90 Tim Jamison Jr./So.
Or OLB 44 James McKinney So./Fr.
Or OLB 56 Lamarr Woodley Sr./Sr.
50 Jeremy VanAlstyne 5th./Sr.
91 Rondell Biggs 5th./Sr.
Or OLB 42 Chris McLaurin So./Fr.
96 Eugene Germany So./Fr.
80 Alan Branch Jr./Jr.
95 Marques Walton Jr./So.
67 Terrance Taylor So./So.
97 Will Johnson Jr./So.
Not a great year for the front line last year. Gabe Watson had a rather disappointing senior season as most felt he underachieved as the line anchor last year. As always he wore down in games and disappeared at times in games. Pat Massey had a very subpar year and found his tall frame as a disadvantage in terms of leverage. Will Johnson didn't show much early and saw his playing time fade as Gabe Watson finally made his way into the starting lineup after several games. Terrance Taylor didn't have much of an impact either in his freshman year and showed he needed some work. Lamarr Woodley had a down year as well. Fighting injury, he struggled to get off blocks against the run and wasn't a consistent pass rusher. Pierre Woods did made some plays from time to time but failed to close on plays well and didn't do well against the run. Maybe the lone bright spot of the line was Alan Branch who was simply unblock able at defensive end during stretches of games. He's very big for the position but he seems to be a mismatch out on the edge. Overall, the upperclassmen didn't play well and the younger talent didn't help out. This group was one of the reasons why Michigan struggled against the run.
Grade=C- (Branch saves this group from D land.)
Spring Preview 2006:
A lot of what they do will hinge on Lamarr Woodley. Woodley and the new coaching staff for that matter would like to use him as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 front. Whether this is practical or not will be determined in the spring. Woodley is still around the 270 mark and will need to shed quite of it to be in any kind of shape to drop in pass coverage. If Woodley doesn't fit well at outside linebacker, it will reshuffle the front. In a 4-3, expect the starters to be Lamarr Woodley and Tim Jamison at defensive end with Terrance Taylor and Alan Branch on the inside. Will Johnson, Marques Walton and Marques Slocum (if he qualifies) could compete inside as well. The 4-3 could be soft in the middle with Taylor's inexperience and with Branch playing much better at defensive end.
If the team goes with a 3-4 front, Branch would kick out to end, with Woodley falling back to outside linebacker and presumably Taylor manning the nose tackle position. The front would pretty much be the same if the team even went with a 3-3-5 type front. As you can see the situation of player placement is still working itself out. This is fluid heading into spring but this is most likely what they will start out with. One player I expect to have a breakout season is Tim Jamison. He is fully healthy and is back to having his dynamite explosion that he came into Michigan with. He could be a force as a pass rusher if he keeps progressing and stays healthy.
Will Johnson didn't anchor well last year against the run and will have to really improve here in the spring. Marques Walton has had issues that kept him from seeing playing time. He came to Michigan overweight, then got too light, then had motivation issues near the end of last season. If he's fired up to compete, I think this young man can work his way into the interior rotation. Seniors Rondell Biggs and Jeremy Van Alstyne are fairly decent against the run and make good depth ends in a 3 technique front. Eugene Germany is a very promising talent if and when he's in shape coming into the spring. Chris McLaurin and James McKinney are two versatile athletes who could be situational rush ends in a 4-3 front or be outside rush linebackers in a 3-4 alignment.
As you can see the front line offers some versatility. They have the interchangeable players to go into a 3-4 front, and also mix up a 4-3 and other fronts. The key here is seeing where Lamarr Woodley ends up. A lot will hinge on his position, as Michigan will try to get the most talent on the field as possible.
Turel's U-M Spring Preview: Defensive Line
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