Michigan's greatest concern defensively during head coach Brady Hoke's past two seasons has been a lack of a pass rush from the front four.
The only consistent pressure on the quarterback has come from the variety of blitzes called by defensive coordinator Greg Mattison.
It's questionable whether Ryan will be back at all next season. Hoke said at his press conference that the redshirt junior could be out anywhere from 6-12 months.
Ryan not only led the Wolverines in tackles with 88, he regularly created havoc in the defensive backfield with 12 TFLs and 4.5 sacks.
The challenge of improving the pass rush falls even more on Hoke's shoulders. Since assistant coach Jerry Montgomery left Michigan for Oklahoma, Hoke and Mattison decided to add position-coaching duties to their regular jobs.
Hoke, who took the toughest job for himself, is handling the interior line, while Mattison is prepping the defensive ends.
Starting on the interior line should be Quinton Washington at nose tackle, with Jibreel Black at 3-tech defensive tackle. Black, who's played both end and tackle, had three sacks last season while Washington had just one. In contrast, former Wolverine Brandon Graham posted 10 in 2008. Chris Hutchinson and Mark Messner were also pass-rushing freaks. Hutchinson registered 11 sacks in 1992 and Messner (1985-88) holds Michigan's career record of 36.
While there won't be any pass-rushers of that caliber this season, Hoke and Mattison are trying to build quality through numbers in addition to keeping their players fresh.
Mattison spoke of the plan at his Tuesday press conference (via mgoblog.com) :
My whole thing up front, and I’ve always wanted to do this, and at other places I’ve been able to do this—I love having the ability to rotate. My whole thing up front, and I’ve always wanted to do this, and at other places I’ve been able to do this—I love having the ability to rotate. I love having a guy, and I mentioned this to our guys in the film room last night because our first scrimmage, you could see guys were getting tired.
Chris Wormley and Frank Clark are slated to join Washington and Black as defensive line starters, but watch for Michigan to show off its improved depth by shuttling in Ondre Pipkins, Mario Ojemudia, Brennen Beyer, Willie Henry, Keith Heitzman, Matt Godin, Tom Strobel, Graham Glasgow and perhaps Taco Charlton every four or five plays.
If that doesn't work, Mattison might have one other trick up his sleeve. While John Beilein isn't looking, he might sneak 6'10”, 250-pound basketball star Mitch McGary away from Crisler Center. “No question about it. I already promised him he’d be a five-technique right away,” Mattison said, “and we’d get him a lot of sacks.” (mgoblog.com)