Michigan Wolverines: Brennen Beyer
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.
Middle, weakside linebackers
THE BAD: The goal was to get a solid four-man rush, and the Wolverines never consistently achieved it in 2013. Michigan decided not to hire a D-line coach when Jeremy Montgomery left. Instead, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison and head coach Brady Hoke took over the defensive line responsibilities. With those two leading the way, there was an assumption that this unit would have been more productive than they actually were. Michigan recorded 25 sacks (65th nationally, seventh in the Big Ten) and opposing quarterbacks completed 42 passes of 20 or more yards (69th nationally, eighth in the Big Ten). The sack totals are on the D-line. The long completions are shared by the defense as a whole, but it definitely would’ve been better if the defensive line had been able to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks this season.
THE FUTURE: Clark, along with Beyer, are the leaders of this group. They’ll probably be the two starting defensive ends. Taco Charlton is a name to keep track of as he’ll likely be a backup at both positions. Henry should look to be more productive inside and will spend the offseason gaining chemistry with Ondre Pipkins. Chris Wormley is another player who showed major potential and will be a big contributor in 2014, especially if the defensive line rotates as much as it did last fall. From the 2014 class, defensive tackle Bryan Mone enrolled early so he’ll have a jump start on the competition during spring football. At 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds, he already has very good size for a tackle. By comparison, Henry is 6-foot-2, 306 pounds and Pipkins is 6-foot-3, 315 pounds.
Coulda, shoulda, woulda: Jake Butt
Coulda, shoulda, woulda: Derrick Green
Coulda … Put more pressure on opposing QBs throughout the season. It's hard to put a number or exact statistic on this, but Beyer is definitely one of the better pass rushers on the team. Chemistry is really important on the defensive line and with him up front gaining chemistry with other players early in the season, it would’ve allowed the line to be more consistent later in the season. It also would’ve meant another leader on the defensive line. Jibreel Black and Quinton Washington were good leaders up there, but having another upperclassmen to work with the younger guys, get players up for games, and keep them organized is never a bad thing, especially when some of the defensive line issues stemmed from communication problems. Beyer isn’t the loudest person in the world, but he’s definitely more talkative than Washington and a bit louder than Black.
Woulda … Had a better idea of what their line would look like through conference play. The Michigan defensive line didn’t reach the expectation for the position this season, but having Beyer take a few reps through the non-conference schedule would’ve given the D-line a chance to be closer to that expectation by the end of the season. The coaches should’ve trusted that Ryan would return, and had they started giving Beyer time on the line two or three weeks before they expected Ryan back, it would’ve given the defensive line a jump start in the Big Ten season.
The Michigan offense has lacked consistency this season, so this week will give the Wolverines an opportunity to find that and jell more as they begin what will be a tough stretch to end the season. Defensively, Michigan had appeared stout until last weekend against Indiana, so this off week gives that group a chance to regroup and examine what went wrong.
Here’s a closer look at what this week means on both sides of the ball.
Offensive coordinator Al Borges has a lot of talent on his side of the ball, but it hasn’t always come together to show the most cohesive, productive unit.
Taylor Lewan, Michael Schofield and Graham Glasgow are safe at the tackles and center spots, but it doesn’t really matter how well those three play if the guards let pressure through on both sides. Kyle Bosch, Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson and Chris Bryant all seem to be battling for those guard spots. With two full weeks to prep for the Michigan State game, it does seem likely -- at least with what the coaches want -- as though the starting group against the Spartans will be what Michigan will go with the rest of the season.
“We’re not eliminating anybody,” Borges said. “We still have some talented kids in the wings. We’re trying to keep this thing competitive. We got to this point where we’re pretty functional now, because we’ve kept it competitive. We don’t like doing it this way. We’d rather just have the same five from the beginning, but it hasn’t worked out that way.”
The O-line showed cohesion against Indiana and gave quarterback Devin Gardner plenty of time in the pocket. Gardner likely spent the week watching film with Borges to figure out how to attack the Michigan State defense. The Spartans boast the best defense in the country and have given up fewer than 14 points per game this season.
Gardner is going to need to continue improving his accuracy, as MSU will make sure to put its defense in prime positions to make plays on the ball. Already this season the Spartans have accounted for five defensive touchdowns.
However, they haven’t had to game plan against a tandem as unique as Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess. Both are effective but completely different as playmakers, and when one draws attention from a defense, the other seems to make big plays.
The Wolverines were ultra-effective in the pass and run game last weekend largely because they showed such a diverse offense, which in turn opened up the game for Gardner and allowed him and the playmakers to make plays.
