Last year's 3-9 season was a disgrace for the nation's winningest all-time program.
Everyone expected the offense to struggle, but the defense was supposed to keep the Maize and Blue in games. And they did manage to do that, even though outside supporters wouldn't realize that.
The Wolverines outscored Wisconsin 27-6 in the second half of their first big ten game to upset the Badgers, and later in the year held a high-powered Minnesota offense in check during a 29-6 win.
The problem was that Michigan was dominated in time of possession last season, forcing the defense to be on the field longer then they could stand.
With the Wolverines entering year two in the Rich Rodriguez era, the offense will definitely be improved. The question mark this year is the defense, which lost seven starters.
Here is a breakdown of what the 2009 Michigan Defense will look like.
Brandon Graham is arguably the best pass-rusher in the Big Ten, and will hold the line down for his senior season. The question is: Who will be joining Graham to form the front four?
Greg Banks or Ryan Van Bergen will play the other defensive end position with Brandon Graham. Michigan should be able to rotate in some linemen to see which guys cause the most havoc for opposing offenses. Mike Martin, Renaldo Sagesse, and Adam Patterson will most-likely be the top three candidates for the job.
The defensive line lost manmouth nose tackle Terrance Taylor to the NFL Draft, as well as Will Johnson and Tim Jamison. The group will need someone along with Graham to help produce a steady pass rush and shut down the run.
The line-backing unit returns ball-hawk Obi Ezeh, who will play the middle. Joining him will be Jonas Mouton and last year's safety Stevie Brown, who has made the move to outside backer.
J.B. Fitzgerald will also see some good playing time, as he appeared in all 12 games last season, too.
The front seven lost five starters and will need to improve day-by-day this off-season. Ezeh and Graham will need to set the tone for the Michigan defense to keep the younger, inexperienced guys focused on the task at hand.
With Stevie Brown moving to linebacker, Troy Woolfolk will make the transition from corner to safety, making Boubacar Ciccoko and Donovan Warren the two starting cornerbacks. As it stands now, it looks as if sophomore Brandon Smith will be joining Woolfolk at the other safety position.
This group is probably the most experienced, with Warren being a two-year starter, and Woolfolk and Ciccoko both seeing action last year primarily in nickle packages.
If they can prevent letting up the home run play, whether it be a long pass or a running-back looking for daylight, the secondary will be able to hold their ground as the last line of defense.
The Unit in Review
Last season, this was the unit that was supposed to help Michigan pull through games with inexperience on the offensive side of the ball. This year, the roles are reversed, as this is now the "young unit".
If Senior captain Brandon Graham can bring his unit together, the Michigan defense can surprise a lot of people this fall.
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