Will Johnson and Mason Graham will spearhead Michigan football defense in 2024

The 2024 college football season will begin for Michigan football on August 31, 2024. The reigning national champions will start their title defense against Fresno State University. J.J. McCarthy and Blake Corum have left school to become NFL rookies. The defense will have to step up in 2024 because there is inexperience at the quarterback position this season. The defense has two All-Big Ten selections that can elevate the team's performance this season.
Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan
Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan / Ryan Kang/GettyImages

Will Johnson leads the secondary

Will Johnson has exceeded his lofty expectations over the last two seasons in Ann Arbor. He accumulated many achievements last season. He received first-team All-American honors. Johnson won the defensive MVP in the national championship game against the University of Washington. He recorded four interceptions in 2023 for Michigan football and showed that he is one of the top cornerbacks in the nation.

Johnson's elite coverage skills allow him to shut down the wide receivers assigned to him each game. The talent and instincts he exhibits in every game on defense will allow the defensive coordinator to move safeties to other areas on the field. Locking down one side of the field is pivotal; his production allows other defenders to shift their attention elsewhere to help each other manage strenuous assignments across the field.

Wink Martindale brings valuable NFL experience to this unit; he is the new defensive coordinator at Michigan. The new defensive coaches will highlight the phenomenal traits of Johnson, allowing him to elevate his talents to another level of consistency. Martindale can train and show Johnson how to become an NFL-ready cornerback. Integrating all of the pieces on the defense, combined with Johnson playing at an elite level every week, reflects a stout defensive squad. The overall talent on this roster should allow the Wolverines to have a shutdown secondary unit.

Mason Graham is a menace in the trenches

Anytime a defensive lineman is ranked very highly by a variety of NFL scouts and NFL team evaluators, game film and momentum will propel that player to the top of his draft class. Various scouts agree that Mason Graham is a top-ten prospect in the 2025 NFL Draft. He is one of the best interior defenders in all of college football.

Graham possesses elite power moves and an internal engine that never stops running. He is so versatile that he can play on the edge and plug in the middle of the defense. Seeing any lineman on defense rush the quarterback at 318 pounds shows freakish athleticism. Some defensive linemen are dominant in some areas but average in others.

The Michigan football standout is dominant across the board; he can stop the run and produce disruption in the passing game. Losing Kris Jenkins to the NFL was a substantial loss to the Michigan defense, but Graham can fill that gap and make the defensive line ferocious. The front seven of the defense can impose its will among offenses, with Graham in the middle wrecking havoc and disturbing offensive game flow.


The Michigan Wolverines have two superstars on defense this season. Their on-field production and locker-room leadership can turn this defense into one of the best units in the Big Ten. This defense has to form cohesion early in the season and then use that momentum to carry the team to victories against highly competitive opponents.