Michigan defensive tackle Mazi Smith is a player who’s made strides in the weight room and is ready to be a key contributor along the defensive line.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh mentioned at Big Ten Media Days that Smith has really asserted himself through spring ball and the summer cycle.
“Mazi, first of all, he’s completely changed his body to a power-pack. Big, wide, thick, strong, and retained his speed and athleticism,” Harbaugh said. “His strike, his knock back. Real desire that he has always shown since day one. He keeps getting better every day, getting stronger every day.”
Although the former four-star prospect has recorded just two tackles to this point in his career, Smith’s teammates expect a big season out of him.
“Mazi has stepped up,” defensive end Aidan Hutchinson said. “I’ve seen the most improvement in him in this spring ball. The best I’ve ever seen him and the best football he’s played right now.”
Linebacker Josh Ross confidently said at Big Ten Media Days that Smith is going to ball out at defensive tackle this season, a proclamation that Hutchinson firmly agrees with.
“He’s going to be a really big asset for us in the season, just watch. He’s going to light it up,” Hutchinson said. “He’s a really good ball player. He’s got the frame and got the body. He can do everything. He’s just got to do it in the games, and then you guys will see.”
“Smith is definitely there from a physical standpoint. He is very strong and already has the power to dominate along the interior of the line,” Maize n Brew’s Kyle Yost said last month. “He pairs this with excellent quickness and a high motor which is what made him stick out as a prospect. With a little development he can soon become a clear pillar at the position and routinely make a mess of the opposing backfield.”
If Smith has bolstered his strength while maintaining his speed it bodes well for balanced production across the board. Michigan struggled stopping the run and getting to the passer a season ago — but if Smith can become a stout presence in run-defense and bring occasional thunder via pass-rush he’ll be one of the pieces that turn this defense around under new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald.