Michigan Wolverines College Football Preview 2021: Defense
– The offense had its issues and didn’t do enough, but the defense was the real stunner. It finished as the third-worst in the Big Ten allowing 434 yards and 35 points per game, it was a disaster against anyone who could throw, and the run defense – seriously, Michigan, after the first gajillion times, you’d think you could’ve figured out the Wisconsin jet sweep play – was, to be kind, lacking.
– Even with an NFL pass rusher in Kwity Paye, there wasn’t a pass rush. The Wolverines came up with a paltry nine sacks in six games and wasn’t nearly disruptive enough up front.
The expectation is to go to more of a 3-4 under Mike Macdonald – your new Matthew and Nicole Lester Family Defensive Coordinator, coming in from the Baltimore Ravens defensive coaching staff – and finding a good group of starters shouldn’t be an issue among a deep group of options.
After missing half of last year, Aidan Hutchinson should be solid at one spot, veteran Christopher Hinton and 318-pound Donovan Jeter are okay working as a tackle or even at end if needed. However, that means the pass rush has to come from …
– The linebacking corps – it’s going to be a bit tricky. Leading tackler John Ross will hold down one inside spot coming off a 53-stop season, but the disruption has to come from the outside.
Michael Barrett has the athleticism to grow more into more of a pass rushing role – he was third on the team with 44 tackles – and it’s going to take fall camp to round out the rotation with a whole slew of new parts in the mix.
– Two. The Michigan Wolverines came up with two more interceptions in 2020 than you did, and only one came from the secondary.
To be fair to the defensive backs, they didn’t get a whole lot of help from the pass rush, and it showed as they got lit up by Michigan State, Indiana and Rutgers for well over 300 yards each. That’s three times in six games after going the first 11 games of 2019 without allowing a 300-yard day.
On the plus side, just about everyone is back, and there’s talent there to do a whole lot more. The safety tandem of Daxton Hill and Brad Hawkins earned honorable mention All-Big Ten nods after combining for 85 tackles, and they’re going to need to be rocks with a fluid corner situation.
Gemon Green and Vincent Gray started every game last season, but they combined to pick off zero passes and there’s a slew of talented young prospects pushing for time.