Current commits: N/A
Why: Both Ryan Van Bergen and Mike Martin will graduate after the 2011 season, leaving Michigan with only a few defensive tackles on the roster. Junior William Campbell has reportedly returned to the defensive side of the ball, but he, redshirt sophomore Quinton Washington, and redshirt freshman Richard Ash are the only true leftover tackles who will return in 2012. Tackle/end tweeners like Terry Talbott and Ken Wilkins redshirted in 2010, but neither one is particularly big and won't hold up as a nose tackle.
Most likely target: Darian Cooper (Hyattsville, MD) has been contacted by new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, and this seems to have piqued Cooper's interest. He had been interested in Michigan under Rich Rodriguez, but the firing of Rodriguez squelched Cooper's interest temporarily. Timmy Jernigan (Lake City, FL) lost some interest in Michigan because he didn't want to play nose tackle in a 3-3-5, but Mattison's 4-3 might rekindle that curiosity.
Current commits: Chris Rock, Brennen Beyer
Why: The Wolverines have a solid selection of defensive end talent to choose from, even though most are unproven. The current defensive ends are young. If Van Bergen plays tackle (which I expect), then the starters will likely be junior Craig Roh on the weakside and sophomore Jibreel Black on the strongside. That leaves Brandon Herron, Jordan Paskorz, Ken Wilkins, Terry Talbott, and some other DE/OLB tweeners to vie for backup spots. Beyer will probably be a weakside end like Roh, while Rock is a strongside type who could even grow into a 3-tech defensive tackle.
Most likely target: There aren't really any defensive ends who look like imminent Wolverines. Max Issaka (Woodbridge, NJ) decommitted from Pitt in recent weeks and was offered by Brady Hoke, but hasn't shown significant interest. Brandon Alexander (Brenham, TX), a physical freak, has become a hot prospect following his senior season. He has been contacted by Michigan, but as far as I know, hasn't been officially offered.
Current commits: Kellen Jones, Desmond Morgan
Why: Michigan has a good number of linebackers on the roster, but very few are proven. Even though Michigan's linebackers were underwhelming in 2010, none of the backups except Kenny Demens were able to break through. Outside linebacker Cameron Gordon seemed to play well once he moved to OLB from free safety, so it's quite possible that he and Demens will be two of the three starting linebackers in 2011. Mike Jones was reportedly making strides at weakside linebacker until he broke his leg early in the season. J.B. Fitzgerald will be a senior in 2011, and guys like Isaiah Bell, Jake Ryan, and Brandin Hawthorne haven't shown much. It's a relatively young group, so there's plenty of development still to come.
Most likely target: Leilon Willingham (Denver, CO) and Frank Clark (Cleveland, OH) are reported to be silent commitments. Both took official visits this past weekend, and things seemed to go well for both. Antonio Poole (Cincinnati, OH) also received a recent offer from Brady Hoke's staff, but he probably won't be pursued with much vigor if Willingham and Clark have secretly pledged to the Wolverines.
Current commits: Greg Brown (enrolled), Delonte Hollowell, Blake Countess, Tamani Carter, Raymon Taylor
Why: It's obvious that Michigan's cornerbacks were a fault in 2010, especially once Troy Woolfolk and J.T. Floyd were lost to injury. Both should return at full strength in 2011, but Woolfolk will be a senior and Floyd a redshirt junior. In a normal year, Courtney Avery, Terrence Talbott, and Cullen Christian probably would have redshirted, but the injuries and lack of depth forced them into the lineup. It's possible that Woolfolk, Floyd, and/or Christian could play free safety. Some analysts think Brown or Taylor could play free safety, too, and yours truly thinks Carter would be the best fit at FS out of these five. The lesson here is that Michigan should be set at cornerback.
Most likely target: Stefan McClure (Vista, CA) is the only cornerback left on Michigan's board. He's the type of talent that Michigan should accept whether they need a cornerback or not, but he'll likely stay out west at UCLA or Cal. If McClure doesn't commit, then I expect Michigan to be done at the position.
Current commits: 0
Why: Michigan has an adequate number of safety types, but there needs to be some reallocation on the defensive side of the ball. Ray Vinopal started at free safety in 2010, and Jordan Kovacs was the starter at strong safety. Marvin Robinson reportedly started playing FS during bowl practices, but other competition at the position will likely come from a position-changer cornerback. Meanwhile, Kovacs seems like the likely starter at SS once again, but he'll face competition from players like Thomas Gordon, Carvin Johnson, and Josh Furman. The strong safety position has some depth, but free safety is very thin.
Most likely target: Well . . . nobody. The future free safeties were probably listed in the list of committed cornerbacks above. It's just unclear which one(s) will make the switch.
MagnusThunder is the author of Touch the Banner, a Michigan football blog.