Examining Michigan's Defensive Tackle Group Following Addition Of Whittley
Michigan football finished the 2020 season ranked 84th nationally in total defense, 95th in scoring defense, 79th in rushing defense and 90th in passing defense.
While evaluating all aspects of the program in the offseason, head coach Jim Harbaugh made his first move just before Christmas, 2020 — letting defensive coordinator Don Brown go after five seasons with the Wolverines. Several weeks later, Harbaugh hired Baltimore Ravens linebackers coach Mike Macdonald as his new defensive coordinator.
With Macdonald's arrival came changes to the defensive unit. One of the biggest and most noticeable changes — it appears the Maize and Blue will trot out a 3-4 base defense (though Macdonald has said they'll use multiple looks), as opposed to the 4-3 it ran under Brown. There are no more 'viper' linebackers — they've transitioned inside — and the defensive ends are now stand-up edge rushers.
That also impacts the defensive tackles, where Michigan will now have a nose guard and two 'ends' that are more like tackles themselves. Line coach Shaun Nua is responsible for finding the right pieces up front and fitting them together.
That's where Jordan Whittley comes in.
An Oregon State graduate transfer with one year of eligibility remaining, Whittley committed to Michigan Friday over fellow contender UAB, and with his addition, the Wolverines got more deep on the interior of its defensive line. Michigan offered three defensive tackles from the transfer portal this offseason, swinging and missing on the first two before successfully reeling in Whittley.
Whittley has a lot of work to do before he will see the field this fall. The 6-1, 358-pounder, formerly a high school and junior college running back, has struggled with his weight in recent years. He's also had his fair share of injury and health issues, including a tumor near his heart that held him out of the entire 2020 season. He didn't practice with the Beavers this spring due to COVID-19 concerns.
But, at the least, he'll add depth to an otherwise thin and inexperienced position group. Best-case scenario is that he gets himself up to speed — both physically and in terms of learning the defensive system — and is an impact player, possibly even a starter.
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