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Fall camp depth chart prediction: Defense

Positional battles become clearer after spring ball

NCAA Football: Connecticut at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan has a ton of returning experience on defense this year, making the projected depth chart for this upcoming season a little clearer than in the past. But there are still a number of interesting positional battles, even for backup slots.

Here are our predicted starters on the defense.


Starters: Jaylen Harrell, Derrick Moore
Backups: Braiden McGregor, Josiah Stewart

Michigan would probably like for one specific guy to become a dominant edge rusher like Hutchinson or Ojabo in 2021, but all the top four guys have shown out during spring ball.

Harrell started last year and made 3.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss. He should make even more strides this fall. Moore has less experience, but did appear in all 14 games last year with two sacks. His physical tools pop and he has a ton of potential as a true sophomore.

Stewart is a transfer from Coastal Carolina who had 10 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and one forced fumble in 2022, and a program record 12.5 sacks in 2021. Stewart looked excellent in the spring game, and both will get significant reps. Meanwhile, McGregor made three starts at edge last year and had 2.5 sacks. Both of these guys will get a lot of reps this season.


Starters: Kris Jenkins, Mason Graham
Backups: Rayshaun Benny, Kenneth Grant

Jenkins was an All-Big Ten honorable mention in 2022 with 54 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks, and has already been named to the watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Award for defensive player of the year. Harbaugh said he was potentially the best player on the defense in February. He’s certainly going to start. Graham is also a lock to start coming off a very strong freshman campaign.

Benny is a redshirt sophomore who should get more reps as a rotation piece. Grant is a massive true sophomore who showed promise in limited minutes last year and should be a key piece off the bench this season.


Starters: Junior Colson, Michael Barrett
Backups: Ernest Hausmann, Jimmy Rolder

Colson is a lock to start after leading the Wolverines in tackles last year with 101, including six tackles for loss with two sacks in his first year as a starter. Barrett is the favorite to win the job playing next to Colson after a strong season as a starter last year.

Hausmann is likely to come off the bench, but he made 54 tackles with two tackles for loss, one sack, and one fumble recovery last year at Nebraska. He has the talent to challenge for a starting spot. Meanwhile, Rolder played in 13 games last season, including nine at linebacker, and made 14 tackles. He should only get even better with more time.


Starters: Rod Moore, Makari Paige
Backups: Caden Kolesar, Quinten Johnson

Moore is a lock to start this year, after making 71 tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss including a shared sack and a team-leading four interceptions among seven pass breakups as a starter in 2022. With RJ Moten transferring to Florida, Paige is in the driver’s seat to take over in a full-time capacity.

Kolesar was hurt for much of 2022, but was a rotation player at safety the last couple years. Johnson appeared in eight games at safety last year and is more experienced than Zeke Berry and Keon Sabb, two other options for a backup spot.


Starter: Mike Sainristil
Backup: Kody Jones

Sainristil is a sure-fire starter after a great 2022, his first full season on defense. Kody Jones is a redshirt freshman and former four-star prospect who played snaps last year at the nickel position. Zeke Berry is also an option to get time here, in addition to safety.


Starters: Will Johnson, Amorion Walker
Backups: Josh Wallace, Myles Pollard, Ja’Den McBurrows

Will Johnson showed flashes of his potential as a shutdown corner near the end of the 2022 season. He should be in line for a monster sophomore season. Amorion Walker will be one of the most interesting players to watch on Michigan’s defense this year. The converted receiver is an excellent athlete, but this will be his first full year on defense and growing pains are to be expected.

McBurrows missed all of last season with a knee injury, but is one of the most talented options and should see snaps this year. Pollard is a redshirt freshman who appeared in two games last season and appears to have the inside track on a rotation spot this season. Wallace has a legitimate shot at significant playing time, transferring over from UMass as a two-time captain for the Minutemen.