Michigan Wolverines: Allen Gant

We're taking snapshots of each position group with each Big Ten team entering the spring. Up next: the linebackers.

Illinois: The Illini lose an All-Big Ten player in Jonathan Brown but still have decent overall depth at linebacker. Mason Monheim started every game at middle linebacker in 2013, and Mike Svetina started all but one game at the star position. Both players return as juniors. Svetina will move into Brown's spot on the weak side, while the other position could be filled by T.J. Neal, who recorded 38 tackles last season. Ralph Cooper has logged significant reps as a reserve, and Eric Finney gives Illinois some flexibility after playing the star position (safety/outside linebacker).

Indiana: This becomes a more significant position under coordinator Brian Knorr, who plans to use a 3-4 alignment. Indiana should have enough depth to make the transition as it returns two full-time starters from 2013 -- David Cooper and T.J. Simmons -- as well as two part-time starters in Forisse Hardin and Clyde Newton, who started the final four games of his freshman season. Like Simmons and Newton, Marcus Oliver played a lot as a freshman and provides some depth. The key here will be converting all the experience into sharper, more consistent play.

Iowa: If you're of the mindset that Iowa always reloads at linebacker, you can rest easy this spring. If not, keep a very close eye on what happens as the Hawkeyes begin replacing one of the more productive linebacker groups in team history: James Morris, Christian Kirksey and Anthony Hitchens. There are high hopes for sophomore Reggie Spearman, who played in 10 games as a freshman last fall. Spearman, junior Travis Perry and senior Quinton Alston enter the spring as the front-runners to take over the top spots. The biggest challenge could be building depth behind them with Cole Fisher and others.

Maryland: The good news is the Terrapins return three productive starters from 2013 in Cole Farrand, L.A. Goree and Matt Robinson, who combined for 233 tackles, including 19 for loss. The bad news is Maryland loses its top playmaker at the position in Marcus Whitfield, who recorded nine sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss last season. But the overall picture is favorable, and the depth should be strong when Alex Twine and Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil return from their injuries. Young players such as Abner Logan (37 tackles in 2013) will push for more time.

Michigan: There are a lot of familiar faces in new positions as Michigan not only has shuffled the roles of its defensive assistant coaches, but also its top linebackers. Standout Jake Ryan moves from strong-side linebacker to the middle, while junior James Ross III moves from the weak side to the strong side and Desmond Morgan shifts from the middle to the weak side. Joe Bolden, who had 54 tackles last season, can play both outside and inside, and players such as Ben Gedeon, Royce Jenkins-Stone and Allen Gant add depth. The talent is there for a big year if the position switches pan out.

Michigan State: It won't be easy to replace the Big Ten's top linebacker tandem in Max Bullough and Denicos Allen, not to mention Rose Bowl hero Kyler Elsworth, but Michigan State has some promising options. Ed Davis appears ready to step in for Allen after recording four sacks as a sophomore. Junior Darien Harris and two redshirt freshmen, Shane Jones and Jon Reschke, will compete at middle linebacker. Returning starter Taiwan Jones is back at the star position, and Mylan Hicks should be in the rotation. Depth is a bit of a question mark here entering the spring.

Minnesota: The Gophers lose key pieces in all three areas of the defense, and linebacker is no exception as two starters (Aaron Hill and James Manuel) depart. Minnesota will lean on Damien Wilson, who started in 12 games at middle linebacker in his first season with the Gophers and recorded 78 tackles. Junior De'Vondre Campbell seems ready to claim a starting spot after backing up Manuel last season. There will be plenty of competition at the strong-side linebacker spot, as Nick Rallis, De'Niro Laster and others are in the mix. Jack Lynn is backing up Wilson at middle linebacker but could work his way into a starting spot on the outside with a good spring.

Nebraska: Optimism is building for the Blackshirts in 2014, thanks in large part to the returning linebackers. The three players who finished last season as the starters -- David Santos, Michael Rose and Zaire Anderson -- all are back, as Rose will lead the way in the middle. Josh Banderas and Nathan Gerry also have starting experience and return for 2014. If younger players such as Marcus Newby develop this spring, Nebraska could have the Big Ten's deepest group of linebackers, a dramatic departure from the Huskers' first few years in the conference. Good things are happening here.

