The Wolverine

August 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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12 THE WOLVERINE AUGUST 2018   INSIDE MICHIGAN ATHLETICS Cornerbacks Will Make Passing Near Impossible By Brandon Brown There's no doubt that Michigan's defense is going to be elite in 2018 when you look at returning players and con- sider what coordinator Don Brown has to work with. Of that elite unit, the cornerbacks could end up being the strongest group. Juniors Lavert Hill and David Long could both leave early for the NFL after 2018, and likely will if they replicate the success they had last fall. Pro Football Focus took a look at the duo and shows that Long and Hill have the potential to shut receiv- ers down this fall. Hill had PFF's highest Playmaker Index, a rating determined by passes defended plus interceptions against targets. He was thrown at 24 times and picked off two passes while breaking up an- other seven, meaning he made plays on 37.5 percent of the throws that came his way. On the other side, Long basically took away his half of the field. Quarterbacks earned just an 11.9 passer rating when throwing at Long, which ranks the best among returning players in the country. Throw in the fact that returning contributing cornerbacks Ambry Thomas and Brandon Watson, along with starting safeties Josh Metellus and Tyree Kinnel, will also be prowling the secondary, and you have the makings of an elite group. Defensive Line Should Dominate By Chris Balas Defensive coordinator Don Brown has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal, and it starts up front. Junior Rashan Gary and fifth-year senior Chase Winovich are both All- America candidates and could well be the best pair of de- fensive ends in the country. Gary and Winovich combined for 145 tackles, 30 tackles for loss and 14 sacks last year, and Gary did it despite draw- ing plenty of added attention. He'll be a first-round pick in the NFL Draft after this season. There's depth behind them, too, in heralded youngsters Carlo Kemp, Kwity Paye and more, including recently rehabbed (knee) redshirt freshman Luiji Vilain. Replacing Maurice Hurst inside will be no easy task — he dominated at defensive tackle more than any lineman in decades — but redshirt sophomore Michael Dwumfour was one of the spring MVPs and has transformed his body after notching only four tackles in nine games last year. Fifth-year senior Bryan Mone (10 tackles in 2017) should be an effective run stopper, and sophomore Aubrey Solomon (18 tackles and two tackles for loss last year) is a rising star. Make no mistake — the cornerbacks are outstanding and possibly the best pair since Charles Woodson and Andre Weathers in 1997. However, the depth on the defensive line gives that group the edge as the best heading into 2018. POINT ❙ COUNTERPOINT WHICH OF MICHIGAN'S POSITION GROUPS IS THE STRONGEST IN 2018? LAVERT HILL RASHAN GARY "This is a kid who was watching college basketball on his computer in Germany, and was incredulous that [Michi- gan head coach] John Beilein was coming to recruit him after having coached in a previous national champion- ship game. All Beilein wanted was a beer and a brat, and he got a whole lot more in Moe Wagner, who took him back to the national title game. Now Wagner is a first- round pick for the Los Angeles Lakers." — ESPN host Rece Davis, after the Los Angeles Lakers selected Wagner with the 25th overall pick in the NBA Draft June 21 "He's the best tailback in the country, in my opinion. There's nothing that compares with him out there — the kid is the entire package. When Zach gets on Michigan's campus, everyone is going to know who he is. He's that good." — Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian head coach Jim Benkert on four-star running back and Michigan commit Zach Charbonnet "We love Quinn Hughes. I love the way he skates and the way he can get back and beat the first forechecker, and then get the puck up ice and go the other way. I am so excited for our fans right now. I didn't think he was going to be there [at No. 7], but I am so happy he was." — Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning in an interview with Sportsnet, discussing his team's selection of Michigan rising sophomore defenseman Quinn Hughes with the seventh overall pick in the NHL Draft June 22 — Austin Fox SB Nation's Bill Connelly "Michigan's defense could be [Don] Brown's best yet, and the offense has its most high-upside QB since [Jim] Harbaugh's arrival. … There's every reason to believe the Wolverines will re-enter the top 10 this year, at least if its starting QB stays upright." THEY SAID IT DON BROWN PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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