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Michigan younger defensive linemen, edges aim to offer depth in 2024: ‘You guys are going to be so surprised’



ANN ARBOR, Michigan: This season, the Michigan football team is aware that it has the defensive line of excellence. Michigan’s top-ranked defense saw 1,604 snaps from the starting four Wolverines last season: edge rushers Josaiah Stewart and Derrick Moore, and defensive tackles Mason Graham and Kenneth Grant. The consensus is that Graham is a preseason All-American, while Stewart, Grant, and Moore are guys whom the NFL Draft should consider.

The group may be the finest in the nation in terms of a top four.

The bulk of Michigan’s defensive line rotation has left for the NFL Draft, despite the fact that the quartet combined for 137 tackles, 27 tackles for loss, 17 sacks, 10 pass breakups, 107 quarterback pressures, and 61 run stops last fall. Along with all of their expertise and output (119 tackles, 26 tackles for loss), Braiden McGregor, Jaylen Harrell, Kris Jenkins Jr., and Cam Goode are no longer with us.

The Wolverines’ next batch of linemen looking to make the rotation had the chance to perform on Saturday in Michigan’s annual spring game.

“You guys are going to be so surprised when we go into the season, but a lot of people had doubts about depth,” remarked rising sophomore Enow Etta, who saw action on Saturday as a tackle and quarterback rush. “People you’ve never seen before are acting erratically in plays. You will almost feel foolish to inquire about the depth.”

To be honest, some of the players who step up will be names that fans are familiar with. Defending tackle As Michigan’s fourth-best tackler last fall, Rayshaun Benny had a strong junior campaign, racking up 27 tackles, 5.5 TFLs, a sack, two pass breakups, a forced fumble, seven pressures, and fifteen run stops. Although he is currently healing from a leg injury he suffered in the Rose Bowl, he will likely play a significant role in rotation.

TJ Guy, who has received a lot of attention this spring, demonstrated on Saturday why with a bag and several hard hits. Even though he was Michigan’s fifth-best edge rusher last fall, in 33 pass-rushing snaps, he recorded 10 tackles, 1.5 TFL, a sack, and five pressures.

To Etta’s point, though, a large portion of the room will consist of guys who haven’t yet had a significant influence on college football. Etta, a 6-foot-5, 287-pound former top-200 recruit, is one of them; this spring, he performed well at edge, tackle, and nose. At 6-foot-4 and 277 pounds, Cameron Brandt is another player with some versatility; in the previous season, he played 21 plays at the edge and 39 at tackle. Three tackles, including a sack, went to Brandt.

Also, other athletes who have received less attention addressed themselves to supporters on Saturday. Dominic Nichols, a freshman who enrolled early, recorded three tackles and a sack. Breeon Ishmail and Aymeric Koumba, both rising redshirt freshmen, combined for three tackles and half a sack, projecting themselves as Michigan’s future players beyond the box score. Ike Iwunnah (two tackles) and Kechaun Bennett (five tackles, two sacks) also had an impact.

The best two or three will have an opportunity to establish themselves this autumn, but not all of them will contribute this season.

Etta remarked, “I don’t think anybody should be worried.” “I see people asking all these questions on Twitter all the time. However, it’s a mindset of “next man up.” They taught us that when we were young, and since we are the next generation, we are learning it now.”

Rebuilding production along the defensive line is a task Michigan is well-versed in. The Wolverines have had 11 edge rushers or tackles taken in the last seven NFL Drafts—and that doesn’t include the three guys (Jenkins, Harrell, and McGregor) invited to this year’s NFL Combine. When a player leaves Ann Arbor for the NFL, it seems like it just makes room for another player to succeed. Ryan Glasgow was the last of the 11 NFL Draft selections mentioned above to be a primary starter for three consecutive seasons.

“We have approximately two additional waves of individuals who are consistently improving and working hard during practice,” Etta stated. “On certain sessions, Mason and KG didn’t receive many reps, so it was just the younger guys who gave it our all. Just keep working; I believe I had ten plays in a row one day. We simply strive to improve each day.”

Michigan may have more than simply an outstanding starting defensive line if they can witness Guy, Benny, and others continue to develop this summer. Once again, it may have the greatest defensive line in the nation.



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