After Kwity Paye’s exit following a superb career with the Michigan Wolverines, there is an open slot on the defensive line that needs to be filled. There are several candidates for the job, but one of them who may surprise some people is Gabe Newburg. His role is transitioning in 2021 under new defensive coordinator Mike MacDonald, but he could see a significant uptick in playing time this season.
The story so far
Newburg grew up in Clayton, Ohio which is just an hour west of Columbus. Despite growing up in the Buckeye state, the three-star prospect was never offered by Ohio State. As the No. 774 overall prospect in the class, his recruitment was rather quiet. He received offers from mostly midwestern programs: Ohio, Miami (Ohio), Michigan, Iowa, Toledo, Rutgers and Cincinnati to name a handful.
Several fans were upset at the time when Michigan took on a mid-level three-star prospect so early in the cycle. But the Wolverines scooped up his commitment in April 2018 and they did so for a reason. While he wasn’t a freak athlete and didn't jump off the screen watching his highlights, he had the fundamentals down. Coming out of high school, he had great footwork and used his hands very well to make plays. He was also an incredibly bright student, earning an offer from Harvard during his recruitment.
At 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, Newburg was undersized for the defensive line at the collegiate level. He had a long way to go to earn serious playing time with the Wolverines. He did not play in 2019, his first season in Ann Arbor, and was redshirted in the process.
He cracked the defensive line rotation in 2021 after Kwity Paye’s injury, earning playing time in the final four games of the season.
Outlook moving forward
Harbaugh sat down with Jon Jansen on the In The Trenches podcast and said some of the defensive linemen from a season ago will have a slightly different role in 2021.
“Taylor Upshaw, Mike Morris, David Ojabo, Gabe Newburg, Jaylen Harrell and Braiden McGregor — those are players that were defensive ends that now are stand-up outside linebackers.”
This should be an indication of how different the defense will look this season. MacDonald will implement his style and players will have to adjust. Newburg lined up in the three-point stance on the outside for most of his plays this year. It will be an adjustment for the now 265-pounder.
Newburg doesn’t project to be a starter in 2021, but he will certainly be in the rotation. With continued production this season, he could find himself as a starter in the near future.