Jim Cnockeart on the Michigan Defense

More of our interview with The Ann Arbor News' <b>Jim Cnockeart</b>. Here are some great comments by Jim that we've reserved for our website subscribers on the 2003 Wolverine DEE-fense: it's headliner, it's biggest strength, it question marks, and its top newcomer.

Jim, who would you say is Michigan's Defensive Headliner this year?

"Marlin Jackson -- he may be the best defensive player in the Big Ten, whether at cornerback or safety."

Michigan's main defensive strength?

"Number one - cornerbacks. Marlon Jackson, Jeremy LeSueur and Markus Curry give them a lot of flexibility, to play all three at once if they want, with Jackson at safety as we saw in the final spring scrimmage. It looks like freshman Ryan Mundy may start out there as well."

"The defensive line is a close second. It'll be interesting to see how they adjust to a new position coach of course (Bill Sheridan, moved from linebackers coach when former DL coach Brady Hoke took the Ball State job). But with the veterans they have there, Grant Bowman, Norman Heuer and Alaim Kashama, pushed by highly regarded younger players Gabe Watson, Larry Harrison and Pat Massey, Coach Sheridan won't have to coach work ethic."

What would you say are Michigan's Defensive Question Marks?

"Number one - safety. Not that the talent isn't there, especially if Marlin Jackson plays there. Jon Shaw and Ernest Shazor and Willis Barringer and Jacob Stewart should have the ability, although Shazor is a question mark of course. And one of the talented freshmen may make an impact -- Prescott Burgess or maybe Ryan Mundy. Linebacker is also potentially a question mark because there are no returning 'stars' there. But if you look at the veterans coming back, along with the young guys who have now played quite a bit, I think there is a lot of depth. On the inside I think Carl Diggs will be recovered from his broken leg -- I'm more confident of his condition than Zach Kaufman's (ACL knee surgery) actually. Lawrence Reid would've played there last year had he not got sick -- he's okay now. And young guys Scott McClintock and Joey Sarantos got good experience last year. Also, Lloyd Carr praised redshirt freshman David Harris in the spring. At outside linebacker Pierre Woods is big and very athletic and a great kid, and then there's veteran Roy Manning who was back in the spring from his knee injury and can go either inside or outside. Sarantos may actually line up on the outside this year as well. So there are a lot of good linebackers."

Who would you says is Michigan's Top Defensive Newcomer?

"Well, we haven't heard Lloyd Carr talk about an incoming freshman like he did about Lamarr Woodley. Woodley, and maybe safety Prescott Burgess because of his position, strong safety. As far as redshirt freshmen and sophomores, I'm looking forward to watching defensive linemen Gabe Watson and Larry Harrison, who looks bigger every time I see him. And, because Michigan can pretty much name the score in their first two games (against Central Michigan and Houston), they should be able to get some young kids in -- I'm looking forward to seeing Ryan Mundy at corner or safety especially."

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