With injuries to two key players, Michigan’s defensive line will need to recalibrate its depth
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Less than a week ago, Michigan defensive line coach Greg Mattison had so much confidence in the depth of his group that he was prepared to go to battle with an eight-man rotation. That’s something of a luxury at the college level.
Two days after Saturday’s 63-3 win over Hawaii, that option is out. The position group took a big hit with the losses of defensive tackle Bryan Mone and defensive end Taco Charlton. Others will have to step up.
“I don’t have an update for how long they’ll be out, but I don’t anticipate them to play this weekend,” said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, whose team hosts UCF at noon Saturday at Michigan Stadium.
What will help is that defensive tackle Mo Hurst, who sat out Saturday’s win over Hawaii with an unspecified injury, should be ready to go this weekend, Harbaugh said.
The more the merrier, especially with two guys down.
“People are going to play more than they usually play, and we need to step up and play well,” Michigan defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow said Monday. “This game moves forward every week, with or without people, if they’re injured, or if they’re out. We have to come out and play how we’re supposed to play.”
It’s also critical if the defensive line wants to make more of a statistical contribution. Chase Winovich, a converted linebacker/tight end who now plays defensive end, led the line with four tackles (two solo). By comparison, linebackers Jabrill Peppers and Mike McCray led Michigan with a combined 15 tackles (13 solo) and three sacks against Hawaii.
“For the D-line, the production wasn’t there as a whole,” Glasgow said. “But I think that will come as we move forward in the next couple weeks.”
With the likelihood of Mone and Charlton not playing this weekend, Michigan will give more reps to Winovich and freshmen Rashan Gary and Michael Dwumfour. Both played Saturday against Hawaii, and will likely see more action against Central Florida. The nature of Mone’s injury hasn’t been disclosed by Michigan. Charlton is out with an ankle injury.
Mone missed the 2015 season with a broken ankle, sustained during a special teams drill in preseason practices. Without being concrete, Glasgow gave some insight on Mone’s long-term status for this season.
“I spoke to Bryan (Sunday) and he said he was feeling better,” Glasgow said.
He also offered some insight to Mone’s in-game resiliency.
“I knew it wasn’t too serious, because he threw his knee brace back on and got out there [for another series],” Glasgow said. “He decided it probably wouldn’t be smart to finish the game. I thought that was smart. If it hurts, no need to bust your knee up when you’re up 40 points.”
Harbaugh will probably take the same approach with his defensive line against UCF, a 35-point underdog. It’s something Harbaugh has done before.
Harbaugh sat cornerback Jourdan Lewis and offensive lineman Ben Braden for health-related reasons Saturday against Hawaii as a preventative measure. Considering a blowout was expected — and delivered — there was no sense to be rushing them back against an inferior opponent when their presence matters much more a few weeks down the road.
Last October, Harbaugh did the same thing, holding out banged-up running back De’Veon Smith against huge underdog Maryland. Michigan ran for 198 yards against the Terps without Smith, winning 28-0. Sitting Smith helped develop depth without risking defeat.
At defensive line this week, depth will need to matter for the Wolverines, too.
Rachel Lenzi covers Michigan sports for Landof10.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @RLenziAJC