Michigan Spring Game: Keep a Keen Eye on Wolverines Defense

Eric BowmanFeatured ColumnistApril 12, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 03:  Logan Thomas #3 of the Virginia Tech Hokies is sacked by the Michigan Wolverines defense during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 3, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines' annual spring game will be held this Saturday, and the main focus will be all about the new-look defense. 

Some of the same guys are still there, as the Wolverines return seven starters. However, key contributors from last year's great defensive turnaround are gone, and replacing them will be quite the challenge. 

Everyone is well aware that the Wolverines will have a dynamic offense in 2012 with Denard Robinson running the show. It's the defense that's most in question, and this Saturday we'll be able to get a good look at some fresh new faces hoping to make an impact in the coming year. 

Michigan fans have faith that all will be well, though, thanks to defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. Before he took the job, the Wolverines were dreadful on defense. After an offseason under Mattison's direction, Michigan's defense did a complete 180 from the year before. 

One would think that in his second year, Mattison will be doing even greater things this offseason. He's got the tough challenge of finding some new stars to take over, but there's no question Mattison can have Michigan ready to go for the season opener. 

The spring game is a chance for lesser-known players to make a name for themselves, as many are competing for quality playing time.  

Coaches are looking to see how much progress their players have made this spring, and they will then evaluate where they stand. 

Perhaps the biggest concern and what most need to watch for this Saturday is the defensive tackle position. Mike Martin and Will Heininger are gone, which means it's time for other guys to rise up and become the leaders of the line. 

Senior Will Campbell and junior Jibreel Black have the upper leg, but guys like Kenny Wilkins, Richard Ash and Quinton Washington are all ready to show they can be elite. 

In addition to the defensive tackle position, the secondary is also in question. That was the weakest part of Michigan's defense a year ago, and a strong performance from the defensive backs in the spring game is a must. 

Robinson and his core group of receivers know they need to be better in 2012 as well, so they'll be aiming to dominate in the spring game. However, the secondary has to show it can handle the intensity of its own offense before it's ready to challenge the elites of the Big Ten. 

However, since Michigan will be facing stronger run games as opposed to top-notch passing attacks this coming season, the progression of the defensive front is of grave importance. 

So as you sit at home, or perhaps even make the trip to Ann Arbor, this Saturday to watch the spring game, stay glued on the defense. If Michigan is going to go far in 2012, it will need the defense to carry its own. 

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