Defensive line will remain a strength for Michigan Football

Syndication: Detroit Free Press
Syndication: Detroit Free Press /

After some solid additions in the 2022 recruiting class, Michigan football will continue to have a stellar defensive line. 

In the last decade, Michigan football has had 12 defensive lineman and edge rushers selected in the NFL Draft.

Frank Clark has had a nice pro career and won a Super Bowl with the Chiefs. Younger players like Rashan Gary and Kwity Paye are having breakout seasons. Gary has a career-high 6.5 sacks while Paye has three sacks in his last four games.

Gary and Paye were both first-round picks and Michigan football will likely have two more first-round picks in Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo.

While it will be extremely difficult to replace Hutchinson and Ojabo, Michigan’s defensive line is in a good position to remain a strength for the foreseeable future.

Why Michigan can still dominate in the trenches on defense

On Wednesday, Michigan football signed the majority of its 2022 class and it included defensive lineman Kenneth Grant, Mason Graham, and Derrick Moore. Grant is a three-star by the composite (four-star on 247sports), but I believe he will have a five-star impact at Michigan.

Grant is the ideal nose tackle for Mike MacDonald’s 3-4 scheme, but he also has elite quickness for his size. Look at the impact Jordan Davis has had at Georgia this season, freeing up his teammates while also making plays himself. Grant can be that player for Michigan and like Grant, Jordan Davis was also a three-star out of high school.

All Mason Graham did his senior season was dominate while playing in one of the nation’s toughest conferences at Anaheim Servite High School.

Graham has college-ready size at 6-foot-4 295 pounds and he could be an immediate contributor on the interior of Michigan’s defensive line. He has a background as a wrestler, which is a trait I love in defensive line prospects. Graham did earn four-star status as a result of this play this season. However, I would not be surprised if he finishes this cycle ranked as a top 100 player.

Michigan did land a top 100 player when Derrick Moore announced for the Wolverines yesterday. Moore also has a college-ready frame at 6-foot-4 250 pounds. He can bulk up and contribute as a 3-tech or stay in the range of his current size and play on the edge.

Personally, I would like to see Moore remain an edge player, particularly with having Graham and Grant in the fold. I like Moore’s explosive get off on the edge and ability to convert speed to power. Linebacker signee Micah Pollard can play as edge or inside linebacker. Edge Kevonte Henry is still committed to Michigan, but he is a threat to flip to Washington after not signing during the early period. Even if he does, let’s not forget what Michigan already has in the fold.

Jaylen Harrell is a player that the coaches already trust more than Ojabo as a run defender. He will continue developing as a pass rusher and I expect him to start at one edge spot next year.

Braiden McGregor has battled injuries in his young career so far, but out of high school, he reminded me a lot of Hutchinson. If he stays healthy, Michigan football will have a difference-maker. Taylor Upshaw also had 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in 2021 as a reserve.

In the 2021 class, Kechaun Bennett was a four-star prospect who is redshirting this season. TJ Guy looked solid in mop-up duty and recorded his first career sack against Maryland.

Guy was a three-star and one of Michigan’s lowest-rated signees in 2021. However, remember that Kwity Paye was as well and developed into a first-round pick.

While Michigan football sorts things out on the edge to begin next season, the interior may push the defensive line next season.

Chris Hinton, Mazi Smith, and Mike Morris were solid this season and each will be back next year. I thought Hinton had his best performance of the season in the Big Ten Championship Game against Iowa.

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Kris Jenkins will be in his third year with the program and looks like a budding star. 2021 four-stars Rayshaun Benny and George Rooks figure to push for more playing time next season as well, so Michigan’s defensive line should remain a strength for years to come.