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Michigan 2023 DT Recap: Wolverines defensive line was the best in college football

The big guys up front were the anchor to Michigan’s historic run in 2023.

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl-Alabama at Michigan Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Adam Childs Adam is a freelance writer for MaizeNBrew and is a lifelong Michigan fan.

The Michigan Wolverines’ 2023 defense will go down as one of the best in the College Football Playoff era. It held opponents to 10.4 points per game (tops in the country) and was ranked No. 1 in total defense. The secondary will get a lot of the credit for leading the defense, as they had the flashier plays and interceptions, but the defensive line should be talked about in the same regard.

While Jesse Minter’s defense was not afraid to bring pressure from blitzes, the defensive tackles could definitely hold down the fort without that help. It was never more evident than in the National Championship Game against Washington when the defensive line pressured Michael Penix Jr. all game long and never let him get in a rhythm. The Wolverines would record just one sack in the game, but they continually hit Penix, and by the end of the game he didn’t want any more of the Michigan line.

Mason Graham was just a sophomore, but he played like a four-year veteran. Graham had 35 tackles and three sacks, and the most important tackle all year came when he blew up a running play by Alabama in overtime and stopped Jase McClellan for a five-yard loss on 2nd-and-goal. Graham was a disruptor and is only getting better; he is primed for a huge junior year.

Graham made a great duo with senior Kris Jenkins. Jenkins was an animal for the defensive line as the recorded 37 total tackles and 2.5 sacks. He also got himself his first career interception. Jenkins didn’t have as many tackles as he did his junior season, but he was still a force and teams had to gameplan around him.

Junior Rayshaun Benny was also solid this year for the Wolverines. He recorded 13 solo tackles and had 14 assists along with a sack, serving as a huge part of the line.

Finally, we need to mention sophomore Kenneth Grant. Grant had 16 tackles, 3.5 sacks and got an interception, but what was most impressive about his year was chasing down running back Kaytron Allen against Penn State. Grant is a 340-pound lineman; he isn’t supposed to be able to do that.

The defensive line was a huge strength for the Wolverines this year and should be again next season. They have a ton of talent coming back that are only going to get better. That should be scary for other teams.