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Michigan Wolverines 2015 Position Overview: Linebackers

Joe Bolden, Desmond Morgan and James Ross lead the charge at linebacker following the loss of Jake Ryan to graduation. Here is an overview of the linebackers Michigan has on its roster for the upcoming season.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The defensive unit under the regime of former head coach Brady Hoke this past year was vastly underrated, finishing above Michigan State at No. 7 in the country in total defense, allowing 311.3 yards per game and 31 total opponent touchdowns all season.

The loss of Jake Ryan and his team-leading 112 tackles to the NFL will not be an easy gap to fill, as the leadership and veteran presence provided by the now Green Bay Packer will have be picked up where it left off by the three expected starting seniors.

In this installment of Maize n Brew's football position previews, we take a look at the linebackers.

James Ross III

No. 15 | Senior | 6-1 | 232 lbs. | Orchard Lake, Mich.

Ross has the traditional outside linebacker repertoire when Michigan goes into their traditional 4-3 defense, but like other reports suggest, should be moved into a roving position in other schemes

It's no question that the production coming from Ross dipped from 2013 to this past season, as two less starts in 2014 saw a major decline in tackles, tackles for a loss and turnovers.

Ross did however, show glimpses of his agility and athleticism on the outside that earned him 85 tackles in 2013 and All-Big Ten Freshman Team honors, when finishing three games with five tackles or above, including the season opener against Appalachian State when he tied for the team lead in tackles with six.

The Orchard Lake St. Mary's graduate's 37 appearances and 18 career starts at Michigan make him an obvious choice for a starting role in his final year of eligibility. The question of whether or not Ross starts in all 12 games is up in the air.

Desmond Morgan

No. 3 | Redshirt Senior | 6-1 | 236 lbs. | Holland, Mich.

Granted a medical redshirt last season following Michigan's win over Appalachian State, Morgan has returned for his fifth season in Ann Arbor after missing 11 games in 2014 due to an injured hand.

A year of recovery has Morgan back healthier and stronger in order for him to leave Ann Arbor on a high note, but in the time that he did contribute on Aug. 30, Morgan tied with Ross for the team lead in tackles.

In 2013, Morgan started in all 13 games, while also appearing on special teams, recording 79 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, one sack and one interception. His season-high in tackles (81) came during his sophomore campaign in 2012, where he started in 11 games.

Expect Morgan to be fueled by missing most of his senior year, as it wouldn't be a shock if he ends his career at Michigan with career-highs in all major categories.

Joe Bolden

No. 35 | Senior | 6-3 | 232 lbs. | Cincinnati, Ohio

Ah yes, the man responsible for the stakegate controversy in East Lansing last season that sent an uproar within the Michigan State community.

Despite the not-so kind welcoming gesture that would eventually be the motivational factor for Michigan State to run up the score late in the fourth quarter, Bolden, according to teammates, was considered that glue guy who kept the team united during the season and the coveted offseason transition of a new coaching staff.

Alongside the now departed Ryan, Bolden recorded 102 tackles, four tackles for a loss and two sacks, including 14 tackles tallied during Michigan's home loss to Maryland, which is by far the most production from any returnee this season.

The senior is so well respected inside the locker room by his teammates, that Ross told that he'd follow Bolden into a dark alley.

Royce Jenkins-Stone

No. 52 | Senior | 6-2 | 240 lbs. | Detroit, Mich.

After spending his first two seasonz at Michigan as a key reserve and special teams contributor, Jenkins-Stone received his first starting opportunity on Sept. 13 against Miami (OH). And while the former Detroit Cass Tech four-star recruit has appeared in 36 games, he's only started in two.

The true senior has paid his dues as a full-time backup and could be given more opportunities to make more of an impact on defense this season. Jenkins-Stone is currently listed behind Ross at the strong-side outside linebacker spot, and if Ross' 2014 slump carries over into his final year in Ann Arbor, expect Jenkins-Stone to be regular member of the first-team defense.

Ben Gedeon

No. 42 | Junior | 6-3 | 241 lbs. | Hudson, Ohio
Gedeon is another backup who could leap into a starting role in the near future, in the likelihood of reoccurring injuries or disappointing performances from the starters. The Academic All-Big Ten recipient last year appeared in 11 games, recording 17 tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss and one sack. He also returned a blocked punt for a touchdown against Appalachian State.