ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan has reached the halfway point of the 2016 season and has its bye week before it hosts Illinois at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday for homecoming. With the turn of the season approaching, Landof10.com will take a look at how Michigan (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten Conference) has fared so far this season.
Cornerback Jourdan Lewis and defensive lineman Chris Wormley chose to forgo the NFL draft and returned for their final year of eligibility at Michigan, which gave Michigan defensive stability. Yet with the departure of defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin to Maryland as head coach, Michigan named its third defensive coordinator in three years, hiring Don Brown from Boston College last December.
There’s been little upheaval with the change. Despite losing cornerback Jeremy Clark to a torn ACL and the absence of nose tackle Bryan Mone (knee injury) for three of Michigan’s first four games, Michigan has consistently dominated on defense.
|BY THE NUMBERS||2016||Big Ten rank||NCAA rank|
|3rd down %||12.2%||1st||1st|
DEFENSIVE LINE GRADE: A
Depth is the key for Michigan’s defensive line, which some consider the best in the country. Position coach Greg Mattison has a philosophy of building depth on his defensive line, which helps his players physically and psychologically through the length of a season.
The defensive line starters, including Wormley and Ryan Glasgow, are the cornerstone of the nation’s top defense. Michigan has allowed 212.8 yards a game and is No. 9 in the country in rush defense (99.2 yards) and has 24 sacks.
But the depth is just as formidable: Chase Winovich, a converted linebacker-tight end, has 23 tackles and 2 sacks. Rashan Gary, the nation’s top recruit in 2016, has 20 tackles, 1 sack and 4 quarterback hurries.
LINEBACKERS GRADE: A
Before the season, the linebacking corps was the biggest question mark on this defense. The linebackers knew it, and that external doubt motivated them.
Ben Gedeon leads the team with 51 tackles, while the dynamic and versatile Jabrill Peppers has had his most consistent play at linebacker, where he works in a pass-rush hybrid role and has a team-best 6 quarterback hurries along with 38 tackles.
Mike McCray returned after missing 2015 with a shoulder injury to register 32 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 4 pass breakups.
SECONDARY GRADE: A
Hopes were high when Lewis announced last December that he would return to Michigan for his final season. Then, they appeared to sink when he was sidelined by an injury at the start of the season. He missed the first three games (back issues and muscle strain) but the secondary rallied, even with the loss of Clark to a season-ending ACL tear Sept. 24 against Colorado.
Michigan leads the Big Ten in pass defense (113.7 yards) and cornerback Channing Stribling may have improved his future in professional football. He leads the Wolverines with 5 pass breakups (including 3 interceptions).
OVERALL DEFENSIVE GRADE: A
Check out the grades for other aspects of Michigan’s 2016 season: