Today I'll be looking at one of the bigger stories this offseason on Michigan's defense - the position change of DT (from DE) Jibreel Black.
Jibreel starred on the D-Line in HS, as you might expect, dominating Cincinnati-area competition. He was a big dude even then, clocking in north of 240 and standing 6'2. He's since grown to 260 and stands to add even more weight, but it's more impressive in light of his 4.8 40 time in high school. Dude is fast and big and can run. According to his HS coach, he's got a bit of a mean streak about him - perfect for a Big Ten lineman. Rich Rodriguez recruited him to fill the Brandon Graham spot on the outside, envisioning him as a bookend with Craig Roh. Black was a consensus four-star recruit, rated as highly as the 15th-best DE recruit in his class.
Black excelled at getting speed off the edge and swimming around the tackle. That worked great in high school, but like other linemen making the jump, his freshman year was an adjustment period. His freshman year was the last year of the Rodriguez era, and he saw action in every game, including the Gator Bowl loss to Mississippi State. Black assisted on tackles occasionally in backing up Michigan's experienced O-Line, but he struggled at times to avoid extra edge blockers and chips by RBs.
Last year, Black again appeared in every game, registering his first career sack against Minnesota. Black also assisted in bringing down Braxton Miller, no small feat given Miller's slippery running style. In the tape I've seen of Black, I've been consistently impressed with his high motor. Look for good things to continue into his junior year.
Black's switching to interior tackle this year, the spot formerly occupied by Will Heininger. Thing is, Heininger was a tank at 6'6 - Black's at a size disadvantage. He's already gained twenty pounds and is attempting to pack on another 10, clocking in at 270-280. With his speed, this should be lethal. I'm very optimistic about this. Thing is, Michigan's going to have to start almost fresh on the entire D-Line given the departure of most of their role players and of course Mike Martin, who humiliated most of the lines in the conference when healthy and still gave them fits while on two bad knees and two bad ankles. Craig Roh returns, but is making the switch to SDE.
So we're looking at Campbell and Black on the inside. I kind of like this idea - Campbell ideally will eat up a double team and free space for the quicker Black to do work. Like he said in that AnnArbor article, he needs to work on his hand speed. I'd also like to see him get a little bit lower, using his quickness to gain leverage on the behemoth O-lines he will assuredly face against Wisconsin, Nebraska, ND, and Ohio in the next two years. I'm surprisingly calm about a new D-line though - trust in the Hoke/Mattison combination, and ye shall not be disappointed. Look for Black to fill into his new role nicely, and his ceiling is extremely high.