Scouting the Michigan defense: New stars poised to shine

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News breaks down Michigan defense.

New-name defense

By now you’ve heard the news: Several of Michigan’s defensive starters have moved on to the NFL. Yes, Michigan fans have had time to adjust to that reality, but fear not, coordinator Don Brown has said, because he feels good about the replacements.

Michigan defensive lineman Kwity Paye will be charged with replacing some of the production left by Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary, who are now playing in the NFL.

Defensive ends Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich, linebacker Devin Bush and cornerback David Long are gone. Now it’s going to be all about Kwity Paye and Aidan Hutchinson, and Central Michigan transfer Mike Danna should be in there at end, as well. Carlo Kemp moved from outside to the inside of the line last season; he’s back, along with Michael Dwumfour.

Freshman fixture?

There are high expectations for freshman Dax Hill, who has impressed with his speed during camp. But as Don Brown mentioned recently, he’s still a freshman and needs time to get acclimated to the defense.  The upside clearly is there, but Brown wants to be cautious with how quickly Hill is thrown into the mix. Still, he is very much on their “radar” in terms of playing this fall, Brown said.

Replacing Devin Bush

This is no easy task, and no one seems to be under any illusions about that. Josh Ross is the next guy up, and Brown has said repeatedly he is confident Ross can fill the void. But Bush brought more to the defense than just his athleticism, closing speed and instincts. He was the heart and soul of the defense in many ways. That’s difficult to replace and no one is asking Ross to be anything but a stalwart in the middle.

Best-name duo

Khaleke Hudson and Josh Uche. If you don’t know their names (you probably do), remember them. They’re both extremely versatile and will be strong contributors this season. Hudson, a newly elected captain, is at viper and Uche is a linebacker/rush end who is noted for his pass-rush skills. Hudson returned to Michigan for his final season because he said then he and the team have “unfinished business." Uche feels like a more complete player and coach Anthony Campanile said can be an every-down player.

Unstoppable Mason

With the move to Josh Gattis’ offense came pretty much the end of the fullback, which meant Ben Mason needed a place to go. He packed on 20 pounds of muscle and is playing defensive tackle now, although running back and special teams remain on his resume. He’s not the conventional type at tackle, and Carlo Kemp shouldn’t be worried about his job, but the linemen love the attitude and fearlessness Mason brings to their group. He is a battering ram, and what better place to have him than the defensive line.

Twitter: @chengelis