebacking skills, and also has the opportunity to play with his hand down and/or rush the passer.  I think swtiching him to DE kind of one dimentionalizes his skill set.  And yeah, the extra weight may limit his mobility which looks pretty dang good right now.


January 10th, 2012 at 9:16 AM ^

on how good our incoming linebackers are. I can't remember 4 really highly touted linebackers all arriving the same year. Let's say for argument that 2 of the 4 are really the studs they are hyped to be. The best front seven might include moving Ryan to DE after all. Anybody see Barkevious last night ? Just because you are undersized fo the prototype at that spot doesn't mean you can't be succesful. BTW who names their kid Barkevious?


January 10th, 2012 at 9:20 AM ^

Either way, Ryan is going to be a stud for the next 3 years where ever he plays.  He just seems to have a good feel for the game and seems to be a solid tackler.  Its good to see our LB play return to what it once was.  Its been a rough couple years.


January 10th, 2012 at 9:22 AM ^

He's listed on MGoBlue at 6'3 230 lb. Roh and Black weigh 269 and 260, respectively. Frank Clark comes in at 6'2 228. So, in terms of size, I guess it depends on what the ideal size would be. If the coaches want someone in the range of Black/Roh, then I think it would be tough for Ryan to put on 30 pounds in the offseason; I just don't think he has the frame for it. But if they're willing to put Clark out there at about the same size as Ryan, then I would think it's definitely within reason to see Ryan move to the line.

That aside, didn't we see Ryan play with his hand in the dirt a few times this year? Maybe that was a foreshadowing of things to come. I don't know. Regardless of where he does play though, I'm really excited to see his development over the next few years.

Blue in Yarmouth

January 10th, 2012 at 9:49 AM ^

I have been wondering what would happen with Cam Gordon...He played pretty well once he moved to LB two years ago and was injured most of this year. I am wondering if, with the emergence of Ryan, they might consider him for Desmond Morgans spot. He has pretty good size and is quite a bit more athletic than Morgan is. I guess the coaches have a far better handle on who is better than who than I do, but it is something I have been wondering about. 

Either way, we have a bit of depth at the positions and I am kind of hoping that none of the freshman have to play right away and can redshirt a year. I guess we'll see.

One final thing I have wondered about is Josh Furman. I was super excited about him when he signed and have been waiting for him to get a chance to play but at safety things look pretty good going forward. He may be higher up the depth chart there than I think he is, but if he isn't I wonder if the coaches have given any thought to switching hom to RB since our depth there isn't so great and we missed on an elite one this year? He was a stud RB in HS and it is something I have wondered about as well. 

Blue in Yarmouth

January 10th, 2012 at 1:02 PM ^

but all Furman has been to this point is depth and hasn't really sniffed the field has he? If he hasn't, and doesn't look like he will pass the others I would be inclined to make the move since we have three safeties coming in this year with Clarke, Wilson and Gant. I also thought there was some chatter about R. Taylor moving to safety, but I could be wrong about that....


January 10th, 2012 at 9:59 AM ^

I believe they mentioned in the broadcast of the game last night that Alabama runs a 3-4 with a linebacker moving up to the line.  Maybe called a 3-4 'under?'  With our personnel this makes sense to me with Ryan at the lineback spot. 

Space Coyote

January 10th, 2012 at 10:05 AM ^

His skill set and body build are better suited for SAM.  We also have far less depth/skill at SAM than at WDE.  Combine those 2 things and it makes no sense to put him on the line, he fits best where he is and that's where the most help is.

As for the SDE spot, I think that's going to go to Black.  IIRC the coaches wanted him bigger coming in to this season.  He seems a bit slower than Roe but I think has the body to put on about 10-20 lbs and slot in nicely at SDE.

I don't think anyone else is really going to move.  Furman will likely stay at S with the depth now at LB.  He seems like he could eventually see a few snaps if things go his way, but he looks like most of his career will be as a ST star.  A few young CBs might make the move to S, but I doubt that with corner depth as well.


January 10th, 2012 at 10:44 AM ^

Any contributions we see from freshmen will begin with the second game of the season.  All the practice in the world can't get you ready to play against Alabama.  You could do a lot of damage to a kid by playing him in that game and messing his head for the game up.


January 10th, 2012 at 11:12 AM ^

Look at the presumptive depth chart for next year. It would seem moving Ryan to WDE would just increase the logjam at that position. I think Beyer is already heading that direction anyway so unless Gordon suddenly shoots into that role (which isn't even on the field when the nickel corner is out there) we're leaving the linebackers pretty thin.

The mystery isn't just Ryan, but what they do with Beyer and Gordon. Best guess is Ryan stays put but may play with his hand down in a 3rd and long nickel package where the DT is moved out for Avery and the rest of the DL shuffles down a tech.

I wish one of those guys (Gordon?) looked more like an MLB/WLB. The two middle linebacker spots are very thin after Demens and Morgan. Jones wasn't good in limited time and Bell is the kind of guy who'd be encouraged to transfer if this was an SEC West school, so then we're talking about freshmen starting at the most important LB position.


