Losing Josh Ross from a year ago is certainly disappointing, but the linebacker room returns a lot of talent from last year’s squad.
There are certainly some question marks on the defense heading into 2022, but I expect the linebacker group to be a solid unit for the 2022 Michigan Wolverines.
Without further ado, here’s the projected depth chart:
Junior Colson and Nikhai Hill-Green
Expect Colson and Hill-Green to get the most reps of the linebackers this season. Colson had seven starts last year and appeared in all 14 games. He had 61 tackles, half a sack and a big fumble recovery against Rutgers to seal the victory.
Hill-Green also had a healthy amount of starts last year with six, and also appeared in all 14 games. He racked up 50 tackles, with two of them being for a loss.
These two guys bring a lot of experience and toughness to the position, and should put up really good numbers in 2022.
Michael Barrett and Kalel Mullings
Barrett appeared in all 14 games last season as well, with one start at linebacker. He spent a lot of time with special teams in 2021 and totaled 20 tackles (1.5 for loss) and one sack on the year.
Mullings also brings a lot of experience as he appeared in 13 games for the Wolverines a year ago, spending time at linebacker in 10 of those games. Mullings finished the year with 11 tackles. The interesting part here is Mullings is also splitting time at running back, but I believe he will play a bigger role on defense as opposed to offense.
Having these two guys who played a lot last year behind Colson and Hill-Green will be great for the linebacker group, and they’ll be pushing those two all year long, too.
Jaydon Hood and Joey Velazquez
As we get down to the bottom of the depth, we have some guys with less experience. Hood appeared in one game last season at linebacker and recorded one tackle. Hood is a youngster and was a very highly touted recruit; his time will come.
Velazquez has more experience than Hood, as he appeared in eight games last year on special teams, but only two on defense. He had a huge fumble recovery against Wisconsin on a muffed punt and had two tackles on the year. He’s a scrappy guy who can go make plays when he needs to. Oh, and he’s quite the baseball player, too.
Other guys like Jimmy Rolder and Deuce Spurlock also will try and get some playing time as true freshmen, but they will likely have to push those veteran players to get on the field.
The linebacker group for 2022 is full of a lot of experienced guys. This should be one of the stronger units on the Wolverines’ defense.