Next in our Michigan Wolverines defensive depth chart series are the linebackers, a position group that has changed in a big way with the installation of Mike Macdonald’s new defense.
The Wolverines will now have a linebacker setup that has two guys playing on the inside and a pair of outside backers that have more of a pass-rushing role.
Michigan projects to run an odd front defense in base situations, but there are certain packages in play that would see the likes of Aidan Hutchinson, Taylor Upshaw, etc. playing upfront with their hands in the dirt. However, we will treat those guys as outside linebackers and cover them now after hitting on the defensive line earlier.
Here is a look at how the linebacker two-deep depth chart should look.
Outside Linebacker/Defensive End: Aidan Hutchinson, senior
Backup: Taylor Upshaw, fifth-year senior
Hutchinson is Michigan’s best all-around defensive player and will be a candidate for conference player of the year honors on that side of the ball. Macdonald’s defense is going to have him playing a more stand-up role in pass-rush situations while also putting him in a position to play in coverage down the field in certain scenarios. There will also be times where he plays more of a defensive end role with his hand in the dirt. They will be putting his versatility on display for NFL teams during his senior season.
Inside Linebacker: Josh Ross, fifth-year senior
Backup: Junior Colson, freshman
Ross is a leader and will probably be one of this team’s captains this year. His final season in Ann Arbor is one where Michigan hopes he’s able to put it all together on the field. Ross has been wildly inconsistent at times and can be a victim of mental mistakes. That cannot happen as one of the players everyone on that side of the ball will be counting on in 2021.
Colson is going to play a role this year if he is healthy. Word out of fall camp is that he did have a minor injury setback, but that it is not expected to be too serious. He is a guy that they might be able to move around a bit and let him get after it as a pass-rusher.
Inside Linebacker: Nikhai Hill-Green, sophomore
Backup: Mike Barrett, senior
Most had Barrett penciled in as a starter heading into the season, but Hill-Green has come on strong in fall camp and appears to have supplanted him heading into next week’s opener. That should be seen as a positive for Michigan, as Hill-Green bursting onto the scene now speaks to his development and also the long-term equity that comes with playing an underclassman. Barrett will still play a role, but it still is an adjustment to go from playing VIPER under Don Brown.
Outside Linebacker: David Ojabo, junior
Backup: Jaylen Harrell, sophomore
Ojabo pretty much fits the bill of a hybrid backer/edge prospect but is still so raw. A scheme change probably hinders a guy a bit who is still learning on the job, but he will have a role nonetheless. He has to because Michigan is not particularly deep anywhere at linebacker.
Harrell played in four games last year on special teams and will also be someone to keep an eye on in a rotational role.