“We’re not becoming a spread team but we’re going to have that dimension in our offense,” Borges said. “We’re going to have the ability to take you sideline to sideline; we’re going to have the ability to mow you over. If you have both, certain games one is going to be better than the other.”
Michigan’s defense looked so solid up until last week.
But it wasn’t the point total or the yardage total that disappointed defensive coordinator Greg Mattison the most. Instead, it was the fact that there weren’t 11 helmets running to the ball on every play. If the Wolverines want to take care of business next weekend in East Lansing, that (and many other things) will have to change.
“I feel very confident in our guys, because we’re going to work every second to do it,” Mattison said. “I know we’ll have Michigan defense back on that field the way it’s supposed to be when we play that game.”
The coaches haven’t come out and completely said what their plan is for Jake Ryan at this point. But if he is 100 percent and still has that quick step and instinct, it doesn’t seem like they’ll continue the three-play rotations they’ve employed with Ryan, Brennen Beyer and Cam Gordon for much longer.
If Ryan begins picking up more reps for the MSU game, it wouldn’t be too big of a surprise to see Beyer moved back to the defensive line to bring an extra body and experience to that group, while also being able to give Ryan a break here and there.
The secondary needs to clean it up this weekend. The Wolverines allowed several big plays over the past two weeks, and on many of them it seemed as though the defensive backs were right there but didn’t finish. But almost doesn’t cut it in football.
Mattison said Saturday’s disappointment for each position group on the defense could be a positive experience in the long run, as it’ll fuel each player for the rest of this season.
“That experience from Saturday -- you can’t pay for that, that feeling, and them seeing how it isn’t supposed to be,” Mattison said of the Indiana game. “You can’t pay for that. If you’re going to be a great defense, they’re going to remember that for a long time.”
- Minnesota AD Norwood Teague tells John Feinstein that he wants Jerry Kill to coach there for a very long time. Former Gophers players weigh in on Kill's situation. Kill's coordinators remain very much in his corner.
- RB Melvin Gordon is eager to return for Wisconsin this week. TE Jacob Pedersen also looks forward to returning to the field. Coach Gary Andersen reaches out to former Badgers players.
- Penn State needs some takeaways in the worst way. Despite two early losses, the Lions say they have plenty to play for. Penn State could bring back "Sweet Caroline" for Saturday's game after doing so against Kent State.
- Nebraska coach Bo Pelini has some interesting thoughts on hurry-up offenses. Young Huskers LBs Michael Rose and Jared Afalava are movin' on up.
- If LB Jake Ryan returns, Michigan will have added flexibility with Brennen Beyer. Will the Wolverines let Devin Funchess run wild again? Michigan gets ready for the noise in Happy Valley.
- Despite some shaky moments, Braxton Miller came through for Ohio State. That was an expensive touchdown the Buckeyes scored late Saturday night.
- Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald talks about his decision to challenge the spot on Saturday. Another physical test awaits the Wildcats in Madison. An excellent look at the ticket situation for Northwestern at Saturday's game.
- Despite some bright spots on offense, Michigan State still must be better in the red zone. Some good Spartans questions and answers.
- Indiana coach Kevin Wilson might have an offensive background, but he's spending more time with the Hoosiers' defense (subscription required). Pete DiPrimio wonders if IU can finally build on its success. Indiana's quarterbacks aim for Wilson's goal of 70 percent completions.
- Tom Dienhart's latest Big Ten bowl projections. Indiana's up-tempo offense will be tested Saturday in East Lansing.
- Illinois' latest commit for the 2014 class has a familiar name.
- Some quick thoughts on Iowa's loss. The Hawkeyes lost to a Michigan school but added a recruit from Detroit. The open week gives Iowa a chance to heal up.
- Purdue's Rob Henry shows he's a team-first guy by moving to safety. The Boilers' newest commit could play on either side of the ball.
- Dennis Dodd likes the look of the College Football Playoff selection committee.
- Ohio State coach Urban Meyer says that defensive tackle Michael Bennett's leadership has exceeded his expectations. RB Jordan Hall only had one carry against Wisconsin, but he's not a "forgotten man." Opponents have only gained three yards on Cameron Johnston's punts this season, and Kyle Rowland takes a deeper look at the Australian punter.
- USA Today's George Schroeder takes a look at the opportunity Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats have this weekend. Venric Mark's mojo is back and he's excited to get back on the field. Former NU coach Gary Barnett will return to Evanston Saturday to call the Northwestern-Ohio State game. Video: An inside look at halftime for Northwestern.
