There are many uncertainties surrounding college football right now. The 2020 season is still in jeopardy, and even if a season does occur it will do so likely in empty stadiums with a conference-only schedule. Still, it is never too early to take a look at the Michigan depth chart and the players slated to contribute whenever football does resume. Join us as we comb through the roster and answer key questions heading into this fall.
Anthony Solomon, true SO
247 Composite Ranking: 4 stars (OLB 14, Overall 223)
2019 Stats: 1 tackle
It seemed like Anthony Solomon was a good redshirt candidate coming into 2019, but the coaches let him play out the full season instead. These snaps were basically all on special teams, and though he was a non-factor on defense, this experience in his first year on campus could give him a nice pathway to be someone in year two, especially with some openings on the outside.
Solomon is one of the team’s best options for Viper with Khaleke Hudson departed. His main competition is likely Michael Barrett, although players like Joey Velasquez should get a say as well. Solomon is not a lock for the role by any means, but this does seem like the best position for him on the field. He will have a lot to prove this fall, but should get a chance to do it.
Is Solomon the team’s most natural option at the Viper spot?
The Viper role under Don Brown is closely related to the strongside linebacker position with some nuances. The Sam role is closer to a defensive end, while the Viper looks more like a safety, but both require athleticism and versatility. With the number of subpackages in the defense, players are constantly coming on and off the field anyway, but it is important to call out the distinctions here.
Because the Viper is tasked with additional coverage duties (mostly against tight ends), the competition could favor someone like Solomon, who is a little smaller and more fluid than Barrett. The latter has some additional weight and could be the better fit at Sam, while Solomon was praised for his coverage in high school and is better suited between the two for a safety-ish Viper role.
Solomon has good acceleration but not elite speed, although he should not get burned in coverage nor be limited as a blitzer. The reason why he matches up so well with the Viper spot is he is a physical tackler and is fundamentally sound across the board, which should minimize his riskiness even as a first-time starter. His raw build and athleticism look ready for the part even if they are not in the top percentile, and while there could be some room for a little weight, he looks ready to go as a Viper right now.
I think it is possible the coaches slightly prefer Barrett overall due to his size and extra year on campus, but this does not spell the end for Solomon. It seems like both can and should see the field at the same time, and perhaps at first it is Solomon getting subbed off when the Wolverines want an extra defensive tackle, leaving Barrett to move over to Viper. However, given Solomon’s edge in coverage and excellent traditional linebacking skills, he should see plenty of playing time this fall.