Could Michigan’s defense be better than last year? Jim Harbo thinks so

INDIANAPOLIS — Michigan lost six starting players in defense to the NFL after last season, leading many to question how the Wolverines plan to replace that lost production.

And while Jim Harbaugh and his staff haven’t provided many details, there is a growing belief internally that they have the playmakers necessary to compete for another Big Ten Championship this fall.

Speaking Tuesday at Big Ten Media Days, Harbaugh answered a question about offense — who is expected to be Michigan’s powerhouse in 2022 — and instead started talking about defense.

“It was a great defense last year – and we talked about some superstars (men) like Aidan Hutchinson, Dax Hill and David Ojabo,” said Harbaugh. “I remember coming here (Big Ten Media Days) last year and there was no talk of David Ogabo. And then by the end of the year it was O-jab-o.

Harbaugh has been hinting that he believes Michigan has players ready to break through and turn into stars. Mike Morris and Taylor Upshaw are expected to see extended playtime on The Edge, as well as Jaylene Harrell and Brayden McGregor. An easy start to the Wolverines’ season should give the Wolverines time to do that, and give Michigan a chance to assess what they have in real time.

Now, what they don’t have is an all-American pre-season like Hutchinson. Not only was Hutchinson a captain, he lived up to the hype on the field – taking American honors, finishing second in the Heisman Awards and earning a slew of post-season awards for his memorable season.

more: Michigan has a new DC, but expects a similar defense in 2022

With Hutchinson moving to the NFL (which finished second overall to the Detroit Lions), along with Ogabu, linebacker Josh Ross and defensive backs Duxton Hill, Brad Hawkins and Vincent Gray, the Wolverines will be looking to replace six full-time players. appetizers.

“If you are asking how we are going to replace these stars, I have been part of many a team where a defense without stars was the best defense,” Harbo said. “Because there is competition within the position groups; there are more hungry guys like David Ojabo who was a year ago – hungry to be cool.

“And that’s why I feel – as I watch it – there is an offside suspicion that he can be better at defence.”

Michigan introduced plenty of new training faces on the defensive side in the spring, including new coordinator (Jesse Minter) and defensive line coach (Mike Elston), and while there’s a new sound inside the locker room, all signs point to a continuing Mike McDonald overall system has been installed. Past.

Look for Wolverines to play with lots of variation in the foreground, line up in more area formations in the background, and play more freewheels. It was the right mix (and group of players) that allowed Michigan to jump from 84th nationally in yards allowed per game in 2020 to 20th last year.

Now, Harbaugh & Company. They think they can turn this year’s hack into a sustainable success.

“They were saying that. Defensive handling, they were saying it forever,” said Mazie Smith, a defensive tackle. “Like, defense always somehow becomes a question mark. So it’s like, OK, keep making it a question mark.”

Read more about football in Michigan:

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Loss to MSU last season “sticks” with Michigan, provides motivation

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