The Wolverine

2018 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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96 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2018 FOOTBALL PREVIEW DEFENSIVE LINE BY JOHN BORTON G reg Mattison doesn't sport any hockey coaching in his back- ground, but he certainly could talk a good line change with Mel Pearson, U- M's head coach on the ice. Michigan's defensive line coach loves depth, having performers on the field that can give it everything they've got and then come off for a brief break. That can't hap- pen unless there are talented replacement parts, and Mattison likes what he sees there in 2018. "Up front, we always want to have enough depth to be able to rotate," Mattison stressed. "That's what the spring is for us. We want our first group to get better. "The guys behind them have to earn the right, so that when we get into games, this guy can go in right now. You're starting to see that." Of course, it doesn't hurt to feature one of the strongest defense end combinations in the country in fifth-year senior Chase Winovich and junior Rashan Gary. Com- bined with inside stalwarts such as fifth-year senior tackle Bryan Mone, sophomore Au- brey Solomon and redshirt sophomore Mi- chael Dwumfour — hailed by head coach Jim Harbaugh as one of Michigan's best performers this spring — it's a strong crew. But begin to add in quality depth like fifth-year senior tackle Lawrence Marshall, redshirt freshman tackle Donovan Jeter, sophomore end Kwity Paye and junior end/ tackle Carlo Kemp, and the group becomes much more imposing. That's precisely what the Wolverines are seeking. Harbaugh has taken to calling Gary Michigan's best player, and there's plenty of evidence to that end. Gary managed 66 tackles a year ago, fifth among the return- ing performers, with six sacks and a dozen tackles for loss. He forced a fumble, hurried the quarter- back seven times and created countless op- portunities for teammates by becoming such a key factor in the planning by opposing of- fenses. Not only that, but the first-team All- Big Ten performer (coaches) has become a fiery, vocal leader for the Wolverines, driv- ing others not only by his words but also his work ethic. Defensive coordinator Don Brown talks about him like there's no further credential- ing necessary when Gary's name is men- tioned. "Rashan Gary is Rashan Gary," Brown offered. "He's a good player, a tremendous player." Gary himself credits new strength and conditioning coordinator Ben Herbert for pushing him to even greater heights physi- cally while constantly demanding greatness. Gary recalled: "I came in [to offsea- son conditioning] at 280, and he was like, 'Don't worry about the weight. It's going to come and it's going to go. Just know, when it comes the right time, you're going to have the right weight.' "I started spring ball at 288. That's the biggest I've been in a while. I feel good, fast, explosive. He's [helping guys] put on weight, making people more fast, explosive, stronger. Having that type of guy around just makes things better." Winovich might be Michigan's most charismatic performer, ever-ready with a quip and a unique take on a situation. The fifth-year defensive end with the flowing blond locks keeps the media entertained and his teammates laughing, but he's anything but a joke when he steps onto the field. Eight sacks among 18 tackles for loss in 2017 attest to that fact, along with 79 tackles, six quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and a pair of recoveries. The first- team All-Big Ten end (media) remains a disrupting force off the edge. "He gives you everything he's got on ev- ery single play," Brown said. The biggest loss on the defensive line occurred when defensive tackle Maurice Hurst became a member of the Oakland Raiders. It proved timely, then, that Dwum- four should step up as one of Michigan's strongest performers in the spring. Both Harbaugh and Mattison likened Dwumfour to Hurst in several areas, in- cluding coming off the snap and proving disruptive. That's a big linkage, for someone with four tackles (including one half-sack and one tackle for loss) in nine games last season. But they saw what they saw, and now it comes down to Dwumfour confirming the QUICK FACTS Position Coach: Greg Mattison (fourth straight season as U-M's DL coach and 13th overall at U-M). Returning Starters: DE Chase Winovich (15 career starts), DE Rashan Gary (13), DT Bryan Mone (7), DT Aubrey Solomon (4). Departing Starters: Maurice Hurst (17 starts). Projected New Starters: DT Michael Dwumfour. Top Reserves: DE Kwity Paye, DE Carlo Kemp, DT Donovan Jeter, DT Lawrence Marshall. Wait Until 2019: DE Luiji Vilain. Newcomers: DE Julius Welschof, DE Taylor Upshaw, DE Aidan Hutchinson. Moved In: None. Moved Out: DT James Hudson (to OT), DT Phillip Paea (to OG) Rookie Impact: Welschof, Hutchinson. Most Improved Player: Solomon. Best Pro Prospect: Gary. Unleashed and angry Michigan's Front Offers Talent And Depth PRESEASON ANALYSIS: DEFENSIVE LINE STARTERS ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Junior Rashan Gary and fifth-year senior Chase Winovich are determined to become the most potent tandem of defensive ends in the nation. Redshirt sophomore nose tackle Michael Dwumfour has drawn some compari- sons to the guy that used to hold the job, the Oakland Raider's Maurice Hurst. Sophomore tackle Aubrey Solomon is only getting better, meaning this bunch could be special. DEPTH ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ This group could harken back to the defen- sive line that position coach Greg Mattison trotted out two years ago — one awash in NFL talent, but backed by players who could comfortably join a rotation. The Wolverines won't need any ironman acts in 2018. X-FACTOR This one has to involve Dwumfour. If he truly replaces Hurst in such a way that there's not a big falloff, it makes a dramatic differ- ence for Michigan's defense. Plenty of eyes will fix on No. 50 when the pads crash in earnest. OVERALL ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Michigan's defense is expected to keep it in every game it plays this year. That starts up front, with a defensive line potentially among the nation's best. Gary is driven to rip the word "potentially" right off any such projection, and the Wolverines have it in their power to follow.

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