  1. RS-So Jake Ryan
  2. RS-Jr Cam Gordon
  3. RS-Fr Jordan Paskorz
  4. James Ross?


  1. Sr-5th Kenny Demens
  2. RS-Jr Mike Jones
  3. RS-Jr Isaiah Bell
  4. Fr Bolden/Jenkins-Stone


  1. So. Desmond Morgan
  2. Sr Brandin Hawthorne
  3. RS-Fr Antonio Poole
  4. Fr Kaleb Ringer


  1. RS-Jr Nate Brink or Jr Jibreel Black
  2. RS-Fr Chris Rock
  3. Fr Godin/Strobel


  1. Sr Craig Roh
  2. So Frank Clark
  3. So Brennan Beyer
  4. RS-Fr Keith Heitzman
  5. Fr Ojemudia


  1. RS-Jr Quinton Washington
  2. RS-So Ken Wilkins
  3. Fr Wormley


  1. Sr Will Campbell
  2. RS-So Richard Ash
  3. Fr Ondre Pipkens

Michigan likes to say we have three DL coaches (Hoke and Mattison being the other two); if they can get good interior DL play from Q, BWC, Ash, Brink, Wilkins and the freshmen next year they'll have earned that title. With much more onus on the LBs next year to make plays I expect we'll see more of Ryan and Morgan's flaws come out. If they look to be treading water from the end of this season, that's a win, since there won't be those plays where their job is to clean up something Martin & RVB blew up.


January 10th, 2012 at 12:28 PM ^

A couple things: 

  • Ross' instincts and size make him a prototypical WLB. Also that's the position he was recruited to play.
  • Not sure why you say depth is thin at WLB and MLB. In each case we have career backup upperclassmen battling two highly touted freshmen to be the backup. After the '09-'10 secondary debacle I'm admittedly desensitized to depth problems, but it's at least objectively true that both positions will be deeper and older next year than they were this year.
  • Totally agree with all you said re: dline. With the interior line likely being a soft spot keeping Demens healthy will be key.


January 10th, 2012 at 1:04 PM ^

Signs point to Ross at WLB, where Hawthorne has already proven to be a serviceable backup.  Assuming Morgan starts (or even if he gets beaten out) depth is fine there.

MLB you can argue, but given how high everyone is on Bolden now, and his EE status (Ringer too), we should be OK at LB.  Morgan may be the real backup at MLB if Demens is hurt.

It is very difficult to project positions along the DL.  Like last year, people are going to be asked to bulk up/slim down in the offseason.  There's also a lot of interchangeable parts.  Like this year, the best 4 will play.  That's probably Roh, Campbell, Black, for sure.  Brink, Clark, Pipkins appear very likely to rotate in as well.  Many others will get a shot.  Guessing at the positions, while fun, is even more pointless than normal.

Time for some random predictions:

Rock bulks up and slides inside, gets lots of coaching praise in spring, and makes the rotation at DT ahead of Ash, maybe even Washington.

Strobel contributes and looks as promising as any freshman DL (besides Pipkins).


January 10th, 2012 at 3:44 PM ^

I wasn't saying that's where Ross ends up in 2014, but in 2012. SAM's fairly straightforward, enough that a fast learning true freshman can probably hack it. WLB is the spot you want the MOST experience. I know we got on with Morgan there this year but that wasn't until late and he hurt us at times. WLB is hard position in this defense: if you're not blocked you have to figure out why VERY fast and make a decision of where you need to be, which could be anywhere. He's the guy they run fakes off of. You can have 90% of a Top 10 run defense if your WLB can diagnose a play every time.

Because this is a thinking man's position, I am very wary of true freshman linebackers playing, especially early (this being a depth chart vs Bama). If they do play I would hope even the most instinctual guy is in a role where the whole defense isn't relying on him to quickly diagnose and react to plays. I too see Ross at WLB eventually. I think of all the linebackers if any of them end up a SAM later in their careers it's Ringer.


January 10th, 2012 at 12:32 PM ^

For all of the talk about Denard, Cam Gordon is the player hurt the most by the coaching change.

He's the tweener type that shows up in defenses who have five DBs in the base set, so he was always going to find it hard to fit into Mattison's defense.  Then with the back problems last year, I gotta figure he is way behind.  The only chance I see him see significant playing time is if he catches up to the point that his athleticism gets him ahead of or platooned with Morgan.

Roy G. Biv

January 10th, 2012 at 11:41 AM ^

I like Ryan where he can use his athleticism to wreak havoc in backfields. I don't as much the idea of him taking on an OT on a regular basis. We saw all season how good he can be when he uses his speed to blow up plays behind the LOS.

Mr Miggle

January 10th, 2012 at 11:42 AM ^

Didn't Beyer get all of his snaps at SAM? Also Magnus has been saying that Ross was recruited as a WILL. I don't think he has the size we want for SAM. Our depth chart there should preclude moving Ryan next season.


January 10th, 2012 at 12:05 PM ^

So they wrote an article to analyze whether a freshman who had a great year at a position he seems perfect for should move to a position where he would be undersized and just happens to be the only position on the DL that has very good depth?

Next up: Should Jeremy Gallon switch to HB?


January 10th, 2012 at 1:17 PM ^

I don't think it's out of the question that he bulks up and moves inside to the RVB 3 Tech spot. Roh, Clark, Beyer, Ryan, and Strobel could all compete at DE spots.


January 10th, 2012 at 1:48 PM ^

......reminds me of how the GB Packers utilize Mathews. While technically a LB, Mathews lined up on the line for a large part of their games and rushed the passer on a significant portion of the passing downs. GB effectively played with 3 DE's, one of whom could drop back into pass coverage if needed. And no, I'm not comparing Ryan's play to Mathews, just how both teams have utilized these guys during the season.

As for moving Ryan, I don't see it happening. One, he's not big enough to play consistently on the line opposite the other team's OT. He's better off being used as an extra rush end or dropping into pass/outside run coverage.