There are many uncertainties surrounding college football right now. The 2020 season is still in jeopardy, and even if a season does occur it might do so with empty stadiums or a limited schedule. Still, it is never too early to take a look at the Michigan depth chart and the players slated to contribute whenever football does resume. Join us as we comb through the roster and answer key questions heading into this fall.
Aidan Hutchinson, true JR
247 Composite Ranking: 4 stars (SDE 6, Overall 112)
2019 Stats: 69 tackles, 10.0 TFL, 3.5 sack, 3 FF, 6 PD
The Michigan defense has some playmakers, but it all starts with Aidan Hutchinson up front. After appearing in all 13 games as a true freshman, the defensive end exploded as a sophomore, starting in every game and racking up some impressive numbers and third team All-Big Ten honors. With some youth slated to fill in the interior defensive line, there will be plenty of weight on his shoulders this fall.
Just about everyone is expecting him to handle that, and more. As a junior, a big season should continue to boost his name recognition and could put him in the conversation of the first round of the NFL draft next season. Everything Hutchinson has shown this far in Ann Arbor points to a player who is on a fast moving upward trajectory and not ready to slow down.
What does the next step forward look like for Hutchinson?
Hutchinson was a slam dunk recruit, a legacy with an extremely high floor and ceiling. He came into college with some room to grow, but the physical tools were already apparent. Like all great edge players, he is very aggressive with a high motor, capable of fighting off double teams and surging through the offensive line. He has tons of flexibility and bend to get around blocks and looks exactly like an end should.
As the anchor, Hutchinson is great at setting the edge and really limiting the opposing run game. He will surely be the player that opposing offenses work around, and this season he will draw even more attention than he did in 2019. From a physical standpoint, this should not be an issue, as he has shown great power and capability to handle all sorts of blockers, and he also carries a good understanding of the game with a solid football IQ.
His one area of improvement is his pass rush. As the strongside end, Hutchinson is not a pure pass rusher, but it is definitely within his job responsibilities. He recorded just 3.5 sacks last year, which is not a complete way to measure his game by any means, but does represent an opportunity for growth. I do not see a reason why he would not be able to make a big leap here, and it should be one of his main goals during the offseason. In terms of going pro next season, this could be the deciding factor.
Even without any improvement at all, Hutchinson is one of the best anchors in the Big Ten. But after a full year of starting at a high-level, the odds are that he is not done maturing his game just yet. Simply put, Michigan needs him to be a monster that sets up the rest of the line and everyone behind him. Fortunately, this is the right player to ask a lot of, and he is certain to have a high impact all of this season.