- The Wisconsin coaches predicted early on that Jared Abbrederis would have a big game against OSU. Wisconsin isn't happy with how penalized its offensive line was against Ohio State, and the Badgers aren't offering excuses. The bye week is coming at a clutch time for the Badgers.
- LB Brennen Beyer might be the Michigan defense's most important player. Michigan football manager Jon Falk -- who has been with the team for 40 years -- recounts some of his favorite Brown Jug stories. RS freshman DE Chris Wormley is glad to be back on the field after a year of injury and rehab.
- Michigan State OLB Taiwan Jones is looking forward to his matchup with Iowa RB Mark Weisman. Video: Graham Couch and Joe Rexrode discuss the Spartans kick returns, big plays and Big Ten opener. Quick coaching hires/fires are a part of today's game, but Mark Dantonio just does his job the best he can w/video.
- Jerry Kill is still waiting for a signature moment at Minnesota, but trophy games offer the possibility for one. The Gophers quickly shifted their focus from the Iowa loss to Michigan. Michigan will be a benchmark game for Minnesota again.
- Kirk Ferentz knows the MSU defense will be difficult to run against. Video: Ferentz discusses the Hawkeyes' Homecoming game vs. MSU.
- Penn State spent its bye week reviewing its identity as it heads in to Big Ten play. Bob Flounders' PSU mailbag answers questions regarding the offense and the secondary. Video: Junior safety Jesse Della Valle previews Indiana. Under Bill O'Brien, Penn State has gotten off to quick starts -- and it hopes to do the same against IU this weekend.
- Nebraska freshmen defensive players are prepping for Big Ten debuts. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck is keeping his mind open about the two-QB system. Bo Pelini is still unsure whether Taylor Martinez will play this weekend.
- Indiana is focusing on the run against Penn State. Kevin Wilson changed things up for the Hoosiers during the bye week.
- Illinois senior QB Nathan Scheelhaase will be the key to the Illini keeping its momentum in the Big Ten. Illinois (and Northwestern) could have defining games this weekend.
What we know so far
2. The linebackers might be the most solid position group on the team, even without Jake Ryan. Who would've thought that was possible? When Ryan went down with an ACL tear, for many Michigan fans it seemed as though their worlds were crashing down. But instead, Brennen Beyer has been a very good SAM linebacker, and Desmond Morgan and James Ross III both have been solid. Not to mention the depth behind those three in Cameron Gordon and Joe Bolden. With the expected return of Ryan sometime in October, it's pretty crazy to think how talented the linebackers will be and what exactly they'll do to distribute the wealth. Assuming Ryan is back in tip-top shape, the Wolverines could use Beyer on the both the D-line and at SAM ,as he has played both over the two years, or, Mattison could scheme completely differently.
3. The defense has bent but not broken -- under Greg Mattison this has seemed to be a trait of a Wolverine D. Whether it be because they lack depth at certain positions or the offense just keeps putting them in tough spots, the Michigan defense has found itself in a number of tight situations but been on the winning end nearly all the time. Between the quick-change situations because of turnovers or the quick scoring situations in other games, the Wolverines have found themselves trotting on the field just as quickly as they left it. In a lot of young teams, that kind of mental turnover can create mistakes, but Michigan hasn't been a victim of that too badly. The defense obviously needs work, but their focus and ability to respond hasn't gone unnoticed.
1. Is there enough talent/depth to put together an offensive line? Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield seem to be safe. However, the interior three spots are written in pencil, as Hoke and Al Borges have said over and over again. But the interior line has struggled quite a bit, specifically the last two games. Lewan said that Graham Glasgow, Jack Miller and Kyle Kalis displayed a sense of urgency in the second half against UConn, but that was about six quarters too late. Michigan really hasn't funneled anyone else through there, so the coaching staff was either waiting until the bye week to test guys at different positions, or they don't have enough depth (or they have too many injuries). It could be a combination of many things, but there's a decent chance that we won't see the same starting five against Minnesota.
2. What happened to Gardner? Can it really be fixed? Can it be avoided? Throughout his career, he seemed completely unfazed by the pressures of being a Michigan quarterback, going through a position change, stepping into the spotlight, what have you. But for some reason, all that came crashing down against Akron and UConn. The young, inexperienced Gardner came to the forefront, and for the most part, he looked out of synch. But give him some props -- when Michigan desperately needed a score against the Zips and Huskies, he got the Wolverines in position to get one. But outside of that, the turnovers looked atrocious. Worse yet, Hoke said they've reached a point where they're re-coaching him, or having to give him the same correction multiple times, because he's making the same error multiple times. That was not a problem earlier in his career. But it's crucial Michigan figures out what happened to Gardner, not only so they can fix it, but also so they can avoid it in the future.
