The Wolverine

2020 Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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THE WOLVERINE 2020 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 93 DEFENSIVE LINE QUICK FACTS Position Coach: Shaun Nua (second season). Returning Starters: DT Carlo Kemp (24 career starts), DE Kwity Paye (16) and DE Aidan Hutchinson (13). Departing Starter: DT Michael Dwumfour (4). Projected New Starter: DT Christopher Hinton (1). Top Reserves: DT Mazi Smith, DT Donovan Jeter, DE David Ojabo, DE Luiji Vilain and DE Taylor Upshaw. Wait Until 2021: DE Mike Morris, DE Gabe Newburg. Newcomers: DE Braiden McGregor, DE Aaron Lewis, DE Kris Jenkins and DE Jaylen Harrell. Moved In: None. Moved Out: Dwumfour (transferred to Rutgers), DT Ben Mason (to FB). Rookie Impact: McGregor. Most Improved Player: Kemp. Best Pro Prospect: Hutchinson. FYI Michigan has now featured at least one defensive lineman taken in the NFL Draft for six straight seasons. This past year, they had two. Hybrid edge defender Josh Uche went to the New England Patriots in round two, while graduate transfer defensive end Michael Danna also got the call, going to the Kansas City Chiefs in round five. Michigan boasted three edge rushers who last year ranked among Division I's top 78 nationally in pass rush production (minimum 200 pass rushes), per Pro Football Focus (PFF). Only 14 schools had two such players among the top 78, and Michigan and Football Championship Subdivision program North Dakota State were the lone two with three such athletes. Junior Aidan Hutchinson posted 45 pressures (sacks, QB hits and hurries) on 350 pass rushes to tie for 64th nation- ally. Senior Kwity Paye totaled 37 pressures on 294 pass rushes to tie for 74th in the land, checking in just ahead of No. 78 Danna (27 pressures on 215 snaps). Michigan has been a consistent top-five crew nationally in total defense under Don Brown. Last year's crew finished just outside the top 10, No. 11 in the nation, surrendering an average of 307.2 yards per game. The Wolverines tied for No. 59 nationally in team tackles for loss a year ago. They averaged 6.1 per game, with national leader UCF averaging 9.0 (and No. 2 Ohio State 8.9). the younger defensive tackles. Van Bergen saw him improve, technique-wise, over the course of the 2019 campaign. "He got better at playing with leverage," Van Bergen said. "He was really called upon as one of the only guys to play that anchor position. He's a great athlete, but he's not a plug. He's not a Gabe Watson or a Terrance Taylor. He's 6-4, 6-5, 275. "He and I are pretty comparable. When they played me at nose against Wisconsin, the same thing happened to us in 2009. I don't blame him for what happened, but he learned he had to play with leverage. You can't just beast everybody in the Big Ten. "You've got to play with good technique, no matter how strong you happen to be. If you're outweighed by 30 pounds, you'd bet- ter be flawless or you're going backwards. He learned how to do that. He learned how to slip double-teams a little bit." Van Bergen agrees with Brown, regarding seeing the younger players perform at that elite level in the season's biggest games. They got a taste last year, and now it's time for a bigger bite. "If you put someone in and they're not ready, it's exposed pretty quickly," Van Bergen said. "I thought they held their own, but they didn't do anything to dominate. It's great to hold your own, but that's what a backup does for Michigan. "If you're going to be a starter, and that's your spot, and you earned it, you'd better make some plays. They didn't get a ton of opportunities, so it could be unfair what I'm saying. But when I look at someone, there's usually a flash where you go, 'Oh, wow, there's something special to that one.' "Either they didn't get enough opportunities or didn't take advantage of enough opportuni- ties, but I didn't see that from those guys. I think they're capable, but I'm still waiting to see: are you going to be domi- nant, or are you just go- ing to hold your spot? We need dominant. Holding your spot is a backup position." Smith — who played in just two games as a true freshman — pos- sesses the frame to Junior Aidan Hutchinson ranked among the Wolverines' top four in 2019 in several different categories, including tackles (68, fourth), tackles for loss (10, third), sacks (4.5, fourth), passes broken up (six, second) and forced fumbles (two, tied for first). PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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