2011 Michigan Recruiting Grades: Defense

This is a follow-up to last week's 2011 Michigan Recruiting Grades: Offense post.

NOTE: All links will take you to Touch the Banner's commitment post for each player

DEFENSIVE END

Signings: Brennen Beyer (Canton, MI), Keith Heitzman (Hilliard, OH), Chris Rock (Columbus, OH)
Biggest miss: Anthony Zettel (West Branch, MI)
How it went: Especially with the return of the 4-3, Michigan needed defensive linemen of all kinds.  Beyer was originally recruited to play outside linebacker for the previous regime, but he'll be a weakside end for Hoke.  Meanwhile, everyone who follows recruiting assumed that Zettel would end up a Wolverine, but the big defensive end lost interest in the Wolverines' and Rodriguez' losing ways and picked Penn State in December.  Michigan picked up Chris Rock along the way.  For now Rock has the size of a strongside end, but his athleticism is more reminiscent of a 3-tech defensive tackle.  Heitzman was a late addition to the program, decommitting from Vanderbilt to choose Michigan.  He has some position flexibility with the ability to play defensive end or tight end; Hoke also hinted that he thinks Heitzman has the frame to add some weight and play inside as well.  Beyer is the treasure here, and while I'm not particularly excited about the other two, the defensive end haul from the past couple classes - Craig Roh, Jibreel Black, Ken Wilkins - means that Michigan could afford a couple sleepers.
Grade: B

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Signings: None
Biggest miss: Timmy Jernigan (Lake City, FL)
How it went: As obvious as the need must have been for defensive tackles in the 2011 class, Michigan was rarely in danger of actually getting a recruit at the position.  Jernigan was a big-time player who eventually committed to Florida State, and he was interested in Michigan throughout the process.  However, word was that he didn't want to be a nose tackle in Rich Rodriguez' 3-3-5 defense.  So by the time Greg Mattison was hired, it was too late.  Michigan also had a shot at Maryland defensive tackles Darian Cooper (Iowa) and Vincent Croce (Virginia).  There's a chance that one or more of the defensive end prospects could end up at DT, but as it stands now, Michigan was losing three senior defensive tackles and replaced them with zero.
Grade: F

LINEBACKER

Signings: Frank Clark (Cleveland, OH), Kellen Jones (Houston, TX), Desmond Morgan (Holland, MI), Antonio Poole (Cincinnati, OH)
Biggest miss: Kris Frost (Matthews, NC)
How it went: Linebacker was a huge need in the 2011 class, too, but the coaches obviously addressed this need better than defensive tackle.  Frost was a 5-star prospect who was very high on Michigan for the entire process.  He was even reportedly a silent commit until the Rodriguez fiasco, which caused him to pick Auburn.  Jones was the first commitment.  He doesn't have prototypical size for the middle linebacker position, but he plays like it.  Morgan was the second linebacker to drop, and he also should be headed for the MIKE spot.  As a high school quarterback, he brings a unique perspective and knowledge to the defensive side of the ball.  Poole was offered by the new regime and convinced by Mattison to become a weakside linebacker.  He possesses the speed and blitzing ability to imitate some of Michigan's inside linebackers of a decade ago (Larry Foote, Ian Gold).  The last addition was Frank Clark, an outside 'backer from Ohio State stronghold Glenville Academic Campus in Cleveland.  Clark is a good all-around athlete (he could have been a WR, TE, LB, or DE) but his body needs to fill out a little bit, since he's 6'2" and only around 210 lbs.
Grade: B+

CORNERBACK

Signings: Greg Brown (Fremont, OH), Blake Countess (Olney, MD), Delonte Hollowell (Detroit, MI), Raymon Taylor (Highland Park, MI)
Biggest miss: Dallas Crawford (South Fort Myers, FL)
How it went: Brown committed almost as soon as he got an offer during September of his junior year.  He was a bit of a curious situation, because he wasn't tagged by the recruiting services as a big-time player and he hadn't created much buzz prior to the offer, either.  He enrolled early this past January.  Hollowell also committed fairly early in the process, which put him in approximately the same boat as Brown - not very highly touted, but the old coaching staff thought he was worthy of an offer.  Crawford committed later in 2010 and was the jewel of the DB recruiting class until Rodriguez' job status became tenuous.  Soon hometown favorite Miami came calling, and Crawford was lured by their new coach, Al Golden.  Countess and Taylor were added to the class close to National Signing Day.  Countess was a fairly well regarded recruited who played in the Army All-American game.  Taylor had been an Indiana commit, but he grew up a Michigan fan and couldn't pass up the opportunity to become a Wolverine.  The early commits were a little questionable, but Brady Hoke's coaching staff made up for it by keeping Countess committed and nabbing Taylor.  With cornerback a huge need in the class of 2011, it was important to get numerous players who might be able to contribute at the position.
Grade: B+

SAFETY

Signings: Tamani Carter (Pickerington, OH)
Biggest miss: Avery Walls (McDonough, GA)
How it went: This was one of the bigger disappointments in the class of 2011.  Michigan needed multiple safeties, especially of the centerfielder variety.  The losses of Demar Dorsey (DNQ) and Vladimir Emilien (injury, transfer) severely crippled the free safety position in 2010, so much so that an outside linebacker, Cam Gordon, played the position for half the season.  Once Gordon was put at a more natural position, that left lightly regarded Ray Vinopal as essentially the only FS on the roster.  Crawford could have played safety, too, but his decommitment made Michigan's defensive backfield situation even more precarious.  At one time Walls was considered a Michigan lean, but he committed to Cal and broke Michigan fans' hearts.  Carter was offered by the new staff and decommitted from Minnesota to become a Wolverine.  He was a high school cornerback, but Hoke mentioned on National Signing Day that Carter would be a safety.  Carter is more of a fundamental, sure tackler than a true ballhawk to patrol the middle of the field, but the position needed to be addressed.
Grade: C-

OVERALL: C+

MagnusThunder is the author of Touch the Banner, a Michigan football blog.  And he probably shouldn't have eaten a Volcano Burrito for lunch.

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