While Michigan’s defensive line lacks proven contributors, it has plenty of players with at least some level of experience and potential. It’s likely that the three Wolverines who get the start against Western Michigan will be people who have played before but haven’t taken that next step yet.
This brings us to Julius Welschof.
The story so far
Welschof hails from Bavaria, Germany, and first popped on the radar in 2017 as a 6-foot-6, 250-pound package of potential. A former youth champion moguls skier, Welschof learned football from YouTube videos and played for a club team, the Munich Cowboys, while working at a manufacturing plant.
American scouts soon discovered that Welschof could run as fast as 4.55 seconds in the 40-yard dash, broad jump over 10 feet and run a 4.38 20-yard shuttle — athleticism acquired from his downhill skiing career.
Originally a Georgia Tech commit, Welschof de-committed and chose to sign his National Letter of Intent with Michigan in December 2017.
After not seeing any playing time his first season and appearing in only one game (Notre Dame) in 2019, Welschof got his first real chance to contribute on the field as a redshirt sophomore. In five games, he made six tackles (three assisted, three solo) while assisting on a sack against Minnesota.
Outlook for 2021
Having a new defensive coordinator in Mike McDonald means that many elements of Michigan’s defense are likely still in flux. One thing that, as of May, appears more or less certain per Zach Shaw of 247Sports: every defensive end will be in a standup edge role.
In McDonald’s expected base 3-4 defense, that could open up some more playing time for Welschof. Shaw projects Aidan Hutchinson and Taylor Upshaw as the outside rushers. Both played defensive end last season and might have roles as down linemen on occasion, but seeing as Upshaw weighs 256 pounds while Hutchinson weighs 269, they’re better suited for the edge than Welschof, who’s listed at 286.
Welschof should be primarily competing against interior linemen Chris Hinton, Donovan Jeter, Mazi Smith and Jordan Whittley for snaps along the front three. Jeter is a fifth-year senior looking to finally make good on his potential, while Hinton and Smith are juniors looking for similar breakout seasons. Whittley, a seventh-year grad transfer from Oregon State, has a true 3-4 nose guard build at 360 pounds and will factor in as well.
Michigan desperately needs some combination of Hinton, Jeter and Smith to step up, considering their talent. But Welschof has plenty of potential of his own and got a not-insignificant amount of playing time a season ago. At worst he’s an essential rotation piece; at best he could turn his unorthodox size and athleticism into a role as a starting 3-4 end that seems tailor-made for him.