The Wolverine

September 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 45 of 67

46 THE WOLVERINE SEPTEMBER 2021 BY EJ HOLLAND M ammoth defensive tackles have been extinct in Ann Arbor for quite some time. Under former defensive coordina- tor Don Brown, Michigan took an in- teresting approach to recruiting along the defensive line. Brown was almost obsessive in his search for athletic de- fensive linemen who could add weight and slide inside in his four-man front. Brown wanted smaller, quicker de- fensive linemen as opposed to true run stuffers. His scheme was built around speed and was always in attack mode. But it did have its faults, especially in the Big Ten Conference, which is known for physicality and teams that want to run the football down your throat. Enter Mike Macdonald. With Brown off to the desert, where he will guide Arizona's defense in a more pass-happy Pac-12 Conference, Michigan brought in Macdonald to not only establish a new brand of physical defense but to recruit prospects who are willing and able to bang heads with massive Wisconsin and Iowa offensive lines, while still athletic enough to stop a high-octane Ohio State offense. Macdonald coached linebackers for the Baltimore Ravens prior to arriving in Ann Arbor. Perhaps no team in pro football is more renowned for its tena- cious defensive units than the Ravens. Their 3-4 scheme is synonymous with physicality. In the middle of it all is arguably the centerpiece — a mammoth 300-pound nose tackle. Haloti Ngata filled the role for the Ravens for several years — all 331 pounds of him — and was one of the NFL's best. The same goes for fel- low mammoth lineman Isaac Sopoaga, who filled the same role for the San Francisco 49ers when Jim Harbaugh was the head coach of a team that fea- tured some of the best defensive units of that decade. Due to Brown's recruiting style, the cupboard is barren. One of Macdon- ald's top tasks this cycle is finding his own Ngata or Sopoaga or two or three. The bottom line is that Michigan needs massive nose tackles in the middle if Macdonald's new defensive scheme is going to work in Ann Arbor. It's no surprise that Macdonald and defensive line coach Shaun Nua are hard at work on several targets in the middle. Arguably the most important of them all is four-star Detroit Cass Tech prospect Deone Walker, who checks in at 6-7 and 356 pounds. You can't get much bigger than that at the high school level — or any level. But Walker, who is ranked as the No. 23 defensive tackle in the coun- try by, is more than just a big body. The in-state recruit had a dominant junior season and tore up the camp circuit with his impressive athleticism. Walker is one of the top overall remaining priorities for U-M this cycle, and he visited Ann Arbor twice this summer. "They did a defensive player meet- ing when I first got there," Walker said after his first trip. "They made an edit of us and showed us how we would contribute. I like the new defensive scheme a lot because I feel like I can shine in that. It's a great fit for me." Walker also has chemistry with Michigan edge rusher commit Ma- rio Eugenio. The two attended a few camps together this offseason and have developed a strong friendship. Walker believes they would complement each other well in Ann Arbor. "Mario is a dog," Walker said. "I feel like we would be unstoppable together. Let's say I'm at the three and he's an end, and we twist, he has enough speed to get past the guard. "We've talked about playing together a lot. We were really wanting to do it. It was off the table for a little bit, but now we've talked about it more." Walker does not have a set deci- sion timeline, but has made it clear that Michigan is in his top group. The Wolverines will, however, have to fend off SEC programs such as Alabama, which offered this summer, and Geor- gia, which hosted him for an unofficial visit.   FOOTBALL RECRUITING Wolverines In Hot Pursuit Of Talented Interior Defensive Linemen Detroit Cass Tech four-star Deone Walker — a 6-7, 356-pounder who is rated as the nation's No. 23 defensive tackle by — is one of the top overall remaining priorities for U-M this cycle. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - September 2021