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Maurice Hurst didn’t start last season for the Michigan football team. He could be a high draft pick after this season.

That’s according to Todd McShay of ESPN, who on Thursday ranked the Wolverines’ defensive tackle No. 9 in his preseason top 32 prospects for 2018 NFL draft (pay site).

The 6-foot-2, 282-pound Hurst was part of a deep defensive line rotation last season, registering 11.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and seven quarterback hurries, helping to garner plenty of attention going into this season. He’s landed on several preseason watch lists, and fellow ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. has him as the No. 1 senior defensive tackle.

More importantly, his own coaches are touting his skills, with defensive coordinator Don Brown calling the duo of Hurst and Rashan Gary the top tandem in the country.

2017 MICHIGAN SCHEDULE

McShay’s ranking is simply the latest trumpeting Hurst’s abilities.

“Despite being a backup the past two seasons, Hurst has been extremely productive,” McShay writes. “He has notched 68 tackles, 18 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. While slightly undersized ... Hurst is a quick and powerful one-gap penetrator who is highly disruptive against the run. He has a powerful upper body and disengages quickly. He projects as a future NFL starter and top-40 pick.”

USC quarterback Sam Darnold tops McShay’s rankings.

Michigan opens its season Sept. 2 against Florida in Arlington, Texas.

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