2006 Season Preview: The DL
LaMarr Woodley (Senior) - former mega-recruit and occasional superstar is looking to come into his own this year. Well, not really come into his own so much as stay healthy enough to consistently dominate.
Alan Branch (Junior) - he's big and nimble and split time between DE and DT last year. Looks to replace Gabe Watson as the main man in the middle this year.
Rondell Biggs (RS Senior) - occasional starter at end over the past few years has good size and strength, but not the fastest.
Tim Jamison (RS Sophomore) - in contrast to Biggs, he is the undersized speedster at end that excels at rushing the passer. Has been banged up quite a bit during his career at Michigan.
Terrance Taylor (Sophomore) - former state powerlifting champ is looking to get some play on the interior this year and he will push for a starting spot.
Will Johnson (RS Sophomore) - a big guy with good strength who will be in the mix at DT this year. Not much experience yet in his career.
Jeremy Van Alstyne (RS Senior) - I don't know how on earth his career has gone by so fast. Maybe it's the repeated injury problems that have kept him off the field for huge stretches. But he has a motor that never quits and can really rush the passer off the edge.
What to expect?
Well, I think it's easiest to break this down into DEs and DTs.
Defensive End - LaMarr Woodley is the man outside. He has 32 career tackles for loss and 11 career sacks despite battling injuries. When he's healthy, there is not an OT in the nation that can handle him one on one. He's got a great burst and good strength and really knows how to get into the backfield. He's only 16 TFLs for moving into 2nd place on Michigan's career list behind Mark Messner. But who else will play opposite Woodley? Depends. Rondell Biggs is probably the front runner in rushing situations. He's big and strong and can hold the point of attack. But Tim Jamison and Jeremy Van Alstyne are much better pass rushers and I expect to see them get quite a bit of PT this year as Ron English tries to employ a more attacking scheme on D.
Defensive Tackle - much like Woodley on the outside, Alan Branch has 1 spot sewn up on the interior. He is a huge man that is surprisingly nimble and can play both inside and out. With Gabe Watson and Pat Massey both gone from last year, he is now the man at DT. Branch's strength is his pass rush and ability to get up field. I look for a big year out of Branch. Terrance Taylor and Will Johnson will likely fight for the spot next to Branch, and both are more in the Rob Renes/Josh Williams run stuffing tackle mold. At least with Pat Massey (God bless him) no longer around we probably won't have to watch our DTs get pushed off the ball nearly as much. This group should help free up the LBs to make some plays this year.
As a whole, this DL group is easily one of the most talented Michigan has seen in perhaps decades. Woodley and Branch are both dominant talents and game changers. I'm just hoping they can both stay healthy and keep working hard. But beyond them, Jamison and Van Alstyne are excellent pass rushers and Taylor and Johnson have good DT skills. Should be a fun group to watch this year.
Next up? The linebackers, a much maligned group in the recent past that is looking for big things this year.
Labels: Michigan Football