Michigan Wolverines: Brandin Hawthorne

'Exit Interview' is a concept started last year at WolverineNation in which we chat with Michigan players who will not be returning to the Wolverines' football team next season about their careers.

Brandin Hawthorne was one of the small gaggle of players former Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez recruited from Pahokee, Fla., and from the beginning, he showed potential.

A special teams stalwart, Hawthorne had 63 tackles, three tackles for loss and an interception in his career. He is now making a run at professional football.

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.

Over the past few seasons, it appears as if Michigan has spent more scholarships and time focused on its special teams -- and with good reason. Since Zoltan Mesko left the Wolverines after the 2009 season, there have been lingering questions about all of Michigan’s specialists.

And even when Mesko was in Ann Arbor, there were concerns, although not about their now-Pro Bowl punter.

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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.

What happens with Michigan at weak side linebacker next season could be the key to the Wolverines’ flexibility at the position. While Desmond Morgan has been the starter for the majority of his career, holding off the now-departed Brandin Hawthorne in the process, he could be on the move after being pushed by someone younger behind him now.

It’s part of the nature of the evolution of a growing team, but whether it happens or now could be one of the more critical happenings this offseason for the Michigan defense.

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan’s path to winning the Outback Bowl just got more difficult. For the Wolverines, already trying to beat a top-10 team with a strong defense and a capable offense, losing starting cornerback J.T. Floyd, the most experienced and consistent corner on the roster, along with Big Ten punter of the year Will Hagerup is a big blow.

Now Michigan has to face South Carolina with sophomore Raymon Taylor and junior Courtney Avery as the starting cornerbacks. Taylor has proved he can play well against topflight opponents this season, but Avery has rarely been in a position to be an every-down player throughout his career.

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Thomas GordonLon Horwedell/Icon SMIThomas Gordon is Michigan's second-leading tackler and is jumping up the rankings.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- After its first loss to Notre Dame since 2008, the Wolverines also drop to 2-2 for the first time since that season, which was Rich Rodriguez’s first in Ann Arbor.

There were, though, positive signs for Michigan in a 13-6 loss to the Irish, and most of them were on defense.

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The Michigan 10: Week 3 

September, 17, 2012
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Fitzgerald ToussaintLon Horwedell/Icon SMIFitzgerald Toussaint got his first TD this season and got into the Michigan Ten for the first time, too.
A 50-point win against the worst team on Michigan’s schedule aside, the Wolverines now have a big jump in their schedule from UMass to Notre Dame.

Denard Robinson led the way against Massachusetts, accumulating almost 400 yards of offense on Michigan’s way to a 63-13 win over the Minutemen in a game where the Wolverines played a lot of young players, including backup quarterback Russell Bellomy for almost a quarter.

And once again, Robinson leads this week’s Michigan Ten, which rates the Wolverines based on performance and other factors relating to the team. As always, think of this like the stock market, with players able to move up or down weekly.

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The "Inside the Game" position preview series continues with the crux of any defense -- and long a position with a lot of lineage at both Michigan and Ohio State: Linebackers.

BuckeyeNation’s Austin Ward and WolverineNation’s Michael Rothstein take a look at the men in the middle of both defenses.


Michigan
Rothstein:
Michigan’s linebackers can rejoice. For the first time since any of them has been a Wolverine, they will play in essentially the same defensive scheme with the same defensive coordinator for the second season in a row.

And if you think that doesn’t make a difference, you’re kidding yourself. Even defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said as much, that having the players learning the same system for the second year allows for a faster refresher course along with more advanced teaching. And for the linebackers more than any other defensive position group, this is critical.

Michigan has the bulk of its main playmakers at the position back, including fifth-year senior Kenny Demens in the middle along with sophomores Desmond Morgan and Jake Ryan on the outside.

Demens is Michigan’s leading returning tackler with 94 last season, including three sacks. Morgan, as a freshman, was fifth in tackles with 63. At linebacker, that kind of production is expected.

That starting group, though, will be pushed. Junior Cam Gordon is fighting with Ryan for time, as is senior Brandin Hawthorne behind Morgan. Also involved are a gaggle of talented freshmen, including James Ross III, Royce Jenkins-Stone, Kaleb Ringer and Joe Bolden, who enrolled last spring and could see a lot of time his freshman season.

Still, though, it is a young group with a lot of room to grow and likely won’t see its true potential for another season or two.

Ohio State
Ward:
There may not be a linebacker with the name recognition of the Ohio State legends that have come before them.

By its own admission, the current group of Buckeyes didn’t live up to the expectations established by those predecessors.

But even without a Hawk or Laurinaitis this fall, the middle of the defense should be much improved even if there isn’t any established star on the roster during training camp.

