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Michigan depth chart predictions 2019: Defensive line

A newcomer is going to be relied upon to be one of the top defensive linemen on the team.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 15 SMU at Michigan Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines lost a lot of leadership at the defensive line position after the 2018 season. Both Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary moved on from college football and ended up in the NFL on two historic franchises in the league.

Michigan is now left without a true leader on front of the defense, but plenty of reliable candidates to take over. Here is my defensive line depth chart for the 2019 season.

Defensive End Starters — Mike Danna and Aidan Hutchinson

Danna is going to be a monster with the Michigan Wolverines this season. He was a first-team All-MAC in his final season with the Central Michigan before his transfer.

He finished last season with 66 tackles, a staggering 15 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks, earning him a spot on Pro Football Focus’ All-America first-team.

Pro Football Focus continues to praise Danna, as the talented fifth-year defensive end made their list as one of the top 50 players in 2019. His consistency and athleticism will help Michigan in a lot of ways.

Meanwhile, Aidan Hutchinson will likely get the starting nod opposite side of Danna, according to Jim Harbaugh at Big Ten Media Days. Harbaugh praised the sophomore by saying, “Aidan Hutchinson was one of the three freshmen who played last year and he’s back, he’s starting. He’s looking better than ever.”

Hutchinson was a former 4-star recruit and was ranked just outside the top-100 in the 2018 recruiting class. He now has the chance to earn those stars at the next level as the go-to guy for the Wolverines.

Here was my favorite play from Hutchinson in 2018:

Hutchinson gets fooled on the screen play, but is smart enough to realize its a screen he leaps and tips the pass and then relentlessly goes and hits the quarterback on a very intelligent play.

The biggest knock on Hutchinson is his lack of experience, but the Wolverines need the sophomore to make leaps and bounds in 2019.

Defensive End 2nd String — Kwity Paye and Josh Uche

Kwity Paye played a lot of good minutes for the Wolverines last season and he will certainly be rewarded in 2019. Paye is a talented rusher off the edge who shows a lot of speed at the position. He will see plenty of playing time, but if Danna or Hutchinson struggle, expect Paye to step up and fill in their shoes just fine.

Josh Uche was another fill-in guy last season who really helped Brown’s defense. The senior will try to match his seven sacks from a season ago. Uche is certainly the definition of edge rusher and will also see some snaps at SAM linebacker.

Defensive End Depth — Luiji Vilain

Vilain is one of the more intriguing prospects on the Wolverines’ roster. He was a 4-star prospect heading into Ann Arbor, but has yet to see the playing field in his collegiate career.

That will all change in 2019.

Vilain has reportedly dropped 11 pounds from last season and will look to prove himself to the team and its coaching staff this year.

Defensive Tackle Starters — Carlo Kemp and Donovan Jeter

Kemp was named the most improved player on the Michigan defense by the coaching staff last season. He has played in 26 straight games, but has only recorded half of a sack in that time frame.

The Wolverines are still looking to fill the gaping hole Mo Hurst left two years ago. Kemp hopefully will take another step forward and produce better numbers this season.

Due to injuries to Michael Dwumfour lingering into spring ball, it seems Jeter will be the starter heading into the early stages of this season. He saw his first game action last season, but was still used on a very limited basis. He is going to have a lot to prove and will have to make a difference to keep his starting spot.

Defensive Tackle Second String — Michael Dwumfour

Dwumfour will likely be on the outside looking in to start the season. The big fella started two games for Michigan last season and hopes to add to that tally in 2019. He finished with three sacks last season and 28 tackles. If he can stay healthy, he may find his way back into the starting lineup.

Defensive Tackle Depth — Mazi Smith and Christopher Hinton

These two freshmrn will likely see a bit of playing time in 2019. Smith is even putting some pressure on the guys above him, according to Nick Baumgardner. While I don’t expect that to come to fruition, these two will certainly be great depth pieces to have as they develop their way into being the eventual starters later in their Michigan careers.