Know thy enemy, Part II
First, I'd like to start off by sharing the bad news that Mike D'Andrea once again underwent season-ending knee surgery which will effectively end his football career. This is a sad end to what started out as such a promising career. The nation's #1 linebacker prospect saw immediate playing time as true freshman backing up All-American Matt Wilhelm. Ever since then, D'Andrea has played sparingly, battling off injuries, and it looks like his knee probably wouldn't even be able to play a game of pickup basketball when it's healthy. Sad, sad, sad...
Also, it appears Roy Hall is out for the NIU game.
In an announcement of my "week of previews," I've decided to cancel the NIU preview. If you want to read a high quality one, go to Buckeye Planet. That preview is hardcore. I just don't feel like writing anymore past today. Now, on to the Michigan defensive preview (much thanks to Brian from MGoBlog for the constant reference:
This just in: LaMarr Woodley is a freak. He may not have the big name recognition of superstar defensive ends like Quentin Moses or Gaines Adams, but he very well could before too long. He can stop the run or the pass, and he shows that with his 70 tackles recorded last season and his ability to fly into the backfield on obvious passing situations. One big game should launch Woodley into an All-American level. By far the best player on the Michigan defense. The rest of the line? The other starter at end will probably end up being sophomore Tim Jamison. Jamison didn't play all that much last season, but when he did, he was making plays as often as anyone on that defense. Another name to look out for is Rondell Biggs, and yes, he is pretty big (275 lbs) is an effective run stopper but pretty useless against the pass. At the tackle position Alan Branch will be a big factor on the defense, even if he doesn't pile up the stats. Much like Pitcock, Branch should help ease the strain on a run-defense that could struggle at times this season. He's no Gabe Watson, but Michigan fans should pray that he gives more effort than Watson did last year.
Senior Dave Harris was a breakthrough performer on the defense last year, leading the team with 88 tackles, and being disruptive in both pass defense and run stopping. However, according to mgoblog, the men on the outside, "went beyond ineffective straight into the realm of liability." Teams had no problem bouncing out runs to the outside and getting into the open field before being brought down by a defensive back (See: Troy Smith V1.0 and 2.0). The OLBs were often left out of position, but that may have been due to a lack of inexperience rather than just lack of talent. Then again, one of the starters last season was junior Prescott Burgess, a safety converted linebacker that was expected to explode onto the scene, but managed to fade off into oblivion at times, even though making a few highlight plays. Although I don't know much about him, Shawn Crable apparently was one of the stars of Spring Ball, and has probably put himself above Burgess in the depth chart. This group is very capable of growing into one of the better ones in the conference, but it seems like this team was too young to be on the field last year, and you have to wonder if one offseason was enough experience for them.
This secondary is very much comparable to the Buckeye's situation. One sure thing at one corner with Leon Hall, and three question marks. Now before I go on, let me just say that Leon Hall is a much better player than Jenkins is, and will probably prove that this season. Hall is a NFL-star waiting to happen, and the senior should put up quite a 2006 campaign -- that is -- if anyone throws his way. Opposite of Hall is a three way battle between two highly touted redshirt sophomores, and a third highly touted redshirt freshman, none of which I know anything about. Brandent Engleman and Willis Barringer make a dangerous safety duo that, may not make the biggest plays all the time, usually are mistake free and good in pass coverage. Jamar Adams may actually beat out Barringer for the starting job at free safety, but Engleman will probably stay put at SS.