ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Count the years of experience along Michigan’s defensive line.
Five years for tackle Ryan Glasgow. Five for tackle/end Matt Godin. Four for Taco Charlton, a defensive end who’s played since his freshman year. Three years for Bryan Mone. Five for captain and tackle Chris Wormley. Four years for redshirt junior Maurice Hurst.
Don’t forget Chase Winovich, either. He’s moved from tight end to linebacker to D-line, but he’s been in Ann Arbor for three years. Lawrence Marshall hasn’t seen the field much, but the end has also logged three years at Michigan.
Granted, injuries and redshirts should be acknowledged. They haven’t all played from Day 1.
However, general knowledge and familiarity go a long way, and the Wolverines’ defensive line continues to demonstrate that each Saturday.
And that was the scenario this past Saturday, when No. 4-ranked Michigan outlasted No. 8-ranked Wisconsin, 14-7, during a four-quarter physical marathon that was heavily influenced by play at the line of scrimmage.
“Yeah, I agree… it’s been outstanding,” coach Jim Harbaugh said of his D-line. “It’s been a stalwart part of our football team for… for… I know since I’ve been here — and before that as well. And you know, if a guy goes in, comes back into the lineup…”
Then it was time for the roll call.
“I’m thinking of Mo Hurst, Chris Wormley, Ryan Glasgow and Taco Charlton — right down the list,” Harbaugh said. “They play extremely well. One guy’s out, another guy steps up. It’s impressive. I think (DL coach) Greg Mattison does a tremendous job, and credit to the youngsters — the players, themselves — you know, for their effort and their talent. It’s been the spine of our football team — a strength.”
Does he have the most D-line depth of his coaching career?
The one at Michigan.
Harbaugh rarely compares, so he wouldn’t say his Wolverines have more than Stanford — or any other team that he’s coached. But he clearly likes the sheer amount of bodies and levels of talent on his D-line depth chart in Ann Arbor. No debating that.
Michigan’s D-line has 13 of the team’s 20 sacks.
According to ESPN, Michigan has the No. 9-ranked total defense, giving up 11.5 points per game. Pretty standard stuff for a defense that’s been among the country’s best for three years. Passing defense? Roughly 135 yards per game — the second-lowest mark in the nation behind the 124 YPG allowed by Boston College.
Despite allowing a handful of large gains by ground, Michigan has the No. 24-ranked rushing defense in the land — and that mark should drop this Saturday, assuming Michigan’s D-line plays like it played against Wisconsin. Corey Clement, the Badgers’ star running back, rushed 17 times for 68 of his team’s 71 yards.
Those up front dictate what happens downfield.
With that said, Gary — a 6-foot-5, 287-pound early enrollee — learned a few valuable lessons as a bystander and participant during Saturday’s bout with the Badgers.
“To be honest, with this group of defensive linemen, every day I learn from them in practice,” said Gary, a future star who has the sixth-most tackles on the team (17/4.5 TFL/one sack). “I see everything. I like to observe. Everything I see, I takes notes on.
“Like I said, I want to work on my craft and be the best I can. With this defensive line group, every day you’ve got to take notes… because anything can happen.”
What else did he see? A master’s course in Big Ten trench play, led by professors Glasgow, Wormley, Charlton and Godin.
“(It was) just the way we practiced all week. We worked hard. We really wanted it,” Gary said. “You saw it in the game. (Players) coming up to the sideline after every drive, like ‘Let’s go! Keep pushing, keep pushing.’ You could just tell in the game that we wanted it.”
Yeah. Harbaugh used the right word for his D-line.
It’s certainly the “spine” of the program.