Michigan Football: Previewing the Wolverines Defense in 2023

Syndication: Detroit Free Press
Syndication: Detroit Free Press /
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After a rough end to the 2022 Michigan football season, will the defense be better in 2023?

We are two days away from the start of the Michigan Football season! I recently published an article doing an in-depth preview of the offense, so it’s only right to do the same thing with the defense.

Michigan’s defense was good in 2022. Its strengths were run stopping and the secondary, but really lacked an adequate pass rush. In 2023, I think the defense could be great. It returns tons of production and should be among the best in the nation.

Let’s get straight into looking at the defense, starting with the secondary.


Michigan football
Syndication: Detroit Free Press /

The Michigan football secondary should be elite in 2023. In fact, it has all the pieces to be the best secondary in the nation. The only real question, for now, is who will be the second cornerback? It seems like UMass transfer Josh Wallace is going to start game one, especially since Amorion Walker was dealing with an injury during camp.

Wallace had success at UMass and was a team captain. Though you could characterize his play at UMass by saying he was a gambler. He often went for the 50-50 balls. He won a lot of them but also got burnt a few times. The question here is whether or not he can keep that style against some of the best receivers in the nation.

Opposite Wallace will be Will Johnson. It’s unknown if Johnson will play against East Carolina on Saturday, as he had minor surgery over the offseason and is in the final stages of recovery. That’s going to be a common theme here; players sitting out the beginning of the season to fully recover from injuries.

Anyways, fans know who Will Johnson is. He was a freshman All-American last season and could be the best cornerback in the nation. Just look at how he did against the likes of Marvin Harrison Jr., Charlie Jones, and Quentin Johnston. I’d say he won all three matchups. Johnson is not a guy that teams are going to want to throw to.

Mike Sainristil returns at the nickel position after an excellent first defensive season. He will be a captain and is a huge piece of this team. Expect him to be even better after an entire season of defensive experience.

There isn’t much to say about Sainristil. He’s a gamer and is going to be crucial to this defense. It’s going to be interesting to see how much he’s improved since year one.

At safety, the starters appear to be Rod Moore and Makari Paige, though I wouldn’t count entirely on that just yet. While Moore is a lock to be a starter and is a likely early-round NFL Draft pick, both he and Paige are battling injuries and are expected to be held out on Saturday and possibly until Big Ten play.

That means that sophomore safeties Keon Sabb and Zeke Berry could be the starters early in the season. That should be very exciting. Both Sabb and Berry were highly touted recruits and have sky-high potential. It’ll be awesome to see them in action.

Both Sabb and Berry will be in the safety rotation, so expect to see them on the field plenty this season. They’re going to make a huge impact over the next few seasons.