The Wolverine

November 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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NOVEMBER 2021 THE WOLVERINE 9 BY ANTHONY BROOME D efensive end/linebacker Aidan Hutchinson passed up the oppor- tunity to go pro after the 2020 season to tend to unfinished business in Ann Arbor. His return to the program for a fourth season made him one of the de facto leaders on the team and the straw that stirs the drink on Michigan's defense. As a result, his pro prospects have taken a tremendous leap in the early stages of the 2021 campaign. Hutchinson was a projected first- round pick by several scouts coming into the season, and his play in the early stages has solidified that. His six sacks through the first seven weeks of the campaign tied for 13th nationally. Senior Bowl executive director and NFL Draft analyst Jim Nagy does not see Hutchinson a whole lot different than he did ahead of this year. "I don't think Aidan Hutchinson is any different of a player than I've seen from past years, to be honest," Nagy told The Wolverine. "He's always been a re- ally good athlete and played hard. He's always been disruptive. "The biggest thing this year is that he's finishing more on the quarter- back. That's translated into numbers that show up on paper. It looks like he's taken this big jump as a player, but when you put on the tape, it's pretty similar to the past. Aidan has always had a ton of ability." Hutchinson's campaign has some speculating that he could push Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux to become the first pass rusher off the board in April's draft. Nagy said it is too early to make state- ments like that, but that he has first- rounder written all over him. "When you get up in that area, it's based on team needs and how the dif- ferent position groups end up, like with juniors getting involved," he said. "It's way too premature to talk like that. Is Aidan a guy that some team is going to take in the first round? I think he's defi- nitely in that conversation. "But he belonged there before the season started. Anyone who didn't have Aidan Hutchinson as a potential first- round pick coming into the year, I don't know what they are looking at." Nagy's team at the Senior Bowl is re- sponsible for trimming down 700 col- lege players from across the country to two squads that will put their talents on display in the first week of February in Mobile, Ala. He has not had many con- versations with NFL front offices about Hutchinson playing in the game, since he is a no-brainer type of player should he decide to accept an invitation. "He's not a hard guy to figure out," Nagy said. "When we talk to the NFL guys, it's more about guys that are on the cutline for our game and who they want to see here in Mobile and who they don't. Guys like Aidan Hutchinson are rarely in those conversations." Outside of Hutchinson at U-M, Nagy noted the Senior Bowl is keeping the closest eyes on running back Hassan Haskins and offensive tackle Andrew Stueber. Technically, both players, like Hutchinson, will have eligibility re- maining after the NCAA froze it last year, but will be eligible for the Senior Bowl if they leave, since they have each completed at least four years of college. The Wolverines do not project to have a large draft class in 2022, which Nagy sees as a positive for their future outlook. "That's a really good sign if you're a Michigan fan," he said. "[Wide receiver] Ronnie Bell would have been in that group as well. We liked him coming into the year. That's great news if you're a Michigan fan because the majority of their talent is younger guys. Guys that are getting it done for them right now aren't seniors." The Senior Bowl, considered col- lege football's premier all-star game, will select its rosters sometime in No- vember, per Nagy. The game is set for Feb. 5 from Hancock Whitney Stadium on the campus of the University of South Alabama. ❑ Inside Michigan ATHLETICS Senior Bowl Executive Director Not Surprised By Aidan Hutchinson's Play In 2021 Hutchinson has been a steady riser on NFL Draft boards thanks to his stellar play on the field. ESPN expert Mel Kiper Jr. listed him No. 6 overall on his big board that was released Oct. 26. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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