Northwestern: The top two playmakers return here in Chi Chi Ariguzo and Collin Ellis, who combined for seven interceptions and 11.5 tackles for loss in 2014. Northwestern's challenge is replacing the leadership Damien Proby provided in the middle. Ellis has shifted from the strong side to the middle, and Northwestern has moved safety Jimmy Hall from safety to strong-side linebacker. Drew Smith and Hall will compete for the third starting spot throughout the offseason. Sophomores Jaylen Prater and Joseph Jones should provide some depth.

Ohio State: Coach Urban Meyer has made it clear that Ohio State needs more from the linebackers, so it's a huge offseason for this crew, which loses superstar Ryan Shazier. The Buckeyes return starters at the outside spots in Curtis Grant and Joshua Perry, although competition will continue throughout the spring and summer. Redshirt freshman Darron Lee surprisingly opened spring practice Tuesday working with Grant and Perry on the first-team defense. Camren Williams appeared in all 13 games as a reserve and will be part of the rotation, along with Trey Johnson. Meyer said last month that the incoming linebacker recruits won't redshirt, which means an opportunity for mid-year enrollee Raekwon McMillan.

Penn State: Linebacker U is looking for more bodies at the position after struggling with depth issues throughout 2013. The Lions lose leading tackler Glenn Carson but bring back two players, Mike Hull and Nyeem Wartman, who started most of the season. The new coaching staff is counting on Hull to become a star as a senior. Brandon Bell, who appeared in nine games and recorded 24 tackles as a freshman, will compete for a starting spot along with Gary Wooten. Penn State hopes Ben Kline can stay healthy as he provides some experience, and incoming freshman Troy Reeder could enter the rotation right away.

Purdue: Expect plenty of competition here as Purdue loses leading tackler Will Lucas and must get more consistent play from the group. Joe Gilliam started for most of the 2013 season and should occupy a top spot this fall. Sean Robinson also brings experience to the field, and Ryan Russell could fill more of a hybrid linebacker/defensive end role this season. Redshirt freshman Danny Ezechukwu is an intriguing prospect to watch this spring as he aims for a bigger role. Ezechukwu is just one of several younger players, including decorated incoming recruit Gelen Robinson, who have opportunities to make a splash.

Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights return a good deal of production here with Steve Longa and Kevin Snyder, who combined for 219 tackles, including 15 tackles for loss and five sacks. Quentin Gause also is back after racking up 53 tackles (8.5 for loss) in a mostly reserve role last season. Gause likely will claim the starting strong-side linebacker spot as Jamal Merrell departs. The starting spots are seemingly set, so Rutgers will look to build depth with Davon Jacobs, who had 30 tackles as a reserve last season, and L.J. Liston, both sophomores.

Wisconsin: Do-it-all linebacker Chris Borland is gone, along with Ethan Armstrong and Conor O'Neill, so Wisconsin must replace three of its top four tacklers from 2013. Derek Landisch and Joe Schobert can be penciled in as starters, along with Michael Caputo, who played mostly safety last season but should slide into one of the outside spots. Marcus Trotter brings experience to the rotation. The spotlight will be on younger linebackers such as Vince Biegel, who had 25 tackles last season, as well as dynamic sophomore Leon Jacobs and Alec James, a decorated recruit who redshirted in 2013.
Tags:

Maryland Terrapins, Michigan Wolverines, Big Ten Conference, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Northwestern Wildcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Penn State Nittany Lions, Purdue Boilermakers, Wisconsin Badgers, Michigan State Spartans, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Big Ten, Royce Jenkins-Stone, Jake Ryan, Jonathan Brown, Allen Gant, Joe Bolden, Ben Gedeon, Ryan Russell, Denicos Allen, Gelen Robinson, Max Bullough, Curtis Grant, James Ross III, Jon Reschke, Marcus Whitfield, Shane Jones, Chi Chi Ariguzo, David Santos, Trey Johnson, De'Vondre Campbell, Reggie Spearman, Raekwon McMillan, Zaire Anderson, Joshua Perry, Collin Ellis, Damien Wilson, Drew Smith, Derek Landisch, Eric Finney, Mike Svetina, Mason Monheim, Jimmy Hall, Leon Jacobs, Joe Gilliam, Josh Banderas, Joe Schobert, T.J. Simmons, Damien Proby, Mylan Hicks, Troy Reeder, Camren Williams, Taiwan Jones, Michael Rose, Ed Davis, Marcus Trotter, Brandon Bell, Nathan Gerry, Nyeem Wartman, Darien Harris, Brian Knorr, B1G spring positions 14, Matt Robinson, Abner Logan, Alec James, Alex Twine, Ben Kline, Clyde Newton, Cole Farrand, Cole Fisher, Danny Ezechukwu, Darron Lee, David Cooper, Davon Jacobs, De'Niro Laster, Forisse Hardin, Gary Wooten, Jack Lynn, Jamal Merrell, Jaylen Prater, Joseph Jones, Kevin Snyder, L.A. Goree, L.J. Liston, Marcus Newby, Marcus Oliver, Michael Trotter, Mike Hull, Nick Rallis, Quentin Gause, Quinton Alston, Ralph Cooper, Steve Longa, T.J. Neal, Travis Perry, Vince Biegel, Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil

