Friday, December 28, 2012

Defensive Line Preview: Michigan vs. South Carolina

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney might be the nation's best defensive lineman (image via ESPN)
 The Wolverines run a 4-3 Under defense.  Senior strongside end Craig Roh (6'5", 281 lbs.) is a four-year starter and has 36 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 4 sacks on the season.  The nominal starter at weakside end is sophomore Brennen Beyer (6'3", 252 lbs.), who has made 18 tackles and forced 1 fumble on the year.  Redshirt junior nose tackle Quinton Washington (6'4", 300 lbs.) has improved throughout the year but has notched just 29 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 1 forced fumble on the season; he's more of a space eater than a playmaker.  Senior defensive tackle William Campbell (6'5", 308 lbs.) has made 44 tackles, but has just 1.5 tackles for loss and 1 sack.  They don't make a ton of penetration, but these guys eat up blockers and allow the linebackers to flow to the ball.
Backups: Sophomore weakside end Frank Clark (6'2", 262 lbs.) is the most prominent backup and the biggest playmaker of the entire unit; he has 25 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, and 3 pass breakups on the year.  Junior defensive tackle Jibreel Black (6'2", 279 lbs.) has 18 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 2 pass breakups.  Redshirt freshman Keith Heitzman (6'3", 270 lbs.) backs up Roh and has 7 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 fumble recovery on the year.  Freshman nose tackle Ondre Pipkins (6'3", 340 lbs.) has just 6 tackles on the season.

Starters: The Gamecocks run a 4-2-5 defense, basically with two strong safeties.  Sophomore weakside end Jadeveon Clowney (6'6", 256 lbs.) is the star of the team; he's an All-American who made some Heisman ballots with 50 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 pass breakups. The line is bookended by fifth year senior Devin Taylor (6'8", 267 lbs.), who ended the regular season with 40 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 5 pass breakups, and 1 fumble recovery. In between are fifth year senior nose tackle Byron Jerideau (6'1", 316 lbs.) and sophomore defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles (6'4", 286 lbs.).  Jerideau gets a little bit of push with 39 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks on the year.  Quarles has 36 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks.
Backups: Senior strongside end Aldrick Fordham (6'4", 269 lbs.) is Taylor's pass rushing sub, making 21 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles.  Even Clowney's backup, redshirt junior Chaz Sutton (6'5", 248 lbs.), can get after the quarterback with 23 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 pass batted down.  Redshirt freshman Gerald Dixon, Jr. (6'3", 304 lbs.) and redshirt sophomore J.T. Surratt (6'2", 295 lbs.) are slightly less productive as the backup defensive tackles, with 22 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, .5 sacks, 1 interception, and 1 pass breakup among them.

Okay, this isn't really a question.  The Gamecocks have the better defensive line by far.  Both of their backup defensive ends have put up better numbers than Michigan's most productive starter.  They're #5 in sacks (3.33 per game) and #15 against the run (119 yards/game).  Even with an All-American in Taylor Lewan at left tackle, South Carolina will likely give Michigan's offensive line fits.
Advantage: South Carolina


  1. I have dreams (_pleasant_ dreams) of good-to-great future Michigan defensive lines, partly because of Hoke's background and his emphasis on line play. With a few exceptions, that's been a backwater position at Michigan for most of the last thirty years.

  2. Will be pretty cool to see Clowney and Lewan do battle in this game. Hoping that someday soon Michigan has a DE threat somewhere close to Clowney. It's fun to watch those kind of defensive playmakers...unless you happen to be on the other side.