September 27, 2008

Inside Michigan: Defense

MADISON, Wis. - One of the lone bright spots of Michigan's woeful 1-2 starts has been the play of their defense, particularly their defensive line. However, entering the Big Ten opener against the Badger's three headed rushing attack will be the stiffest test the Wolverines have had in 2008.

The following is an inside look at the maize and blue defense before Saturday's game:

Defensive line:

To put it simply, this is the strongest unit on the entire Michigan roster. Fifth year senior Tim Jamison, arguably the most dynamic pass rusher the Wolverines have to offer, resides at defensive end. Jamison, who will start his 17th consecutive game this weekend, leads the defensive line with 12 tackles, including three sacks. Defensive tackles Will Johnson, Terrance Taylor, and Brandon Graham round out the group that leads the Big Ten in rush defense by only allowing 65.3 yards per game on the ground.

"They're big guys that can run," UW running backs coach John Settle said. "Like I said, their front seven, they got four down linemen that are very good who if not all four, three of them will be playing on Sundays."

Linebackers:

In their first three games, the Wolverines have yet to see two things that UW will present on Saturday. One, Michigan has not seen a deeper, more powerful running game and two, they have yet to see as many talented tight ends Led by sophomore middle linebacker Obi Ezeh, who leads the team in tackles, the Wolverine linebackers will play a major impact in determining the result of the game. Will they be able to help limit the Badger running game? Will they be able to match-up with both somewhat nicked up Travis Beckum and Garrett Graham? If history is any indication, P.J. Hill has struggled against the maize and blue running the ball, but Beckum has often exposed Wolverine defenses. The answers that matters most will be seen Saturday.

Secondary:

Cornerback Morgan Trent has been around the Michigan program for many years. The fifth year senior will hope to avenge last season's loss to the Badgers and add to his two interceptions he has on the season.

The secondary main focus will be on slowing UW's tight ends. In three games, the Badgers wide receivers have yet to establish themselves as big play threats. Don't be surprised if safeties Stevie Brown and Brandon Harrison scoot up in the box, especially early in the game, to help slow the running game.

Special teams:
Punter Zoltan Mesko's 27 consecutive starts is most of any active Wolverine player. So far on the season, he is averaging 44.1 yards per punt and has downed seven inside the opponent's 20-yard line.

Kicker K.C. Lopata has connected on three of four field goal opportunities including a long of 50.

So far, the Badgers have had to face some of the top kick return men in the nation. However, in the early season, Michigan has not been overly impressive in that department. Sophomore Donovan Warren will return punts for a team that has averaged less than three yards per punt return and Boubacar Cissoko and Brandon Harrison will return kickoffs for the Wolverines.

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