At this time last year, prospects for the SAM linebacker position were great. But by the end of spring football, there were more questions and fears than anything else because of Jake Ryan’s ACL tear. But Ryan made a speedy recovery and an impressive return, and his absence early in the season brought more depth to the SAM spot. A lot can happen between now and next fall, but at this point, there seems to be the same optimism there was a year ago.

[+] EnlargeJake Ryan
Matthew O'Haren/USA TODAY SportsJake Ryan, coming off a torn ACL that cost him a sizable chunk of his junior season, should be the full-time SAM linebacker in 2014.
THE GOOD: Senior Cam Gordon and junior Brennen Beyer really played well as they stepped in for Ryan. Some wondered if there would be a huge drop in production or a gap in the defense without Ryan on the field and it really didn’t seem that noticeable in the first few games, which is a credit to Beyer, Gordon and the defensive coaches. In the 2012 season, Ryan took the majority of snaps at the SAM position and Beyer played on the defensive line, so neither Gordon nor Beyer came in with the experience of an upperclassman at the position. But with Ryan sidelined, both played very, very well, and when Ryan came back, the rotation still seemed to work. Gordon led the team in sacks (five) and Beyer was second on the team with five quarterback hurries. Ryan played in eight games and finished the season with 30 tackles. The position, as a whole, was productive. The three accounted for 97 tackles, including 17 for loss.

THE BAD: Obviously the Ryan injury was terribly unfortunate for both himself and the defense. Had he played a whole season and been 100 percent, he could have been in the running for conference or national awards, based in his production in 2012 as a sophomore. The injury also forced Beyer and Gordon to move around … again. Gordon came in to Michigan as a wide receiver before being moved to safety and then outside linebacker. Beyer has flip-flopped from SAM to defensive end nearly every season for the Wolverines. All things considered, the trio seemed to make the best out of a situation that was less than favorable.

THE FUTURE: Ryan will be the Wolverines’ starter in 2014 as a senior, and with another offseason of weight training and conditioning, he should be able to play almost full games at the spot. When he needs to take a break here and there, the coaches are going to have to decide whether they want to go with Beyer -- who should be back on the defensive line, but can come in at SAM to give Ryan a break -- or Allen Gant, who could use the experience as a sophomore but only played on special teams this season. Past that, the coaching staff would really be looking at true freshman talent, so it seems doubtful they’d get that far. Depending on the situation, Gant might be the better way to go because he’s going to need the experience. Ryan and Beyer will graduate after next season, so it would be good to have someone step into Ryan’s shoes with a bit of experience.

Previous posts:
Quarterback
Running back
Wide receiver
Tight end
Offensive line
Defensive line
Middle, weakside linebackers
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.

WolverineNation mailbag 

July, 2, 2013
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Position switches. Recruiting. Tickets? Yes, tickets. All of these topics are covered in this week’s WolverineNation mailbag, featuring your questions.

Have queries for next week, send them to jenningsespn@gmail.com or @chanteljennings on Twitter.

Now, for this week’s questions.

lbwcc010 from The Den asks: What do you think of the coaches decision to move Allen Gant from safety to strongside linebacker? And how do you think Gant will adjust?


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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- While Michigan’s offense has a bunch of questions surrounding who will play where and how much time freshmen might see, the Wolverines’ defense has other issues.

These, though, aren’t so bad.

Michigan has significant depth -- albeit some inexperience -- at every spot on its defense. This allows the Wolverines to come closer to reaching defensive coordinator Greg Mattison’s goal of being able to rotate players at both defensive line and linebacker to keep them fresh for later in games and later on in the season.

