While the offensive side of the official depth chart lacked many unexpected moves, its defensive counterpart has some very intriguing — and unforeseen — twists:
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The first thing that jumps out to me on the defensive line is the placement of sophomore Will Campbell — third string, a disappointing spot to be in for the former five-star recruit, who showed up to camp overweight at 333 pounds. He is stick behind senior Adam Patterson, who has all of eight career tackles in 25 appearances.
True freshman Jibreel Black earned a spot on the two-deep behind Ryan Van Bergen at defensive end, a very good sign from a player many thought would contribute immediately. The absence of redshirt freshman Anthony LaLota — especially in lieu of redshirt junior Steve Watson, who is on his third position in four years as a Wolverine — might not be a good sign for the former four-star prospect.
Your starting defensive line is redshirt junior Ryan Van Bergen at defensive end, junior Mike Martin at nose tackle, and redshirt senior Greg Banks defensive tackle. That’s a lot of experience along the line — this should be a strong unit up front.
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They weren’t kidding about redshirt senior Mark Moundros making a serious run at Obi Ezeh for the middle linebacker spot — the former fullback is listed as a co-starter with Ezeh, who was benched late last season despite making 31 career starts in three seasons. This is a position battle that could very easily continue into the season, especially as Moundros becomes more accustomed to the defensive side of the ball. Sophomore Craig Roh and redshirt senior Jonas Mouton are your other starters. Roh is finally at the proper weight for a player who will spend the majority of his time blitzing, while Mouton has been impressive in fall practices after a disappointing 2009 season.
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At cornerback, senior James Rogers gets the nod for now to start across from redshirt sophomore J.T. Floyd. As expected, the backups at corner are all true freshmen — Terrence Talbott and Cullen Christian back up Rogers, and Courtney Avery sits behind Floyd.
The biggest surprise on the depth chart is true freshman Carvin Johnson’s rise to the top of the depth chart at spur. Johnson was an unranked recruit when he first committed to Michigan, but finished as a high-ranked three-star who was creating a lot of buzz on blogs and message boards. He moves ahead of redshirt freshman Thomas Gordon, who most projected as the starter, and walk-on Floyd Simmons. Another true freshman safety, Marvin Robinson, has also landed on the two-deep — he sits behind Jordan Kovacs at bandit.
Redshirt freshman Cameron Gordon stays atop the two-deep at free safety, where is he backed up by another walk-on, redshirt junior Jared Van Slyke. Redshirt freshman Vlad Emilien, who many presumed would at the very least challenge for the starting job, is stuck at third string.
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The battle at placekicker is still ongoing between Brendan Gibbons, Rivals.com’s No. 8 kicker in the class of 2009, and walk-on Seth Broekhuizen, a fellow redshirt freshman. True freshman and Army All-American Will Hagerup will start at punter, with Broekhuizen at backup. It could be an up-and-down year in the kicking department with two freshman handling the specialist duties — keep in mind the team will also have to find a replacement for kickoff specialist Bryan Wright, who transferred to Bowling Green for his fifth year.
Darryl Stonum will once again be Michigan’s top kickoff returner after he averaged 25.7 yards per return in 2009 and set the school record for single-season kickoff return yards with 1,001. He will be backed up by Martavious Odoms, who is one of three receivers vying for the punt return job, along with redshirt freshman Jeremy Gallon and redshirt sophomore Terrence Robinson. Stonum should once again be an excellent return man, and Michigan should at least have a sure-handed player handling punts among the three candidates.