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DT Chris Hinton’s path to Michigan, outlook for 2021

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It’s time for Hinton to make a leap.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan defensive tackle Chris Hinton was a highly touted prospect heading to Ann Arbor. The hopes were Hinton could develop into one of the best at his position in college football. However, Hinton’s career hasn’t materialized to the level expected yet. “Personally, I always feel like I could play better,” Hinton said last season, despite receiving good grades from Pro Football Focus. “I don’t care how well I play. I’m a hard critic on myself. I’ve been like that since I was a little kid. My parents, they’ve instilled that in me. Just never be satisfied.

The story so far

Hinton came to Michigan via the Greater Atlanta Christian School, where he made his presence known. Hinton was named to the 2017 Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Georgia Athletic Coaches Association first team all-state teams, and received an invitation to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Hinton was rated as a five-star prospect in the 247Sports composite rankings and was the No. 31 player overall nationally and No. 4 defensive tackle.

Although Hinton played in twelve games as a freshman, his first start came in the final game of the year at the Citrus Bowl against Alabama. Hinton’ freshman campaign resulted in 10 tackle and 0.5 sacks. Hinton started four games out of six in 2020, recording 13 tackles and 1 sack.

Hinton plays a position that doesn’t always blow up a stat sheet, and the case can be made that he wasn’t always utilized properly in Don Brown’s scheme. In short, Hinton’s production was better than the stats indicate, but he has not wowed or been a dominant player consistently enough to this point in run-defense and getting to the quarterback.

Outlook moving forward

The 6-foot-4, 305 pound Hinton is a smart person and player, and there’s a reason he was an Academic-All Big Ten honoree. Factoring in Hinton’s brain and brute, it isn’t unrealistic to think this is the year his career really takes off. Hinton’s first season as a legitimate starter was in a shortened year during a pandemic. New Michigan defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald comes from a creative scheme (Baltimore Ravens) that utilizes players in a variety of ways if its to their benefit, and it’ll be interesting to see how he envisions getting the best out of Hinton.

Hinton not only has the smarts and strength mentioned, but the drive to become better as well — he seems like a player that shouldn’t be bet against in 2021. It’s deeply within the realm of possibility that Chris Hinton has a breakout season where he tallies more quarterback sacks while also being an asset stopping the run. It’s time.