Junior outside linebacker Jake Ryan was supposed to be Michigan's best defensive player this season, but he blew out an ACL in March during spring drills and hasn't played.
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That could change this week. Ryan has been cleared to play and could see time Saturday at Penn State, coach Brady Hoke announced during his Monday teleconference.
Hoke did express concern about Ryan's knee holding up.
"I'm probably more worried about it than anybody," said Hoke, adding that how Ryan handles practice this week will go a long way toward determining whether he plays Saturday.
Despite his injury, Ryan (6-foot-3, 240 pounds) was named a captain this season. He started each of the past two seasons at linebacker and defensive end; he was set to be a fulltime linebacker this season before his injury.
Ryan is an extremely heady player with good pass-rushing skills. He has 7.5 sacks, 27 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries in his career. He led the Wolverines with 88 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks last season.
Ryan seemed a likely candidate to turn pro after this season, but the injury probably means he will return as a senior.
Michigan's linebackers have played well without Ryan. Senior Cam Gordon (6-3, 237) and junior Brennen Beyer (6-3, 250), who was moved from end after Ryan's injury, have split time at one outside linebacker spot; they have combined for 36 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. Middle linebacker Desmond Morgan leads the Wolverines with 34 tackles, and James Ross III, the other outside linebacker, is second with 32 stops.