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Insider

Depth chart analysis: Defense, special teams

8/27/2012

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan decided to go big after all.

After weeks of speculation and a spring of experimentation which saw Jibreel Black move inside and Brennen Beyer as the likely starter at rush end, it turns out none of that will actually happen.

The Wolverines will instead go with a larger offensive line consisting of Black at rush end -- the position he played last season -- Craig Roh at strongside end, Will Campbell at defensive tackle and Quinton Washington at the nose tackle.

This was a grouping the coaching staff alluded to last week as a bigger package, but judging from the depth chart it also seems to be the four the coaches are most comfortable with at this point. Last week, Hoke said he was looking at this group to offer the coaching staff flexibility when it came to certain decisions they would make based on game situations.

What it says, though, is at least for Alabama, Michigan feels it will need as much bulk as possible up front. Instead of Black at 279 pounds as a defensive tackle, the Wolverines will bring two 300-pounders on the inside in Campbell (308 pounds) and Washington (300 pounds). At the nose, that Washington is backed up by Richard Ash (300 pounds) and Ondre Pipkins (340 pounds) speaks even more to Michigan’s need for up-front size.

The defensive line shift is the biggest noisemaker among the defensive depth chart, although three freshmen are listed as primary backups in the back seven -- Joe Bolden at middle linebacker behind Kenny Demens, James Ross III behind Desmond Morgan at weakside linebacker and Jarrod Wilson behind Thomas Gordon at free safety. Two of the three were expected based off showing up early and strong springs. Ross III is somewhat of a surprise but there isn’t much depth there.

With specialists, freshman Dennis Norfleet seems the most likely of all freshmen to receive playing time, listed as the No. 2 punt returner and the No. 2 kick returner, meaning he’ll be on field more than likely on returns in some manner.

That isn’t surprising, though, considering Michigan coach Brady Hoke has referred to Norfleet’s special return skills more than once this fall.