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Maize n Brew’s Bracket for the best defensive player of the Jim Harbaugh Era: Round 1

Who’s the best player on the defensive side of the ball?

It’s time to move on to the defensive side of Maize n’ Brew’s bracket for the best player of the Jim Harbaugh era for the Michigan Wolverines.

If you missed Round 1 for the offensive side, you can find those results here and we encourage you to still participate as we continue!

The defensive side includes more guys who have finished higher in the Heisman voting than the offensive players in Harbaugh’s time in Ann Arbor. This speaks to the immense talent that the defense has had in the past couple of seasons.

Let’s break down all of the matchups on defense.

No. 1: Aidan Hutchinson vs No. 16: Khaleke Hudson

The case for Aidan Hutchinson

Hutchinson’s impact was immense. He was a 2021 consensus All-American while breaking the program record for the most sacks in a season tallying 14. After a three-sack performance in the win over Ohio State, Hutch finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting while winning just about every award for the best defensive player in the country. He was also a two-time captain in Ann Arbor.

The case for Khaleke Hudson

Hudson had a long career at Michigan. He played in 52 career games with 37 starts in Don Brown’s viper role. He broke a program record and tied an NCAA record with 8 tackles for loss in a 2017 win over Minnesota. As a senior in 2019, he led the team with 102 tackles and earned three All-Big Ten honors in four seasons.


Who’s the better player?

This poll is closed

  • 98%
    No. 1: Aidan Hutchinson
    (916 votes)
  • 1%
    No. 16: Khaleke Hudson
    (11 votes)
927 votes total Vote Now

No. 8: Josh Uche vs No. 9: Kwity Paye

The case for Josh Uche

This may be my favorite matchup on the bracket because these guys played at Michigan at the same time, and both were athletic freaks. Uche was named the team’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2019 making nine starts and leading the team with 8.5 sacks. He was a two-time All-Big Ten honoree in his four seasons in Ann Arbor.

The case for Kwity Paye

Paye started more games than Uche with 20 starts along the defensive line, appearing in 38 games. He had identical All-Big Ten honors as Uche, but he was also a team captain in 2020. In 2019, Paye led the team with 12.5 tackles for loss and then did it again in the COVID-shortened 202 season.


Who’s the better player?

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    No. 8: Josh Uche
    (346 votes)
  • 62%
    No. 9: Kwity Paye
    (574 votes)
920 votes total Vote Now

No. 5: Mo Hurst vs No. 12: Mazi Smith

The case for Mo Hurst

The battle for the best interior defensive lineman that has played for Harbaugh is on! Big Mo Hurst had an incredible career with 134 tackles, 33 for loss, 12.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles. As a fifth-year senior in 2017, Hurst was a consensus All-American and a first-team All-Big Ten honoree.

The case for Mazi Smith

Smith was never an All-American, but he did earn two seasons' worth of All-Big Ten honors. Hurst was a much more productive pass rusher, but Smith was a huge part of Hutchinson and David Ojabo racking up sacks on the outside in collapsing pockets from the interior. Without a doubt, Smith played on better defenses, but he was maybe the top reason that Michigan had a Top-10 run defense in 2022.


Who’s the better player?

This poll is closed

  • 76%
    No. 5: Mo Hurst
    (1063 votes)
  • 23%
    No. 12: Mazi Smith
    (326 votes)
1389 votes total Vote Now

No. 4: Jourdan Lewis vs. No. 13: DJ Turner

The case for Jourdan Lewis

I feel like because of how great the defensive lines were in his time, Jourdan Lewis does not get the respect that he deserves. Lewis was a two-time All-American making 30 starts in his career at Michigan. He’s the Wolverines’ career leader with 45 pass breakups, including a program single-season record of 22 in 2015. Plus, he made one of the greatest interceptions I have ever seen to seal a win against a Top-10 Wisconsin team:

The case for DJ Turner

If we are just talking about physical ability, there may not be a more athletic corner than DJ Turner in Harbaugh’s time at Michigan (Will Johnson may have a say, but too soon to tell). His elite speed allowed him to keep up with any guy lining up on the opposite side of the ball. His emergence in 2021 as the top corner on the team was extremely important to their first College Football Playoff appearance under Harbaugh.


Who’s the better player?

