Despite a down year in 2014, one of the bright spots for the Michigan Wolverine football team was the play of the defense. Michigan ended last season ranked seventh in the nation in total defense, and they bring many of the contributors on that side of the ball back this season. Reflecting on the game versus the Utes, they held the Utes to one offensive touchdown, in what was more of a defensive slug-fest than the score indicated.
The defense is lead this year by defensive coordinator DJ Durkin, who coached defensive ends and special teams under head coach Jim Harbaugh at Stanford from 2007-2009. The past few seasons he's been at Florida coaching linebackers and defensive coordinator. He finished up as interim head coach fir their bowl game, after the firing of Will Muschamp. He'll has a plethora of juniors and seniors to work with this season, and a lot of them were key contributors, even though some are not returning starters.
When glancing at the Wolverine defense, one can immediately spot No 5 Jabrill Peppers. One of the top recruiting gets during the Brady Hoke era, Peppers has the athleticism to play multiple positions on the field. He'll get the start, according to the depth chart, at strong safety. He played well versus the Utes last year, but was limited by injury and didn't see any action after that game. Only a sophomore, he will most likely be a big part of the defense this season. He may also see time at kick returner and punt returner.
Another player that possibly is still in the nightmares of Kendal Thompson if not maybe some Utah fans, is No 69 Willie Henry. The (6-3, 307) defensive end tipped Thompson's attempted screen pass up, caught it, and rumbled for the only touchdown of the game for the Wolverines. He had only one sack on the season to go along with his interception versus the Utes last season. He only totaled five tackles, in the nine games he appeared in.
Starting along the line with Henry at nose tackle is No 96 Ryan Glasgow (6-4, 300), and either No 43 Chris Wormley (6-5, 300) or No 99 Chris Godin (6-6, 288) will start at defensive tackle. All four as big as any front the Utes might see all year.
As for the linebackers, No 53 Mario Ojemudia is the starter at buck linebacker, inside backers No 3 Desmond Morgan and No 35 Joe Bolden, and No 15 James Ross at outside linebacker. All four are seniors with plenty of experience playing in big time games.
In the defensive back field juniors No 26 Jourdan Lewis (5-10) and No 8 Channing Stribling (6-2) will be at the corners, while No 22 senior Jarrod Wilson (6-2) will man the free safety position next to Peppers.
While the Utes look to be the better team, the Michigan Wolverines' defense is full of talent that is built to win in the Big 10. If coach Durkin can harness that talent, the Wolverine defensive could be better than last year. They will be a tough, tough early test for the Utes.