This week we’ll be sorting through the roster of each Big Ten team to search for the biggest gaps that need to be filled in the 2016 and how each coaching staff is working to address them during the final weeks of recruiting season. Next on the list is Michigan.
Biggest need for 2016: The Wolverines return players with significant starting experience at every position this year but one -- linebacker. Fifth-year veterans Joe Bolden and Desmond Morgan are both done with their college careers. Seniors James Ross and Royce Jenkins-Stone are also out of eligibility. That leaves Ben Gedeon and his one career start as the most experienced member of the middle of Michigan’s defense.
New defensive coordinator Don Brown and first-time college linebackers coach Chris Partridge have some decisions to make about how many linebackers they are going to put on the field on a regular basis and which ones they will choose. The Wolverines have enough depth and talent in the secondary to use a 4-2-5 formation frequently, but they will still need to find at least two trustworthy playmakers in the middle to operate what promises to be a blitz-heavy defense.
Michigan’s outgoing linebackers helped a stout run defense (122.2 yards per game) for most of the season, but issues with tackling and speed hurt them late in the season. Indiana and Ohio State each rushed for more than 300 yards in late-November games, and both scored more than 40 points. The next crop of linebackers headed to Ann Arbor will need to have the quickness needed to better contain a spread rushing attack. – Dan Murphy
How the 2016 recruiting class might help: Michigan has an outstanding recruiting class in 2016, ranked No. 4 overall and hitting on some important needs for the future. One of those is at linebacker, where the staff was able to land Devin Bush Jr. and Dytarious Johnson.
Bush Jr. is a Florida State legacy and Florida native, so that was a huge get for Michigan to pull him away from his father’s alma mater.
Carlo Kemp is technically a defensive end commit, but could also lend some help as an outside linebacker depending on what scheme Michigan deploys.
The Wolverines aren’t done yet at linebacker as they are also hoping to land another Florida prospect -- Jonathan Jones -- who has narrowed his list to Michigan and Notre Dame. – Tom VanHaaren