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Friday, January 18, 2013
Depth chart analysis: Middle linebacker

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.

The one spot where Michigan will be breaking in a new linebacker next season is in the middle, where Kenny Demens graduates after two-plus seasons as a starter. By the time his career ended, Demens ended up being a fairly reliable backer for the Wolverines and someone who could be depended on in pass coverage.

His loss will be underrated because of the talent behind him at the position, but whomever fills that slot will have some adjustment early on. There are a lot of candidates for that, though.

The starter: Junior Desmond Morgan. After two seasons on the outside, Michigan may look to move Morgan inside to replace the departing Demens. Michigan already experimented with this at points last season, especially when facing spread teams and moving Demens outside on a receiver or tight end. The move would put Morgan, who is a smart player and the son of a football coach, in the middle. He’ll have major competition either here or at weak side linebacker, but unseating the two-year starter somewhere will be difficult. No matter where he ends up, though, expect him in a time share.

Desmond Morgan
Desmond Morgan has been the weakside linebacker the last two seasons but is expected to move inside.
The depth: Sophomores Joe Bolden and Royce Jenkins-Stone. Redshirt freshman Kaleb Ringer. Bolden played the majority of the Outback Bowl after Demens left the game in the first half with injury at at one point this season had pushed Demens for serious playing time. He has a lot of potential and likely will be in a time share situation with Morgan. If Morgan were to stay on the outside, expect Bolden to start here, with Jenkins-Stone pushing him hard for time. Ringer is a question since he was hurt last season, but the Wolverines are young and deep at this position.

The question mark: Can Morgan adjust? This is a leap somewhat to move Morgan to the inside, but all indications are he would be able to handle the position pretty well. He has good instincts and with Ryan and likely James Ross III on the outside, if he does make a wrong read, he will have speedy help to allow him to recover. Morgan’s intelligence to make the right calls for the defense would also have to show up here, but there is little reason to think he won’t be able to handle that.

The bottom line: Yet another position of strength for Michigan, which will have options here no matter who wins the job. No matter who the “starter” is at this spot, expect to see a rotation. As with the defensive line, if Greg Mattison can, he would like to see a rotation take over to keep his players fresh both in games and later on in the season. Jenkins-Stone could be the wild card here. He has the skills to beat out both Morgan and Bolden and with a full offseason, he could make a major play here.