3. Is the secondary going to step up? The Wolverines' defensive pressure up front has steadily improved through the non-conference schedule, and that has helped all the defenders behind it. It seems strange to start up front when discussing a problem with the secondary, but part of the reason the secondary is giving up so many big pass plays is the fact that the D-line's pass rush hasn't always been fantastic. Every single play of 20 or more yards the Wolverines have given up has been through the air. The secondary has played soft coverage time and time again, and the players keep getting beat. The Wolverines are going to face quarterbacks -- like Penn State's Christian Hackenberg, Nebraska's Taylor Martinez and Ohio State's Braxton Miller -- that will try to exploit that as much as they can, because that'll only open up the run game for their backs (or for themselves).
1. Michigan’s linebackers.
Jake Ryan who? (Kidding!) Junior Brennen Beyer’s QB hurry on the final play sealed the Wolverines’ win. Beyer had just two tackles total and one other quarterback hurry, but he was clutch when Michigan needed it most. And just one play before, junior Desmond Morgan came up with a huge tackle for a loss when he pushed Jawon Chisholm back 2 yards to the 4-yard line. Morgan finished with seven tackles, including two for losses. But it was sophomore James Ross III who had the biggest day of any Michigan linebacker, leading the way with 10 tackles, including one for a loss and one pass breakup.
2. WR Jehu Chesson.
The redshirt freshman caught the first pass of his career and turned it into a 33-yard TD. He showed good hands and breakaway speed on the play. Michigan’s wide receivers had a decent day; senior Jeremy Gallon could be a helmet-sticker guy as he led Michigan’s receivers on the day. However, Chesson’s first career TD happens only once.
3. Akron kicker Robert Stein/Goal post
The Wolverines won by four. Stein missed two field goals. So, math … this one should be self explanatory. Had he made those two kicks, the game might’ve turned out differently. Stein had nailed the first 45-yarder of the game and missed the second. And the Wolverines should send fruit baskets and thank you cards to the post, which blocked Stein’s second FG attempt.
1. This offense has the potential to be very good. Eight different receivers were involved in the passing game. Fitzgerald Toussaint looked solid and forced the Notre Dame front seven to be honest in deciding how to defend the Wolverines. Devin Gardner showed progress in his decision making, while also taking risks -- some good, others not as good -- that could pay off in the long run. All of those elements combined make for a pretty potent offense and the Wolverines showed flashes of that against the Irish. Whether it was Jeremy Gallon making a catch that just seems scientifically impossible or players around Gardner showing they know what to do when he scrambles, Michigan showed that it has the skill to really utilize the type of playbook that offensive coordinator Al Borges can put together.
2. The defense needs to make major strides. As a whole, the Michigan defense needs to be much more consistent. It allowed 18 plays of 10 or more yards and the Irish’s two true touchdowns were 75- and 90-yard drives in which they methodically marched down the field. The front four provided some pressure on Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees, but there were far too many times that he had to much time to sit in the pocket. Michigan showed off a few of Greg Mattison’s blitzes, which freed up guys like Brennen Beyer and Raymon Taylor for big-play opportunities. The secondary as a whole looked out of sorts at times and were at fault for several of Notre Dame’s big plays.
3. There’s a “clutchness” about this group. Even with the bad that was evident on the field, Michigan displayed that it has an ability to come up with the big plays when needed. In the Irish’s five trips to the red zone, they only scored three times and the Wolverines came up with what they needed to be successful. That trait is necessary for championship teams and finding ways to win is something the Wolverines haven’t always been able to do in the past.
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.
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2012 conference record: 6-2
Returning starters: Offense: 6; defense: 6; kicker/punter: 3
QB Devin Gardner, WR Jeremy Gallon, TE Devin Funchess, LT Taylor Lewan, RT Michael Schofield, DT Quinton Washington, LB Desmond Morgan, LB Jake Ryan, CB Raymon Taylor, S Thomas Gordon
QB Denard Robinson, WR Roy Roundtree, OG Patrick Omameh, C Elliott Mealer, DE Craig Roh, DT William Campbell, LB Kenny Demens, CB J.T. Floyd, S Jordan Kovacs
2012 statistical leaders
Rushing: Denard Robinson (1,266 yards)
Passing: Denard Robinson (1,319 yards)
Receiving: Jeremy Gallon* (829 yards)
Tackles: Jake Ryan* (88)
Sacks: Jake Ryan* (4.0)
Interceptions: Thomas Gordon* and Raymon Taylor* (2)
1. Defensive line fine: Michigan had to replace a four-year starter in Craig Roh as well as defensive tackle Will Campbell up front. It doesn’t seem like it will be an issue. Michigan has a potential star in Frank Clark at rush end as well as depth at the position with Mario Ojemudia and Taco Charlton. Keith Heitzman, for now, seems to have locked up a spot at strong side end, but there is a lot of talent there, too. The Wolverines have depth at all four spots and while competitions will continue into the fall, Michigan should be able to rotate at defensive coordinator Greg Mattison’s leisure.
