|Desmond Morgan (#48) returns an interception against UConn|
Weight: 232 lbs.
High school: Holland (MI) West Ottawa
Jersey number: #48
Last year: I ranked Morgan #13 and said he would be the starting middle linebacker with 85 tackles, 2 sacks, and 1 interception. He started at middle linebacker and finished the year with 79 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, and 3 pass breakups.
I expected a little more consistent play out of Morgan in 2013, who has been starting since his true freshman year. While he essentially reached the statistical level that I predicted, he did not seem to take a big step forward in play diagnosis. I thought he would really settle in at MIKE linebacker after playing out of position as a WILL for the previous couple years; however, Michigan struggled to stop the run consistently, and some small and/or underperforming defensive tackles didn't help the linebackers much. Regardless, Morgan did have a solid year, and his leaping, one-handed interception against UConn was a game-changer.
Even though he's one of only a few seniors in 2014, I'm dropping Morgan nine spots to #22 on this list. The new 4-3 Over defense has bumped Morgan back to WILL, and he's now receiving a challenge from junior up-and-comer Joe Bolden, who impressed people in the spring after a 54-tackle, 2-sack sophomore year. Coaches need to balance team chemistry, leadership, and talent, so it would be difficult to bench a senior, three-year starter with a Gerald Ford Legends jersey. At the same time, Brady Hoke and company need to win games. Aside from the battle for strong safety, the weakside linebacker position battle looks like the most interesting job competition going into the fall. Whichever player wins the gig should do fairly well, and the backup will get plenty of time in the linebacker rotation, anyway. My guess is that Morgan wins out by a nose for the starting job.
Prediction: Starting weakside linebacker; 80 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 2 sacks