This poll is closed

  • 92%
    No. 4: Jourdan Lewis
    (1264 votes)
  • 7%
    No. 13: DJ Turner
    (106 votes)
1370 votes total Vote Now

No. 6: Chase Winovich vs. No. 11: Daxton Hill

The case for Chase Winovich

If this was a bracket for the most Michigan Man in the Harbaugh era, Winovich probably wins it. He was the team MVP in 2018 when he earned All-American mentions for the AP and AFCA. Appearing in 45 career games, Winovich had 185 tackles, 18 sacks, and 45 tackles for loss. Winovich was also the team’s vocal leader, leading the charge for the Revenge Tour, which at the time, was the most exciting time to be a Michigan fan under Harbaugh.

The case for Daxton Hill

The hype for Hill was at an all-time high after Michigan stole him away from Alabama on National Signing Day. And, Hill was a really good player at Michigan. There were things he did on the field that maybe only one or two other guys on this list were capable of. Not only was he solid in coverage, but he was also a lethal blitzer on the outside of either Hutchinson or Ojabo. That’s why he was an All-Big Ten honoree when he started every game in 2021. A COVID-year in 2022 maybe diminished his legacy in what could have been a career that could have been higher on this list.


Who’s the better player?

This poll is closed

  • 62%
    No. 6: Chase Winovich
    (860 votes)
  • 37%
    No. 11: Daxton HIll
    (520 votes)
1380 votes total Vote Now

No. 3: Devin Bush vs. No. 14: Lavert Hill

The case for Devin Bush

Devin Bush was the best linebacker Jim Harbaugh has had. The dude was all over the field. In 2017, Bush had 102 total tackles, earning him some nods for All-American status. Then after a stellar 2018 season, he was named a consensus All-American. He finished his career with 193 tackles, 19 for loss, 10 sacks, and an interception. He also delivered an all-time moment in the Michigan State rivalry:

The case for Lavert Hill

Hill had a long career at Michigan earning three All-Big Ten honors. He is also one of four players in the history of the program that had multiple pick-sixes. Hill played in 48 games with 38 starts at corner and finished his career tied for sixth in all-time pass breakups.


Who’s the better player?

This poll is closed

  • 98%
    No. 3: Devin Bush
    (1338 votes)
  • 1%
    No. 14: Lavert Hill
    (27 votes)
1365 votes total Vote Now

No. 7: David Ojabo vs. No. 10: Taco Charlton

The case for David Ojabo

We spoke about the ascent of DJ Turner in 2021, but David Ojabo’s was even more important. Ojabo cleaned up just about everything that Aidan Hutchinson didn’t and they fed off each other like crazy. That tandem was by far the best in the country that season. Ojabo forced a program-record five fumbles in his only season as a starter and was recognized as an All-American by the AP and CoSIDA and was a consensus first-team All-Big Ten player.

The case for Taco Charlton

Charlton had 19 career sacks in 15 starts and 46 appearances in his time at Michigan, including a team-high 9.5 sacks in his senior season. Like Ojabo, he cannot admit to being the best player on his defense during his tenure as guys like Chase Winovich, Jabrill Peppers and Jourdan Lewis were on the squad. Comparatively, he stacks up with these guys, but I think each had more memorable careers for a slew of reasons.


Who’s the better player?

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    No. 7: David Ojabo
    (884 votes)
  • 35%
    No. 10: Taco Charlton
    (485 votes)
1369 votes total Vote Now

No. 2: Jabrill Peppers vs. No. 15: Josh Ross

The case for Jabrill Peppers

Jabrill Peppers was a special football player. He played meaningful downs in all three phases of the game, and did so at an elite level. In 2016, Peppers became the first player in Big Ten history to win three individual conference awards securing the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year, Linebacker of the Year, and Return Specialist of the Year. He also finished fifth in Heisman voting and was a consensus All-American. I could go on and on... Peppers was one of the greats and contended for the top spot in the Defensive Region.

The case for Josh Ross

Ross was a two-time captain under Harbaugh and led the team in tackles in 2021 with 106 as the Wolverines made their first College Football Playoff appearance of the regime. He was an elusive five-year letterman with the program and appeared in 50 games at Michigan, including 24 starts. Injuries derailed what could have been a career worthy of higher marks, but he is deserving of an appearance on the bracket.


Who’s the better player?

This poll is closed

  • 94%
    No. 2: Jabrill Peppers
    (1299 votes)
  • 5%
    No. 15: Josh Ross
    (69 votes)
1368 votes total Vote Now

Comment your thoughts on the matchups and the bracket below for a chance to be featured in one of our upcoming stories!