Steve Palazzolo and Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus released a video Thursday that asked, “Does Michigan have the best defense in the nation?”
While maybe not the No. 1 defense in every statistical category, Renner stated that Don Brown’s dudes have, “more draftable NFL talent than anywhere else.”
They first analyze the one-two edge-rushing punch of Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich, who according to their play-by-play evaluations were the “only Power 5 edge defender duo with (at least) 50 pressures each.”
“The traits, the explosives, the power were off the charts last year,” Renner said of Gary. “We graded him as an 84.5 overall grade last year, and we expect that to go higher.”
PFF’s overall grades scale from 90 to 100 for elite prospects, 85 to 89 for future Pro Bowlers, 70 to 84 for future NFL starters, 60 to 69 for backups and zero to 59 for everyone else.
Palazzolo labeled Winovich as even more productive than Gary.
“He may not be the top-notch athlete Gary is,” he said, “but every time he’s been on the defensive line rotation at Michigan, he just wins.”
Winovich graded as a future elite prospect with a 90-plus rating. PFF ranks his ability to pressure the quarterback as tied for third-best nationally.
“There have only been nine guys in our four-year history of college ratings who have higher single-season grades than Winovich,” Renner said.
Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary return to Ann Arbor as the only Power-5 edge rushing duo to record at least 50 pressures apiece last season pic.twitter.com/9pTEExL213— PFF College (@PFF_College) August 6, 2018
Palazzolo and Renner continue their praise when moving on to the linebackers, particularly gushing over Devin Bush.
“Whether it was a coverage, run-stopping or blitzing grade,” Palazzolo said, “he was outstanding.”
The sophomore-version of Bush graded as the No. 15 best linebacker in 2017 with an 88.7 grade. Renner made a bold evaluation right after, saying this regarding Khaleke Hudson:
“He actually graded out higher at (Viper) than Jabrill Peppers did the season before.”
In fairness, was most of that against P.J. Fleck and Minnesota?
They save one more bullet of praise for the cornerback duo of Lavert Hill and David Long.
“Maybe the best tandem in all of college football,” Palazzolo said.
Long, in particular, allowed an 11.9 passer rating when targeted in 2017, the lowest among all returning FBS cornerbacks. He and Hill only ceded a combined 22 catches a season ago.
“That’s like a weekend,” Palazzolo said, “in the Big 12.”
Overall, the Wolverines return 10 starters on defense, including the six studs mentioned above. With improved safety play, as well as elite development everywhere else, Don Brown may produce yet another top-ranked unit.