Michigan had an embarrassment of riches on the defensive line a season ago. It appeared, at times, that the defensive coaching staff had unlimited combinations of players it could send out that had some sort of game experience.
This season? Not so much.
U-M returns some players that have playing experience but others are behind the learning curve. The emphasis this spring is getting other players up to speed, according to defensive line coach Greg Mattison. The Wolverines were fortunate last season that they didn't have to worry about advancing players up to speed. This season is a whole different story.
The gap needs to get closed and closed fast.
"I think the biggest thing with depth is that these guys behind them have to move faster towards that level than the last group did," Mattison said. "The last group were right on that verge then they were that. This group hasn't been in playing time, they've been redshirted or they're freshman. So they haven't really been on that field to earn that next step to get up to that level, to be able to rotate. We always take about you earn the right to rotate. Two things can happen, if you don't earn the right to rotate you have four guys playing the whole time and they're never going to play as good as if you have guys to rotate for them.
"That's a big thing for us that some of these guys behind them have got to close that gap fast and they're working on it."
Mattison was asked which of the younger players were stepping up this spring, he didn't hesitate to mention two immediately.
"Carlo Kemp has had a very, very good spring," Mattison said. "We kind of thought that last year when he came in early. I would say Carlo Kemp is one who has really shown some things. He shows that he is the ability and now he has to do it every play and every day. That's usually the thing that separates people, the ones that can show it but there's a day off. You've got to do it every day and play and I think he understands that. A couple of other young kids that have shown talent, Donovan Jeter has shown some things. He showed us that he can do some things and those are the two guys that have really stepped forward at times. Now we have to bring some of the other guys along."