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Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Depth chart analysis: Strongside end

By Michael Rothstein

Over the next few weeks, WolverineNation will look at every position on the Michigan roster and give a depth chart analysis of each position on the roster heading into the offseason.

Since Brady Hoke has taken over at Michigan, the strongside end has been a position of production for the Wolverines, from Ryan Van Bergen and Will Heininger in 2011 to Craig Roh last season. Now, though, the Wolverines will likely have a young, inexperienced player manning the spot for the first time in a few seasons.

Who that is will be up for debate.

The starter: Redshirt freshman Tom Strobel. In yet another close, tough competition -- not unlike at rush end -- the inexperienced Strobel could emerge to win the position. He redshirted this past season but has the size at 6-foot-6, 252 pounds to make an impact as a freshman. It wouldn’t be surprising, though, to see an almost balanced rotation this spot between three or four different players.

The depth: Redshirt sophomore Keith Heitzman, redshirt freshman Chris Wormley. Once again, a ton of youth at a defensive line position. Heitzman has the experience edge, having played in spots last season and made seven tackles with one tackle for loss. But Heitzman will see an intense challenge for playing time from Strobel, Wormley and potentially others depending if there are any shifts between positions in the offseason.

The question mark: Experience. Michigan is replacing Roh, a reliable four-year starter, at the position and a leader on the defensive line. While the Wolverines will have some experience on the interior of the line, this is a spot where there will be some growing pains. Will whomever wins the position -- Strobel, Heitzman, Wormley or someone transitioning over -- be able to handle the production level expected there.

The bottom line: This is the spot where there are the most questions on the line along with the least experience. The talent level is there and whomever plays will likely have the chance to have one-on-one opportunities playing next to Quinton Washington. Michigan will need this position to be able to win a good amount of those battles next season to open up lanes for the weakside linebacker.