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An Early Look At 2017 Michigan Football: Linebackers Preview

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Can Michigan’s linebackers actually be faster without Peppers?
Photo credit: Patrick Barron, MGoBlog

The Personnel

Who’s definitely leaving? Middle linebacker Ben Gedeon, and a fellow named Jabrill, will be saying so long.

Who might, or might not, be around? Only one guy here worth mentioning, and it’s a recruiting question: Willie Gay is a really good linebacker prospect, but there’s been a very tight recruiting race with LSU and others.

So, who’s definitely going to be in town, then? There are a lot of faces returning, but only a few that fans know well: Mike McCray is set to return, as well as Devin Bush, Noah Furbush, Mike Wroblewski, Carlo Kemp, Elysee Mbem-Bosse, Josh Uche, and Devin Gil.

Some more faces are on their way to Ann Arbor as we speak are Jordan Anthony, Drew Singleton, and Josh Ross. Some “vipers” who could replace Jabrill Peppers at the strongside linebacker position are Josh Metellus and Jordan Glasgow. I’ll save some of the conversation for these guys for the DB preview, but Metellus seems likely to start at SAM.

The Depth Chart

The presumed starters: It’s a pretty safe bet that Devin Bush takes over the weakside from Mike McCray, and that McCray takes over the middle from Ben Gedeon. At SAM/Viper, Josh Metellus really took over the job during the Orange Bowl, and he’s almost a safe bet to start as well.

Right on their heels: There are a couple guys I really like, maybe a little too much, at middle linebacker: Mike Wroblewski and Carlo Kemp. Wroblewski is more of a veteran guy, not on scholarship to my understanding, but a very, very solid middle linebacker. He could be starting on some Big Ten clubs and you wouldn’t think anything of it. Meanwhile, Carlo Kemp is a young phenom who looks like a wall of bricks in the run game.

On the outside, I think Devin Gil, Noah Furbush and Jordan Anthony will be competing for snaps, plus whoever else Michigan goes with in their nickel package.

Capitol One Orange Bowl - Florida State v Michigan Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images

Outside looking in: I’m a fan of Drew Singleton and Josh Ross as prospects, but I don’t think they’ll get a lot of playing time this year. Elysee Mbem-Bosse and Josh Uche are also darkhorses for playing time.

Three Questions

How bad are the growing pains on the strong side? Whether it’s Josh Metellus, Jordan Glasgow/Anthony, Noah Furbush, Willie Gay or someone else, Michigan will be turning to someone without a lot of playing experience. How well these guys handle the mental part of the game will determine how solid this position really is - and that’s something we can’t find out until fall camp comes around.

Is the speed a step up from 2016? I like Mike McCray a lot at the MIKE position; I think he’s actually very similar to OSU’s Raekwon McMillan with his size (248 to McMillan’s 243), speed and comparable coverage ability. With Devin Bush on the weak side, this linebacking corps is getting faster and better in coverage at those two positions.

But, there’s still the issue of replacing Jabrill. Josh Metellus is a very good option, and hopefully he really takes the position over. It would be amazing to increase this team’s overall speed in what many are predicting as a ‘down year.’

How many ‘dudes’ do we have? There are a lot of names to sort through at linebacker. Who is able to step up among the guys who aren’t playing? How ridiculous is this group for 2018 and beyond? This group hasn’t really put their stamp on the defense the last two years; hopefully that changes soon.

Final Verdict

I like this position to take a step forward in 2017. They’ll be faster at two positions, which eases the pain of replacing Jabrill as a play-maker. They’ll be better at getting home on the blitz and doing other Don Brown things. Plus, the depth has really solidified in the last year. How quickly do the young guys develop? How well can the starters play? We’ll start finding out in the spring.