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Michigan Depth Chart Projection Series: Linebackers

In our depth chart projection series, we break down each positional group to see who gets the starting nod and who will provide depth throughout the season. In this edition, the linebacker position is broken down.

Gregory Shamus

Past editions you might've missed: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide ReceiversTight EndsOffensive Line

Not only is the linebacker position arguably Michigan's deepest position in term of game-ready talent, it's also the best unit on the entire team.

The battle-tested unit returns many familiar faces with roles that are easy to predict. However, there has also been some movement amongst the linebackers. Most notably, senior Jake Ryan shifting from the outside to the middle. A move that makes sense and looks to be a natural transition for him.

The Players (Listed in order by class)

Jared Wangler Freshman
Michael Ferns Freshman
Chase Winovich Freshman
Noah Furbush Freshman
Mike McCray Redshirt Freshman
Ben Gedeon Sophomore
Allen Gant Redshirt Sophomore
James Ross III Junior
Joe Bolden Junior
Royce Jenkins-Stone Junior
Desmond Morgan Senior
Jake Ryan Redshirt Senior

The linebacker group is one to be excited for in the coming years. Not only is there depth this season, but there should be a seamless transition once Morgan and Ryan move on after this season. The only downside with plenty of talent, there can only be so many snaps to be shared. Which could mean that the talented freshman coming in may have to wait a year in order to see significant playing time.

2013 Statistics (If Applicable)

Player Total Tackles Solo Tackles Sacks Forced Fumbles Interceptions
Jake Ryan* 30 23 0 0 0
Desmond Morgan 79 40 1 0 1
James Ross III 85 46 1.5 0 0
Joe Bolden 54 28 1 0 0
Ben Gedeon 19 9 1 0 0

*= Missed first five games of the 2013 season due to ACL tear recovery.

At first glance when the stats are broken down, you notice that Jake Ryan was not very "Jake Ryan-like" in 2013. He did miss the first five games of the season and the coaching staff wanted to ease him back into game action. With a full-healed knee heading into 2014, the upcoming season should be much brighter for him. The depth from Bolden and Gedeon statistically is encouraging. If Mattison decides to switch players in and out, at least fans will be happy to know that Michigan has linebackers that can be plugged into the defense during any play and see them perform.

2014 Maize n Brew Projected Depth Chart

Starter Desmond Morgan Jake Ryan James Ross III
Depth Joe Bolden Ben Gedeon Royce Jenkins-Stone
Micheal Ferns Mike McCray Allen Gant

In case of injury here, Michael Ferns could be considered a third option with the linebackers due to his early enrollment back in January.

However, the depth chart is fairly straight forward. The same three have been starting together for three seasons now, so the chemistry is there, things have just shuffled around a little bit. 2014 could be considered a good look into the future as Bolden, Gedeon and Royce Jenkins-Stone should see plenty of opportunities to see the field this fall. It also gives a good look a potential pairing at linebacker with Bolden and Gedeon presumably next in line after Morgan and Ryan leave campus.

Three Big Questions

1. Why does moving Jake Ryan to the middle come off as a "natural progression?"

It's simple, Ryan is a ballhawking linebacker and is excellent at stopping the run. Allowing Ryan to come in from the middle instead of outside creates added pressure up the middle and gives him the freedom to do what he does best. It is clear that defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is giving Ryan the chance to "quarterback" the defense. Whether that is sniffing out plays or audibles, moving to the middle will make all of that much easier.

2. Could one of the younger kids come in and take a starting role away from the established starters?

It's possible, but I am not sure what the probabilities of that happening are. Morgan and Ross are two seasoned veterans in this defense (with Ryan being automatically safe,) so I find it hard to imagine a scenario where someone comes in just takes their jobs. However, seeing a constant shuffling of players coming in and out on different plays and packages could be a possibility. Not only does it keep players fresh in-game, it also helps as the season progresses and lightens the workload a little bit.

3. Royce Jenkins-Stone has hardly seen any playing time during his career but is expected to see an increased role in 2014, what gives?

The time is right. Perhaps he could've been inserted earlier, but only time will tell if keeping him away from the field was a mistake on Michigan's behalf. For what it's worth, I feel that Jenkins-Stone could have a really solid season. It appeared during the spring game that he had made some strides on the field and the coaching staff have spoken really highly on his growth. Perhaps the coaching staff were waiting for him to grow? Regardless, he's going to get his chance to prove himself in 2014.