Perhaps by the time the Buckeyes take on their rivals at the end of the season, though, sophomores Ryan Shazier and Curtis Grant could make themselves a lot more familiar to folks around the Big Ten. Shazier in particular began building some buzz for himself during a three-game tackling barrage when he was inserted into the starting lineup due to injury last season and responded with 30 takedowns.

Now Shazier appears to have a more permanent spot in the rotation, and along with Grant and senior Etienne Sabino they should give defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell a solid foundation to start with. While there isn’t much experience in reserve to work with right now, the Buckeyes loaded up with five talented signees in February who will ultimately be charged with restoring the program’s proud defensive tradition.

There probably won’t be as much pressure to do it right away with arguably the best line in the nation in front and a skilled, veteran secondary behind them. But they should be able to get things back on track either way.

WolverineNation mailbag 

May, 23, 2012
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Keshawn MartinMike Carter/US PresswireMichigan opening the B1G season with Michigan State in 2015 and 2016 raises eyebrows.
Just when we thought sporting excitement would be over for Michigan fans until September, the softball teams goes and upsets No. 9 Louisville and advances to the NCAA Super Regional.

We didn't get any softball questions this week, but if you have some lingering thoughts on the season, please send them in next week because we love hearing from our readers!

Mike will be taking care of next week's mailbag so email (michaelrothsteinespn@gmail.com) or tweet (@mikerothstein) your questions to him! But now, on to this week's questions…

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A couple of seasons ago, it was among the worst units on the Michigan roster. Now, however, the Wolverines linebacking corps enters this spring as one of the deepest and strongest units on the team.

Michigan loses depth at the position in J.B. Fitzgerald and Brandon Herron, but has the majority of its rotation players returning from a season ago. Linebacker is one of two positions to actually get deeper from the fall to the spring due to early enrollees.

Expect this position group to make positive movement this season, but here's what Michigan is looking at this spring.

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WolverineNation Roundtable 

January, 19, 2012
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Thomas GordonAP Photo/Carlos OsorioDon't be surprised if Thomas Gordon gets pushed by incoming freshman Jarrod Wilson for the starting spot at free safety.
Welcome to the WolverineNation roundtable, where staffers Chantel Jennings, Michael Rothstein and Tom VanHaaren discuss pressing issues and topics surrounding the Michigan sports landscape.

1. Where will the biggest position battles happen for the Michigan football team next season?

TV: This is a good question, and I think it should be along the defensive line. With Will Heininger, Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen leaving, there is plenty of opportunity for competition, mainly among Will Campbell, Quinton Washington, Richard Ash, Nathan Brink, and some of the other guys already on the roster.

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Midseason report: Michigan

October, 11, 2011
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Michigan Wolverines

Record: 6-0 (2-0 Big Ten)

The Brady Hoke era is off to a sparkling start, as Michigan reaches the halfway point with a perfect record and a team that can improve in several areas. Michigan has capitalized on a favorable early season schedule, sweeping its first five games at home before rallying for a win Saturday night at Northwestern. Although the competition level will increase in the second half, beginning Saturday at No. 23 Michigan State, Michigan is in good shape to challenge for the Legends division title. The biggest reason for optimism is a defense that has made strides after reaching historic lows the past three seasons. Michigan has allowed 10 points or fewer in four of its six wins, and it blanked Minnesota 58-0 to open Big Ten play. The defense is far from a finished product, but the influence of Hoke and coordinator Greg Mattison seems to be showing as the unit displays toughness and takeaway ability and adjusts well during the course of games. Michigan has reduced the major breakdowns that surfaced far too often in recent years. Offensive coordinator Al Borges has done a good job of blending his vision with the talent he inherited, namely star quarterback Denard Robinson. Although Robinson's passing has been shaky and likely will hurt Michigan in future games, his upside as a runner and a playmaker makes up for his miscues. Robinson's brilliant fourth quarter against Notre Dame helped secure a wild win, and he rebounded from three first-half interceptions in the Northwestern game with a huge second half.

Offensive MVP: Quarterback Denard Robinson. Who else? The 2010 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year hasn't been quite as dominant as he was in the first half of last season, although he's not far off. Robinson leads the Big Ten in rushing (120 ypg) and total offense (308.3 ypg), ranking fourth and eighth nationally, respectively, in those categories. The junior has eclipsed 100 rush yards in four of six games and has recorded three or more touchdowns in each of the past five games. Robinson has to trim his interceptions (9), but he hasn't let the picks get him down.

Defensive MVP: Safety Jordan Kovacs. There isn't an obvious choice, and Mattison's coaching has been the most valuable addition for Michigan, but Kovacs has played a big role in the defense's first-half renaissance. The former walk-on has been effective on blitzes, recording a team-leading three sacks. He has four tackles for loss, an interception, a forced fumble and 36 total tackles. Linebackers Brandin Hawthorne and Jake Ryan, and defensive tackle Mike Martin merit mentions as well.

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