Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News breaks down Michigan’s defense ahead of the season opener on Saturday against Florida.
Is anyone back?
Well, not many. But as defensive coordinator Don Brown said before the bowl game, he’s not scared. And he isn’t. There will be a lot of youth and inexperience on the field, but Brown is buoyed by a defensive line that got plenty of snaps last year. It’s the guys behind them who need more playing time. The linebackers are minus Jabrill Peppers, but Khaleke Hudson is filling the Viper role, veteran Mike McCray returns and hard-hitting Devin Bush is eager to play a bigger role. But what about the secondary?
So what about the secondary?
Mike Zordich, with a week left in camp, publicly went off on how no one among his group of corners has stepped up and really distinguished himself. Be assured some of that was coachspeak with the hope that it might light a fire under his players. Lavert Hill will play a big role this fall, so will Tyree Kinnel, the old man of the group. David Long seemed to receive most of Zordich’s pointed comments, which means the talent is there, it’s just a matter of Long being a more consistent performer.
Second year of the mustache
Do not underestimate how important it is that Don Brown (and his famous mustache) is in his second season as defensive coordinator. Returning players always thrive with the consistency and stability when a coordinator returns on either side of the ball. They understand the demands, they understand what’s expected, and with Brown, they feed off his aggressive, all-out style. And conversely, Brown has achieved a comfort level here, and he’s had a hand in recruiting these younger players he must now mold.
Rashan Gary is a sophomore defensive end who carries himself like a third-year veteran. He’s used to being a leader and has been since he first started playing football. That is, until last season, when he came in as the hot-shot but humble recruit who listened to Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton and the rest of the starting defensive linemen. His athleticism is uncanny, as evidenced by some of the times and numbers he put up during the spring “combine” at Michigan. Expect a breakout season from Mr. Gary.
Don’t forget Mo
Maurice Hurst could be in the NFL now but opted to return for his final season – which will, of course, help his draft grade and clearly has already if you listen to the NFL draft gurus. Hurst’s return was a huge bonus for the Wolverines. There’s been plenty of talk about Gary, but Hurst, who spent the summer working out daily with Gary, is THE leader of the defensive line. As long as Hurst and Gary stay healthy, this could be a more athletic and impressive line than last year.