Projecting Michigan’s 2018 defensive and special teams depth chart, post-Signing Day edition

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan has locked up its 2018 recruiting class, which means that we can begin to speculate who will fit at what position as the Wolverines prepare for spring practice.

Michigan loses only two starters on defense — defensive tackle Maurice Hurst and linebacker Mike McCray — and Chase Winovich’s return will boost an already strong defensive line. The secondary becomes crowded with the addition of a graduate transfer and several signees in the 2018 class. The secondary, particularly the safeties, is also where Michigan needs to make the most improvement.

Here’s a projection of Michigan’s 2018 defense entering spring practice and which newcomers could make an impact on the depth chart.

Defensive line

Who returns: Rashan Gary and Winovich highlight Michigan’s returnees on a defensive line deep with talent. Winovich chose to return for his final season of eligibility and will continue to flourish (79 tackles, 8 sacks, 6 quarterback hurries).

Who left: Hurst is a likely first-round NFL draft pick.

Newcomers: Michigan signed three defensive ends in its 2018 freshman class: Aidan Hutchinson, Taylor Upshaw and Julius Welschof. Upshaw is an early enrollee.

Depth chart projection: Michigan defensive line coach Greg Mattison has plenty of options at the position, one that he has cultivated for both skill and depth. Nose tackle will be a question mark for the Wolverines, who rotated three players at starter last season: Bryan Mone, Noah Furbush (a linebacker who started on the line in a 3-4 formation) and freshman Aubrey Solomon. The versatile Solomon impressed coaches with what Mattison labeled as “steady improvement” and earned late-season starting spots.

Position First team Second team
Defensive end Rashan Gary Carlo Kemp
Defensive tackle Bryan Mone Michael Dwumfour
Defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon Lawrence Marshall
Defensive end  Chase Winovich Kwity Paye

Linebackers

Who returns: Michigan returns Noah Furbush, Devin Bush and Khaleke Hudson to the position. Bush and Hudson had breakout seasons as sophomores. Bush became a Butkus Award finalist and had 102 tackles, 5 sacks and 8 pass breakups. Hudson primarily plays at the viper position, and aims to build on a sophomore campaign in which he had 83 tackles and 8 sacks, and  set a Big Ten Conference single-game record with 8 tackles for loss Nov. 4 against Minnesota.

Who left: McCray graduated and will pursue an NFL career.

Newcomers: Cameron McGrone joins the mix. He signed as part of the 2018 class.

Depth chart projection: Michigan has a bumper crop of linebackers who emerged as standouts in 2017, particularly Bush and Hudson. The question will be: Who steps into the weakside linebacker position that McCray vacates? Devin Gil is the likely choice.

Position First team Second team
WLB Devin Gil Jordan Anthony
SLB Devin Bush Josh Ross
MLB Noah Furbush Josh Uche
Viper Khaleke Hudson Jordan Glasgow

Cornerback

Who returns: Starters Lavert Hill and David Long will return. Long and Hill combined for 4 interceptions and 13 pass breakups, and helped Michigan become the nation’s top pass defense (150.1 yards a game). Michigan also returns sophomores Ambry Thomas and Benjamin St-Juste, and fifth-year senior Brandon Watson.

Who left: Michigan has no significant losses at cornerback.

Newcomers: Casey Hughes is a graduate transfer from Utah, and he can play at nickel or at safety. Hughes made 11 starts at cornerback for the Utes last season, with 35 tackles, a sack and 2 forced fumbles. Michigan loaded up at cornerback in its recruiting class with four incoming freshmen: Vincent Gray, Sammy Faustin, Myles Sims and Gemon Green.

Depth chart projection: Cornerback will be a crowded spot for the Wolverines. Hill and Long must assert themselves in the competition for starting spots, especially with Hughes entering the fold.

Position First team Second team
Cornerback Lavert Hill Ambry Thomas
Cornerback David Long Casey Hughes*

*Hughes played last season at Utah

Safety

Who returns: The Wolverines aren’t just stacked at cornerback. Like most of their defensive spots, they’re stacked at safety, too. Starters Josh Metellus and Tyree Kinnel return to help the nation’s No. 1 pass defense in 2017, but the key for the safeties this year is to strengthen their man-to-man coverage. Sophomores J’Marick Woods, Jaylen Kelly-Powell and Brad Hawkins also return.

Who left: Michigan has no significant losses at safety.

Newcomers: Michigan added only one safety in its recruiting class, German Green. Hughes also could see time at safety, given his speed and athleticism.

Depth chart projection: Given the difficulties Michigan’s safeties had last season, particularly in man-to-man coverage, this is where the competition could be reopened for the starting spots.

Position First team Second team
Safety Josh Metellus J’Marick Woods
Safety Tyree Kinnel Jaylen Kelly-Powell

Special teams

Who returns: The Wolverines return all of their major contributors on special teams. Kicker Quinn Nordin, punter Brad Robbins and punt returner Donovan Peoples-Jones lead the returnees.

Who left: James Foug, who handled kickoffs, graduated.

Newcomers: Michigan added punter George Caratan and kicker Jake Moody as walk-ons to its 2018 recruiting class.

Depth chart projection: The kicking job is Nordin’s to lose, after a sophomore season in which he went 19-for-24 on field goals, including four from 50 yards or more. Nordin also could shift over to handle kickoff responsibilities. Michigan needs to shore itself up at returner. Peoples-Jones needs to build on his 2017 baptism-by-fire at punt returner, and must assert himself in order to be productive at the position.

Position First team Second team
Kicker Quinn Nordin Jake Moody
Kickoff Quinn Nordin Jake Moody
Punter Brad Robbins George Caratan
Longsnapper Camaron Cheeseman
Punt returner Donovan Peoples-Jones Josh Metellus
Kickoff returner Ambry Thomas Kekoa Crawford

The post Projecting Michigan’s 2018 defensive and special teams depth chart, post-Signing Day edition appeared first on Land of 10.

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