2016 Michigan Football Season Preview: 5 Defensive Breakout Candidates

Every year, players emerge from nowhere as mainstays on the field for Michigan’s football team. At this time last year, no one had mentioned Channing Stribling or Ryan Glasgow as important contributors to the defense, but now they’re top producers in UM’s defense.

It’s going to happen again and there are plenty of candidates to do this fall. Check out who Fish and myself believe could be those breakout players:

Evan Paputa

1. LB Ben Gedeon, Hudson, OH (6’3″ 248-pounds)

Summary: Gedeon had solid freshman and sophomore campaigns before taking a step back as a junior with his second defensive coordinator. With his third defensive coordinator in as many years, Gedeon has the opportunity to be a leader at the linebacker position with virtually no starting experience returning.

2. DE Lawrence Marshall, Southfield, MI (6’4″ 250-pounds)

Summary: One thing new defensive coordinator Don Brown has said since arriving in Ann Arbor is that he values depth on the defensive line. Although Rashan Gary and Chris Wormley likely slated as the starters at defensive end, Marshall is good enough to come in for either and the defense won’t miss a beat.

3. LB Mike McCray, Trotwood, OH (6’4″ 240-pounds)

Summary: McCray has battled injuries early in his career and some fans might have forgot about him. With major losses at the linebacker position due to graduation, McCray will get to play a lot.

4. S Khaleke Hudson, McKeesport, PA (6’0″ 206-pounds)

Summary: Hudson did it all at McKeesport and will begin his Michigan career at safety, where they need depth. He will get an opportunity right away to prove his worth and an opportunity to earn playing time during his true freshman campaign.

Tie: CB Lavert Hill, Detroit, MI (5’11″ 175-pounds) and CB David Long, Los Angeles, CA (6’0, 187-pounds)

Summary: Both true freshmen corners Hill and Long will definitely get a chance early on to earn permanent playing time. Both are true athletes that could theoretically play offense as well and are athletically gifted enough to see the field early.

Garrett Fishaw

1. DE Taco Charlton, Pickerington, OH (6’6” 272 pounds)

Summary: Coming into Michigan, everyone was expecting big things from the big man out of Ohio. Though he showed flashes of his potential for his first couple seasons, he never truly reached that elite level. But, according to pretty much every insider and several UM players, Charlton has taken that step and has been one of the best players in fall camp. Look for him to be a dominant force on the edge all fall long.

2. S Tyree Kinnel, Huber Heights, OH (5’11” 206 pounds)

Summary: Kinnel was so good last year that Harbaugh decided to burn his redshirt mid-year and get him on the field. That looked to really help him grow as a player and set him up for an even brighter future. He played well during the spring game and received a lot of love in the camp reports. Look for him to solidify himself as the 3rd safety on the depth chart throughout the fall.

3. DE Chase Winovich, Jefferson Hills, PA (6’3” 245 pounds)

Summary: Winovich was a player most, including myself, would become a fan favorite as soon as he put on the correct weight. Well, struggles with weight and multiple position moves slowed down his progress. But with the weight on and Don Brown’s system in place, look for Winovich to take a big step forward this fall. He has the tenacity and quickness to be a real issue off the edge.

4. LB Devin Bush Jr., Pembroke Pines, FL (5’11” 232 pounds)

Summary: Linebacker was easily the most open position on the defense after several LBs graduated after last season. So, when Bush Jr. enrolled early, he was seen as a player that could make an impact from day one. And he definitely has done so. From all reports, he’s been getting reps with the first team because of his maturity and speed. Look for him to see the field a lot during his freshmen season.

5. CB David Long, Los Angeles, CA (5’11” 187 pounds) 

Summary: Long was one of the biggest gets in the 2016 class and is showing off those talents throughout the summer and fall camp. Like Bush Jr., his speed and maturity are standing out the most. And with the depth chart looking wide open behind the top three corners (Lewis, Stribling and Clark), Long has a very good chance to play early and often this fall.

What do you think about our 2016 Michigan football season defensive breakout candidates? Who do you think will breakout this fall? Let us know in the comment section below! 

Photo Credit: Patrick Barron/MGoBlog

Evan Paputa