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The past two seasons have seen much of the same mantra when it came to the Michigan secondary. There would be Jordan Kovacs, the walk-on turned pro prospect who was the obvious leader of the secondary and almost the entire Wolverines defense.

Then there would be everyone else.

Not that they weren’t good players or didn’t make plays, but Kovacs had been such an unlikely story and such an obvious leader, everyone else was somewhat overshadowed.

[+] EnlargeThomas Gordon
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesThomas Gordon says he's comfortable sliding over to strong safety.
Thomas Gordon understood that to an extent. While Kovacs took many of the headlines, Gordon made nearly as many plays as an attacking safety with a penchant for forcing turnovers the past two seasons. Now, his role is shifting.

With Kovacs’ graduation and an ACL injury to linebacker Jake Ryan, Gordon is going to be the leader of Michigan’s defense, almost by default.

“I feel like guys tend to come to me for advice and stuff,” Gordon said. “I’m real natural at it.”

Natural or not, he wasn’t needed in that role in prior years. There was Kovacs, linebacker Kenny Demens and defensive end Craig Roh to handle those responsibilities. Gordon could be a voice, but he didn’t have to be the voice.

He could cede control of those things and just play. That is no longer an option, either in the secondary or on the defense as a whole. Michigan is replacing Kovacs and cornerback J.T. Floyd in the secondary, leaving Gordon as the most experienced defensive back on the roster by far.

“A lot of the time last year, they went back and forth, but Kovacs was definitely more of a vocal leader and made a lot of calls for us,” linebacker Desmond Morgan said. “Tom has really stepped up and he knows what’s going on for sure.

“He’s making calls first, before other guys are.”

(Read full post)

Depth chart analysis: Strong safety 

January, 23, 2013
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Jordan Kovacs and Jibreel BlackLeon Halip/Getty ImagesMichigan will miss the leadership and on-field play of Jordan Kovacs (32).
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.

Jordan Kovacs is gone from Michigan and with him leaves one of the most productive walk-ons in school history. The Wolverines lose a lot there, from a reliable player who was good against the run to one of the better leaders the school has had in recent seasons.

Replacing him, though, could be someone who has both experience and a high level of talent.

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan now has an idea of who it will play and who it will redshirt this season.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Wednesday that he feels comfortable with where his team stands now with its freshman class after 12 of them have played in the first two games of the season.

And if they haven’t played yet -- it is likely they won’t until 2013.

(Read full post)

Entrance Interview: Allen Gant 

June, 13, 2012
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Entrance Interview is a series at WolverineNation -- similar to our Exit Interview series -- where we chat with incoming Michigan football and men's basketball players about their thoughts as they start college, what their expectations are, and what they'll miss most about high school.

More than perhaps any other commit in the Class of 2012, Allen Gant (Sylvania, Ohio/Southview) understands what it is like to play at Michigan. After all, his father, Tony, played for the Wolverines under Bo Schembechler in the 1980s.

Now, the younger Gant has a chance to establish his own mark at Michigan as a defensive back. WolverineNation caught up with the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Gant as he was preparing to come to Ann Arbor.

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Joe BoldenMiller Safrit/ESPN.comEarly enrollee linebacker Joe Bolden could be the starter at the Mike position in 2014.
It’s always fun to look into the future and guess where players will be after the next few seasons. So Tom and Chantel decided to sit down and do their best to produce the depth chart for the beginning of the 2014 season. They aren’t coaches, nor are they scouts, but this is an educated guess at what could happen over the next few seasons. View the offensive depth chart here.

DEFENSIVE DEPTH CHART:

WDE:

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Gant's father reflects 

January, 11, 2012
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WolverineNation will be running Q&A’s with the parents of the Michigan commitments leading up to signing day to give their perspective on the recruiting process. Here is a look at what safety Allen Gant’s father, Tony, had to say.

Q: Are you happy with the way your son's recruitment turned out?


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Visitors' list for homecoming 

October, 26, 2011
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There won't be an abundance of top prospects at the Michigan-Purdue game, for several reasons -- mainly because high school playoffs are starting up, there are bigger games being played, and one prospect even has to babysit his cousin. Here is the list of prospects who will be on hand Saturday:

  • 2013 quarterback commit Shane Morris (Warren, Mich./De La Salle)
  • 2013 linebacker Karon Poole (Cincinnati/Winton Woods), brother of Wolverines LB Antonio Poole

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