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Too early projection for Michigan’s defensive depth chart

Despite so many players heading to the NFL Michigan will be returning key defensive playmakers in 2024.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Minnesota Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

When a team like Michigan wins the national championship, loads of players wind up declaring for the NFL Draft.

For Michigan’s defense, key playmakers are taking their talents to the pros in 2024 — defensive lineman Kris Jenkings, edge rushers Jaylen Harrell and Braiden McGregor, linebackers Junior Colson and Michael Barrett, cornerbacks Mike Sainristil and Josh Wallace.

The good news for the Wolverines is they have plenty of returning talent on defense and even have a key addition via the transfer portal.

This incredibly early depth chart prediction shares the top options at each position and does not include reserve players or players currently fighting their way to get much higher on the depth chart at their respective position group. Consider this a rough outline and not concrete definitive analysis.

  • Defensive Tackle: Mason Graham, Rayshaun Benny, Trey Pierce
  • Nose Tackle: Kenneth Grant, Reece Atteberry
  • Edge Rushers: Derrick Moore, Josaiah Stewart, TJ Guy, Cameron Brandt, Kechaun Bennett, Enow Etta
  • Mike Linebacker: Ernest Hausmann, Jaydon Hood
  • Will Linebacker: Jaishawn Barham, Jimmy Rolder, Micah Pollard
  • Cornerback: Will Johnson, DJ Waller, Myles Pollard, Jyaire Hill
  • Nickel: Keon Sabb, Ja’Den McBurrows, Kody Jones
  • Strong Safety: Makari Paige, Quinten Johnson, Zeke Berry
  • Free Safety: Rod Moore, Brandyn Hillman


  • Michigan returns key contributors to the defense and some of the best players in not only the Big Ten Conference, but all of college football. Cornerback Will Johnson, nose tackle Kenneth Grant, and defensive lineman Mason Graham are as good as it gets for their respective positions.
  • Linebacker Ernest Hausmann is now in his second year with the program after transferring from Nebraska after his true freshman season. With Junior Colson and Michael Barrett both headed to the NFL, Hausmann’s experience and leadership will be much needed in 2024.
  • Michigan added Maryland’s Jaishawn Barham to the LB room via transfer portal in December — Barham had 37 tackles (23 solo) last season with three sacks and one interception.
  • Michigan has two returning edge rushers who were part of the rotation last season — Josaiah Stewart and Derrick Moore. With Braiden McGregor and Jaylen Harrell both declaring for the draft the snap counts of Stewart and Moore will increase. Stewart had 38 tackles (23 solo) with 5.5 sacks last season while Moore had 34 tackles (20 solo) with five sacks and a forced fumble.
  • There’s reason to be excited about Keon Sabb, who could have a variety of roles in Michigan’s defense next season. Sabb could play both safety and nickel cornerback next season. Sabb was particularly effective against Washington in the national championship, notching six tackles and two pass breakups.
  • Michigan returns both of their starting safeties in Rod Moore and Makari Paige and bring plenty of big time experience to the back end of Michigan’s defense.