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Monday, July 29, 2013
Most indispensable: No. 10 Cam Gordon

By Michael Rothstein

As Michigan’s preseason approaches at the end of this week, WolverineNation takes a look at the 10 players who are most indispensable for the Wolverines this season. This doesn’t mean the most talented players, but rather the players that if Michigan lost them, the team would be in the most trouble.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Cam Gordon has never been more than a contributor during his first four seasons at Michigan, bouncing between safety and linebacker, an athlete without a position.

Greg Mattison
Michigan Wolverines defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is looking for production from Cam Gordon as he tries to fill the shoes of Jake Ryan.
If Jake Ryan were healthy, he would likely be in the same spot, providing occasional relief for one of the best linebackers in the Big Ten. Then Ryan tore his ACL and Cam Gordon became the player with the most experience at a suddenly-thin position.

Gordon might still have to hold off linebacker-turned-rush end-turned-linebacker again Brennen Beyer, but the redshirt senior Gordon is the frontrunner to win the job. Considering what Ryan did for Michigan’s defense last season and the lack of depth behind Gordon, he is the No. 10 player on our most indispensable players list for 2013.

Last year’s stats: 17 tackles, three tackles for loss, one pass breakup

Where does he fit on Michigan’s offense/defense? As of now, Gordon is Michigan’s starting strong-side linebacker, a position that gave the Wolverines the most production a season ago. Most of that, though, was due to Ryan, who led Michigan in tackles (88) and tackles for loss (16). If Ryan were healthy, he would be among the top five on this list.

With Ryan out, Gordon is in a competition with Beyer for playing time. Should Gordon win the job -- and the likelihood is there will be a rotation between the two -- he needs to be capable of getting into opposing backfields. With an inexperienced defensive line in front of him, his ability to create havoc will be paramount to Michigan’s defensive success.

What happens if he’s out of the lineup? Michigan will go to Beyer, at least for the first half of the season. There is a chance Ryan could return to the lineup by midseason, but even then, there isn’t a guarantee he will immediately be healthy enough and feel confident enough on the knee to replicate what he did a season ago. Redshirt freshman Allen Gant is also a possibility here, but he is still in the midst of learning the position. Freshman Mike McCray II could also get a look here early, especially if Gordon or Beyer don’t give defensive coordinator Greg Mattison what he is looking for.

Bottom line, why is he critical to Michigan’s season? Gordon is not one of Michigan’s 10 most talented players. If he was, he would have been more than a special-teams standout and occasional fill-in linebacker for most of his career. But it goes back to what you’ll hear repeated a lot in this space this week.

With the depth and youth Michigan has, he is the most reliable, experienced option the Wolverines have. And right now, that makes him extremely important this season. If Ryan is able to return better and faster than expected, then Gordon’s role becomes much less critical.

Gordon always has had the physical abilities to be a good player. Now is his last chance to produce with it.