You've heard it before, and you'll hear it again: Michigan's defense is going to be good again this season.
From watch lists to preseason rankings, the Wolverines' defense usually has been well represented.
It's no different with ESPN's preseason list of top 50 college football players, posted Monday. Michigan placed four players — three from a defense that last season was No. 3 in the nation in total defense — on the list, led by junior defensive end Rashan Gary at No. 8. Linebacker Devin Bush (22) and defensive end Chase Winovich (46) also made the list.
That trio also made the Sporting News' preseason top 40, posted last week. They're joined in ESPN's rankings by new quarterback Shea Patterson, who checks in at No. 25.
Michigan State, which landed quarterback Brian Lewerke in the Sporting News top 40, was shut out in ESPN's rankings.
Gary, a 6-foot-5, 281-pound junior, leads the Michigan contingent after a sophomore season in which he had 67 total tackles, 12 for a loss, including six sacks. His seven quarterback hurries led the team. Gary was one of 10 players to earn Big Ten preseason honors.
"One of several talented juniors on Michigan's defense, Gary has great speed and impeccable footwork for a 285-pound pass-rusher," ESPN writes. "He approached offseason workouts with renewed focus, which should help him keep pace with the high expectations he created the past two seasons and as the No. 1-ranked prospect coming out of high school."
Bush, meanwhile, led the Wolverines in tackles (100) last season, while also notching 9.5 tackles for loss, including five sacks.
"Good instincts and a fearsome attitude will make Bush the tone-setting centerpiece for another fast, aggressive group in Ann Arbor," ESPN writes.
Winovich returns for his final season after flirting with the possibility of entering the NFL Draft following a 2017 season in which he had 77 total tackles, including a team-high 18 for loss, and eight sacks (tied for the team lead).
Patterson will be in his first season at Michigan after transferring from Ole Miss. And, while Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has said the quarterback battle remains unsettled, Patterson is the presumed front-runner.
"The former Ole Miss starter is now the preordained savior in Ann Arbor," ESPN writes. "Patterson's ability to extend and make plays will — provided he wins the starting job — give Jim Harbaugh's staff a weapon it has not had under center at Michigan. Wolverine faithful are hoping he's the missing piece to a Big Ten title run."
While Michigan State didn't place any of its players in ESPN's top 50, one former Spartan made the cut. Mississippi State senior defense end Montez Sweat, who spent 2014 at Michigan State before transferring to Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) Community College, is No. 45.
"The second of Mississippi State's two first team All-SEC defensive linemen, Sweat is as good a pass-rusher as there is in the conference," ESPN writes. "Last season, the 6-6, 241-pounder tied for the SEC lead in sacks and tackles for loss."
Houston junior defensive tackle Ed Oliver leads ESPN's rankings.