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Michigan’s defense: Five key points

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Jabrill Peppers

Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News analyzes five key points for Michigan’s defense this season.

Peppers, Peppers, Peppers

So Jabrill Peppers is supposed to be a three-way player again this fall. He is primarily a defensive player, of course, who added offense to his resume halfway into last season, along with returning kicks. The same is expected this season, but Peppers is in a new outside linebacker role, and he will have plenty of flexibility to roam. Time will tell how much offense he will play. The schedule turns more challenging the second half again, and that might be when they revisit a heavy shaking of Peppers on offense.

Chip on the ol’ shoulder

While the defensive line and the secondary have received plenty of preseason praise and respect, no one has talked much about the linebackers, which will feature new starters across the board, including Peppers. Senior Ben Gedeon has played since his freshman year and is the leader of the group. He is a vocal guy, and he likes where the linebackers sit in this mix. “We love the attention elsewhere because we’re ready to prove ourselves and play with a chip,” he said. Mike McCray and freshman Devin Bush Jr. are also expected to be factors in the linebacker group.

Michigan's offense: Five key points

Wormley the Wizard

Off the field, Chris Wormley is about as nice as they come. But on the field … last season Wormley had 6.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss and is a key reason the Michigan defensive line has received so much preseason hype as one of the nation’s best. Wormley also has the ability to play pretty much anywhere on the line. Depending on the package defensive coordinator Don Brown calls up, Wormley will move around to disrupt offenses and offensive coordinator’s plans.

Chris Wormley

Lewis the Leader

Cornerback Jourdan Lewis has evolved into the Wolverines’ leader in the secondary. Lewis is savvy on the field and also as a communicator, whether with his teammates or via Twitter. The All-American’s cover ability has been praised nationally, pointing toward an NFL future. But that’s the future. As far as the here and now, defensive coordinator Don Brown says Lewis is “one of the best run defenders at corner” he’s been around. “Flat out,” he added.

Just call him Dr. Blitz

Don Brown is Michigan’s third defensive coordinator in three years, but not one player has said there has been a difficult adjustment. Brown endeared himself to the players very quickly, especially when they witnessed his energy jumping in on plays and enthusiastically instructing. Brown is called Dr. Blitz because he wants to blitz all the time. “Coach Brown is not scared to pressure a quarterback and create pressure throughout the game,” safety Dymonte Thomas said. The defensive players said they love his approach, and Brown, who led Boston College to the top-ranked defense last season, has to love all the experienced pieces he has at Michigan.