2. Devin Gardner’s progression: After the way he played toward the end of last season, there was not much doubt about Gardner as the starter, but Michigan’s coaches appear happy with his growth throughout the offseason. He has developed as a quarterback the way the coaching staff has liked, and this is even more critical because he is the only healthy scholarship quarterback until Shane Morris arrives next month. Gardner's teammates believe in him and he is setting up for a big year.
3. Tight end weapons: Michigan still doesn’t have great depth at tight end, but what the Wolverines do have is a young group of guys who will become big targets for Gardner as the position evolves into a more featured role. Devin Funchess could have a breakout sophomore season and Jake Butt has a similar skill set. A.J. Williams slimmed down as well, perhaps turning him into more than just an extra blocker.
1. Who runs the ball: Michigan was never going to be able to answer this question in the spring with Fitzgerald Toussaint coming off a broken leg and freshmen Derrick Green and Deveon Smith still not on campus. But none of the running backs who participated in spring made a lasting impression on the coaches, meaning if he is healthy, Toussaint will likely receive the first chance at winning the job in the fall.
2. Can Jake Ryan be replaced: Michigan seems confident with its grouping of Brennen Beyer and Cam Gordon at strongside linebacker, but part of what made Ryan Michigan’s best defender was his ability to instinctively be around the ball. Whether or not Beyer or Gordon can do that in games remains to be seen. If the combination of those two can approximate that, Michigan’s defense should be fine.
3. Can the interior of the line hold up: Michigan is replacing both of its guards and its center. While the combination of redshirt sophomore Jack Miller at center and redshirt freshmen Ben Braden and Kyle Kalis at guard has a ton of talent, none have taken a meaningful snap in a game before. How they mesh with returning tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield, along with how they connect with each other on combination blocks on the inside, could determine not only Michigan’s running success this fall, but also how many games the Wolverines win in Brady Hoke’s third season.
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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Which one of these guys will be able to play right away?
In basketball this is a way of life. In football it can get dangerous, depending on the competition. As Michigan builds up its roster, it has had to rely on freshmen less and less, but this season the Wolverines still will need to look to some first-year players to be key contributors on offense and defense.
Here’s a look at five freshmen -- or spots -- where you could see rookies this fall.
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But those hopes were dashed when he tore his ACL just a few games into spring practice.
Now, the Wolverines have to look to rotate in other players with less experience or playmaking abilities, and by the sounds of it, two names have jumped to the forefront of the conversation -- Cam Gordon and Brennen Beyer.
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Our writers look at the impact of Ryan’s injury, Michigan’s matchup with Kansas and what happens in Atlanta in this week’s WolverineNation roundtable.
1. With Jake Ryan out indefinitely, what does that do to your expectations for Michigan football next season?
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Michigan Investigated By Feds
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45 Final Buffalo 24 San Diego State 49 Final Tulane 21 Louisiana-Lafayette 24
Final Pittsburgh 30 Bowling Green 27 Final Utah State 21 23 Northern Illinois 14
Final Marshall 31 Maryland 20 Final Syracuse 21 Minnesota 17 Final Brigham Young 16 Washington 31
Final Rutgers 16 Notre Dame 29 Final Cincinnati 17 North Carolina 39 Final Miami (FL) 9 18 Louisville 36 Final Michigan 14 Kansas State 31
Final Middle Tennessee 6 Navy 24 Final Ole Miss 25 Georgia Tech 17 Final 10 Oregon 30 Texas 7 Final 14 Arizona State 23 Texas Tech 37
Final Arizona 42 Boston College 19 Final Virginia Tech 12 17 UCLA 42 Final Rice 7 Mississippi State 44 Final 24 Duke 48 21 Texas A&M 52
Final Nebraska 24 22 Georgia 19 Final UNLV 14 North Texas 36 Final Iowa 14 16 LSU 21 Final 19 Wisconsin 24 9 South Carolina 34 Final 5 Stanford 20 4 Michigan State 24 Final 15 UCF 52 6 Baylor 42
Final 13 Oklahoma State 31 8 Missouri 41 Final 12 Clemson 40 7 Ohio State 35