The Michigan defense suffered a major blow in spring practices this week, losing All Big Ten Conference linebacker Jake Ryan to a torn ACL. The football media relations department released the update on MGoBlue.com.
“You always hate when anyone gets injured and unfortunately we’ve dealt with our share of injuries in the last 12 months,” head coach Brady Hoke said in the official statement.
Ryan was the Wolverines’ leading tackler in 2012 with 84. He also led a defense that surrendered just 18.8 points per game in tackles-for-loss (14.5), forced fumbles (four) and sacks (four). Replacing his productivity will pose defensive coordinator Greg Mattison a tremendous challenge this off-season. ESPN.com’s Michigan-dedicated blog Wolverine Nation tweeted that Cam Gordon is behind Ryan on the depth chart.
@swazi4 Cam Gordon. They might have to move someone over.
— WolverineNation ESPN (@WolverineNation) March 20, 2013
Gordon made 17 tackles, three of which were for loss.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Last season’s BCS runner-up Fighting Irish returned to the field on Wednesday, the first step in moving on from a tumultuous 11 weeks. Notre Dame was routed in January’s title game against Alabama, and Heisman Trophy finalist linebacker Manti Te’o commanded national headlines when details of his online relationship surfaced.
Notre Dame is entering a new phase of the Brian Kelly era. And strange as Te’o's situation may have been, there’s no questioning how vital his presence was to the Fighting Irish defense. He easily surpassed 100 tackles and led the team in each of the last three seasons, and intercepted seven passes in 2012.
Shoring up his place in the linebackers corps is one of the challenges Kelly faces in restructuring the depth chart, Brian Hamilton of The Chicago Tribune reports.
Florida State Seminoles
Jimbo Fisher led Florida State back into spring workouts on Wednesday. Check out Chop Chat for video of the first of 15 spring practices in Tallahassee.
Chop Chat has another interesting tidbit on Florida State conference realignment rumors. Entered into the discussion is the Big Ten, which began its eastern expansion this autumn with the additions of Rutgers and Maryland. The new arrivals will put the conference at an unwieldy 14 members. Expansion to 16 is logical, though names like North Carolina and Virginia have been the more regularly bantered-about targets.
The FSU-Big Ten chatter comes from the same West Virginia Mountaineers blogger who banged the gong on Florida State-to-the-Big 12 last spring, and Al Golden-to-the Arkansas Razorbacks during the 2012 season. The unsubstantiated rumor itself is secondary to the great point Chop Chat has on the attractiveness of FSU athletics in the still-unsettled conference landscape.
Willie Taggart opened his tenure replacing Skip Holtz at USF with “high energy,” writes Tampa Bay Times beat writer extraordinaire Greg Auman.
Energy is something the Bulls desperately need. In Holtz’s ill-fated, three-year run at the helm, USF’s play grew increasingly listless. The Bulls bottomed out this season at 2-10, with the No. 104 ranked scoring offense in the FBS.
Taggart is well versed in reversing course at struggling programs. He coached Western Kentucky to consecutive winning seasons, just a few years removed from the Hilltoppers finishing 0-12. Taggart is unafraid to mix it up — he scored his program’s first defeat of an SEC opponent last season with a trick play.
The week before the trip to face Kentucky, Taggart offered WKU students the chance to win a trip to the game by recovering a player’s fumble on campus.