clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Mike Elston excited about pass rush potential for interior DL

Mike Easton discussed the strength of the DL, sharpening the pass rush and what it takes to be successful.

Michigan Spring Football Game Photo by Jaime Crawford/Getty Images

In his second year on the Michigan Wolverines coaching staff, Mike Elston is aiming to improve his group’s pass rush efforts heading into the 2023 season.

Elston joined Jon Jansen on In the Trenches to reflect on his time thus far in Ann Arbor, and his excitement for his group for the upcoming year.

A common denominator for much of the coaching staff this season is roster depth. Multiple interviews from Sherrone Moore, Ron Bellamy, Jesse Minter and Steve Clinkscale all routinely discuss how to utilize the amount of talent each of their groups possess in the best way possible.

Elston shared similarly, “We have a rotation series that we go through situationally. When they can all play winning football, you’d like to see them all out there, but you are only playing a couple guys at a time.”

He also spoke at length about the work ethic and the high ceiling of some of the core veterans along the interior of the defensive line.

“It’s a talented position across the board from Kris (Jenkins) to Mason (Graham) to Rayshaun Benny to Kenneth Grant and Cam Goode,” he said. “There are five guys coming out of spring that can play winning championship level football. It’s a really good position inside.”

Having so much time in the system and adjusting to the needs of the team has been a driving factor to the success of the defensive line. From that comes expectations of success, but Elston shared how the older guys motivate each other and the newcomers. One of the best tools for their development is going up against one of the best offensive lines in the country. They recognize the privilege and don’t shy away from the challenge.

“These guys know what they need to get better at and they want to improve those areas to take the next step. It’s a humble group and not a complacent group,” Elston said. “They want to push each other to be better, and when you go against the best offensive line in the country every single day, you certainly can’t be complacent. They want to make each other better.”

Getting to the QB a top priority

One of the things the defensive line has spent the offseason sharpening has been their pass rush abilities, while also keeping the competitive mindset between each other in getting after the quarterback.

“That’s the really cool part of it — the competition piece of being able to pressure the quarterback. The thing we spent a lot of time on this spring was working together with the defensive tackle position. People want to be in those passing situations,” Elston said. “We study the opponent and we try to steal third downs on first and second. If we can find something that tells us that it’s a passing situation, we can steal those and make those third downs.”

In terms of pass rush development, guys like Jenkins and Benny have been challenged to improve. Elston noted the receptiveness of each of them, and how it has elevated their game.

“Kris is so talented. He is a technician. He is really great at block destruction,” Elston said. “What he has really worked on in the spring and the summer is pass rush. We want him to be a dynamic third down pass rusher. That’s what he has been focused on.”

“(Benny’s) got an incredibly high ceiling. He’s young and he’s made the greatest improvement. He is consistent and accountable. He can do all the jobs and play championship level football,” Elston said. “There are some guys always around the ball, getting off blocks. He’s one of those guys that does not stay blocked and he’s got a pass rush ability about him that is pretty special.”

The young guns have limitless talent

Then there are the high motor, guys like Graham and Grant who has impressed Elston. That goes for the rest of them, too, which contributes to Elston’s general excitement for the upcoming season for his group.

“The thing about Mason from practice one of spring ball last year — everybody knew that he was different. He was well trained and knew how to use his hands well,” Elston said. “From day one he was able to come in and function and block destruct at a very good level. He puts his head down and works and you can count on him. He’s going to have a monster year this year.”

“Kenneth Grant is just a freak, high ceiling, long and athletic. He can run and never get tired. You watch the spring game, he was out there every single play. The amount of effort and versatility, I am super excited for these guys.”