Michigan football returns most of its key players from last season in 2016, but one of the position groups hit hard by graduation was the linebackers.
There is not a whole lot of proven experience there, but that does necessarily mean they are worse off.
The Wolverines will miss the leadership of Desmond Morgan, James Ross and Joe Bolden, but are far more athletic at linebacker than they were a year ago. That could bode well for the position group, which struggled to defend the pass and spread offenses at times last season.
The biggest change comes in the form of Swiss Army knife Jabrill Peppers sliding down to outside linebacker, who new defensive coordinator Don Brown expects to play about 70 percent of his snaps there.
The position group is now coached by Chris Partridge, who is also taking on special teams coaching duties.
Here are the linebackers that the Wolverines have this season:
#5 | Redshirt Sophomore | 6-1, 205 pounds | East Orange, New Jersey
2015 statistics: 12 games | 45 total tackles (5.5 for loss) | 10 passes defended
Peppers can do anything Michigan asks him to, sans maybe lining up in a three-point stance. He will likely get his fair share of touches on offense, but his biggest impact and value to the team comes on the defensive side of the ball.
He will likely see some time at safety in certain packages, but he will be playing outside linebacker in Don Brown’s defense and should be a major upgrade in passing defense for the Wolverines. Peppers could be the spread offense buster that Michigan has lacked on defense, and his best football may still be ahead of him.
#42 | Senior | 6-3, 247 pounds | Hudson, Ohio
2015 statistics: 12 games | 34 total tackles (3 for loss)
Ben Gedeon has been a solid contributor as a depth piece and special teamer in his three seasons in Ann Arbor and did a nice job filling in when he was called upon last season. This year, he is the most experienced linebacker on the roster and will be looked upon to be a team leader with a larger role.
Gedeon is expected to be the anchor at middle linebacker and at the very least should be solid as a senior. He may not be the flashiest player in the position group, but his leadership and lunch pail attitude is a nice fit with the pieces that the Wolverines will have around him.
#9 | Senior | 6-4, 248 pounds | Trotwood, Ohio
2015 statistics: Did not play, missed last season due to injury
McCray did not get on the field in 2015, but he is healthy heading into this season and expected to make an impact at outside linebacker for the Wolverines. Injuries have been a huge concern for him, having only played 11 games at Michigan (all in 2014).
Unlike many of the linebackers that Brady Hoke’s staff recruited, McCray is a good athlete who should have an easier time in space against the pass. If he can stay healthy, and his career to this point says that is a big if, he is going to be a key contributor for Michigan in 2016.
#10 | Freshman | 5-11, 232 pounds | Pembroke Pines, Florida
Bush enrolled early at Michigan in January and took part in spring football, where he was able to get a head start with the team and get his feet wet at a position of need. Because of this, he is absolutely in the mix for early playing time and should be backing up Mike McCray, who is also his roommate.
Bush is a little shorter than the other linebackers, but he plays just as physical and his lateral quickness is solid, as well. As it was pointed out above, McCray has struggled to stay healthy, so Bush could find himself on the field sooner rather than later, though he will be in some capacity regardless, it appears.
#2 | Freshman | 6-3, 255 pounds | Boulder, Colorado
Kemp is another early enrollee that had the chance to get acclimated early in spring football. The nephew of Chuck and John Pagano has NFL blood in him and should be a good player for the Wolverines down the road.
He is a skilled pass rusher and the Wolverines do not have many of them on the roster at linebacker. It’s possible he could play some defensive end, but he is listed at linebacker for now.
#52 | Freshman | 6-3, 215 pounds | Ellenwood, Georgia
Mbem-Bosse has been receiving praise from coaches so far in fall camp, so it is possible he could get some early playing time. The former four-star prospect is the definition of a thumper and should be a fan favorite down the road when he ultimately sees the field.
#10 | Freshman | 6-3, 217 pounds | Miami, Florida
Uche joined Michigan’s 2016 recruiting class later in the cycle after Don Brown was brought in. The two had a relationship from Brown’s days at Boston College and it ultimately led Uche to Ann Arbor.
Uche is a bit undersized, as most freshman are right off the bat, but he is an explosive athlete that gets to the quarterback and has a great motor.
#4 | Redshirt Freshman | 6-4, 222 pounds | Lakeland, Florida
2015 statistics: Did not see game action
Jones was recruited as a defensive end, but is listed as a linebacker on Michigan’s 2016 roster. He did not see any playing time last season, but could do so this year on special teams. The former three-star prospect was one of the players that joined the 2015 class just after Jim Harbaugh was hired at U-M.
#59 | Redshirt Sophomore | 6-5, 238 pounds | Kenton, Ohio
2015 statistics: 9 games | 4 total tackles
Furbush saw the field as a special teams player in 2015 and a similar role is likely for the 2016 season. With the lack of proven depth at the position, the opportunity to rise up the ranks is there and we will see what he ends up doing this year.
Devin Gil (Fr.), Jack Dunaway (So.), Jared Wangler (Jr.), Peter Bush (Fr.), Wyatt Shallman (Sr.), Cheyenn Robertson (So.), Alex Kaminski (Jr.), Jameson Offerdahl (So.).
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