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The Other Guys: New faces that will play roles on the Michigan defense this year

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Don Brown has been preparing these young Wolverines for expanded roles.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 23 Michigan at Indiana Getty Images

Michigan Wolverines defensive coordinator Don Brown spoke to the media this week for the first time since May to discuss how that unit is coming along. We know that players like Kwity Paye, Cam McGrone, Aidan Hutchinson, Dax Hill and others will make up what is expected to be one of the better defenses in the conference, but what about everyone else?

We have already done a defensive projection for how the starting lineup may wind up looking, but Brown has also mentioned a number of other players — both older and younger — that are expected to have roles and potentially crack the two-deep depth chart. This is especially true this year with paused eligibility due to the coronavirus altered-season.

Based on his own words, here are some of the players that are still in the mix for playing time three weeks out from the season and how they might factor in. Brown and head coach Jim Harbaugh have a tendency to whip around the entire roster to give praise, so keep that in mind, as well.

Defensive end

  • Taylor Upshaw and Julius Welschof, redshirt sophomores — Brown spoke highly of both earlier this week, namely Upshaw, who has bulked up and actually “has a butt” this year compared to last.
  • Kris Jenkins, freshman — The staff is a fan of the upside that they see here, but he comes into his first season at 239 pounds. His progress will be interesting to chart, but it remains to be seen how he factors into the rotation.

Defensive tackle

  • Donovan Jeter, redshirt juniorJeter is a player that we have been waiting to see break out for awhile, but has not consistently put it together on the field. Brown says that he is a “different dude” coming into 2020 and that he is “playing better than I ever could have anticipated he could play. He has exceeded all expectations.”
  • Christopher Hinton, sophomore — Hinton is not a new face, but fans wanted to see more of him last season than they did. It sounds like they will get their wish this year.
  • Jess Speight, redshirt juniorSpeight might be the fourth of four defensive tackles in the rotation (Carlo Kemp, the above names), but the former walk-on will be in the mix.

Linebacker

  • Ben VanSumeren, redshirt sophomore and David Ojabo, redshirt freshman — Based on what Brown has told the media, this appears to be the battle for the starting SAM linebacker spot with VanSumeren slightly out in front. Both players have impressed, but BVS has consistently been mentioned as one fo the surprise players of the offseason after the switch from running back
  • Jaylen Harrell, freshman — Brown said that Harrell has been getting good work in at SAM, as well. But the battle feels like it comes down to the above two.
  • Mike Barrett, redshirt sophomore, Anthony Solomon, redshirt freshman, and William Mohan, freshman — This is your battle for the starting VIPER spot with it mostly revolving around Barrett and Solomon. Michigan made Barrett available to the media on Thursday, so it could be a sign he is slightly in front. But he has been groomed for the position seemingly from the jump this offseason.
  • Kalel Mullings, Nikhai Hill-Green, Cornell Wheeler, freshmen — Mullings and Hill-Green seem like legitimate candidates to crack the two-deep at MIKE and WILL, respectively. Brown says the “sky’s the limit” for them and also spoke well of Wheeler, who missed some time but is back now.

Cornerbacks

  • DJ Turner and Jalen Perry, redshirt freshmenVincent Gray is locked in — perhaps by default — as one of the two starting corners this fall. With Ambry Thomas opting out, some more young players will be thrown into the fire. With three more weeks of practice until game week, these two appear to be neck-and-neck for that other spot along the boundary.
  • Gemon Green, redshirt sophomore — Brown would later say in his availability that Green is included with Turner and Perry in that battle.
  • Andre Seldon, freshman — Dax Hill might be playing a ton of nickel this year again, but Seldon is ready to play and is being groomed for early time there.
  • Keshaun Harris, redshirt freshman and Eamon Dennis, freshman — These two were also named in the corners group, but are raw and might still need time.

Safeties

  • Sammy Faustin, redshirt sophomore — Michigan has its two projected starters on the back end in Dax Hill and Brad Hawkins, but Brown says Faustin has done a “good job” and it seems we might get to see more of him this year.
  • Makari Paige and R.J. Moten, freshmen — Brown is excited about Paige and said that he feels he can jump in and help right away for the Michigan defense with his slot coverage as one of the standout traits. Michigan is also excited about Moten, but they are not sure what position he fits at as of yet.