There’s still (at least) one more game for the Michigan football team to play in this 2023 season, as the Wolverines square off with Alabama in the Rose Bowl in a few weeks. However, it’s never too early to take a look at how things could look for Michigan in 2024.
With the transfer portal, NFL Draft decisions, and graduations, there could be plenty of roster turnover following any given season. Today, we’ll take a look at the state of Michigan’s defense and predict which contributors in 2023 will be sticking around.
LB Michael Barrett, DB Mike Sainristil, CB Josh Wallace, DL Cam Goode
Not much to say here. All of these guys should be on their way out the door after exhausting their eligibility.
S Makari Paige, Edge Jaylen Harrell, DL Kris Jenkins, Edge Braiden McGregor
These guys are in an interesting position, as they’ve been around long enough they still qualify for a bonus year of eligibility thanks to the 2020 season.
There are two names here in particular that stand out here in Jaylen Harrell and Kris Jenkins. Jenkins would be a surefire draft pick if he were to declare, and it seems he’s a good bet to go to the next level after he nearly did a year ago. Harrell could also be a candidate to depart after leading the Wolverines in sacks with 6.5.
Makari Paige and Braiden McGregor got some extended playing time this year and did well with their opportunities, but they could benefit from another year in school.
Prediction: Jenkins and Harrell to the NFL; Paige and McGregor return
Potential Draft Candidates
LB Junior Colson, S Rod Moore, Edge Josaiah Stewart
These guys were all juniors this year, so they have decisions to make.
Junior Colson seems like the most likely of this group to be out the door. He came into the season with some hype and would likely be a day-two draft pick. His performance this season as Michigan’s leading tackler only helped solidify that status.
Rod Moore and Josaiah Stewart are both interesting cases. Moore had a solid season, but didn’t quite take the next step fans hoped he would. Stewart was also solid, but it seems like he’s got another level he could get to. His size at only 6-foot-1 also doesn’t do him any favors. Both could benefit from another year in college, but it wouldn't be surprising if they try to go to the next level.
Prediction: Colson to the NFL; Moore and Stewart return
DL Mason Graham, DL Kenneth Grant, CB Will Johnson, LB Ernest Hausmann, Edge Derrick Moore, S Keon Sabb
Barring an unexpected transfer, these guys will all be back.
Mason Graham and Kenneth Grant should be the two starting defensive tackles after having great second seasons. The two of them should be considered the best defensive tackle tandem in the country heading into 2024. Will Johnson and Ernest Hausmann will both have starting spots locked up as well.
Where things get interesting is with Derrick Moore and Keon Sabb. Both are deserving of increased workloads and showed off their skills with their playing time this year. There’s nothing indicating either could transfer right now, but the promise of more playing time or NIL opportunities elsewhere wouldn’t be a total shock. Anything can happen in college sports these days.
Prediction: Graham, Grant, Johnson, Hausmann, Moore, and Sabb all return
CB Ja’Den McBurrows, DL Rayshaun Benny, S Quinten Johnson
Let’s make this a little more interesting, shall we?
Ja’Den McBurrows and Rayshaun Benny were both juniors this year and should see the field more in 2024. McBurrows played more of a role in the second half of the season, while Jenkins’ impending departure should give way for more snaps for Benny. However, Michigan’s interest in Joey Slackman and Upton Stout in the portal could also pose some barriers to more playing time.
Quinten Johnson was a senior this season and has an extra year of eligibility since he was on the team in 2020. He also got more playing time this year and could be a valuable member of the 2024 defense, but he might be a candidate for a starting spot elsewhere if Rod Moore, Makari Paige and Keon Sabb are all back.
There’s no buzz that any of these guys could be headed for the portal, but you never know in this day and age.
Prediction: McBurrows and Benny stay; Johnson transfers