At Big Ten Media Day Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh was very confident about the Wolverines’ 2022 defense.
“I have been a part of many a team where the no-star defense was the better defense because there’s more competition within the position groups,” Harbaugh said in July. “There are more guys hungry like David Ojabo was a year ago. A hunger to be great. That’s why I feel as I watch it, I just have a sneaking suspicion that it could even be better on defense.”
Fast-forward to November — Michigan is the No. 3 team in the nation, they have their first 10-0 start since 2006, and their output on defense is a big reason why.
- Michigan’s defense has given up the fewest first downs in the nation at 127.
- The defense ranks first in rushing defense, allowing just 72.7 yards per game
- Michigan’s defense ranks first in scoring defense, giving up 11.2 points per game.
- The unit ranks first in total defense, allowing a lowly 232.8 yards per game.
After Michigan’s 34-3 win over Nebraska, Harbaugh gave a shoutout to many Michigan coaches and players for their efforts this season.
“They get a lot of attention inside our program. Really doing a great job. All the positions are playing really well. The linebackers, the interior defensive line, having a great season. Mazi and Kris Jenkins, Mason Graham just doing so good. The edge guys, they just keep coming. So many really good players doing a great job.
They’re being really well coached. Jesse and Mike Elston, and Clink (Steve Clinkscale) knows what he’s doing on the back end. It’s really good and really special. The corners now, there’s a great rotation with D.J. (Turner) and Mikey (Sainristil) and Gemon (Green) and Will (Johnson). And the safeties, Rod Moore doing a tremendous job. I wish I had more Rod Moores. Guy’s a tackling machine, gets them on the ground.”
You get the point, Harbaugh loves the Michigan defense and these are only some of the players having standout seasons. There are other guys like Mike Morris, Junior Colson, Michael Barrett, and Eyabi Okie who have all contributed in major ways. Michigan’s defense has a lot of good players at every level.
“Can’t say enough really good things. How they’re running to the ball. The team defense, it’s been great. Keep it rolling.”
Another area where Michigan’s defense has excelled this season is in second-half adjustments. In the past five games, the defense has given up just three second-half points and zero in the fourth quarter.
“Coach Minter and the whole defensive staff do a great job when we come in at half getting the adjustments made,” cornerback Mike Sainristil said. “We don’t give anybody anything in the second half, we just want to continue to have second-half shutouts. We know going into the second half it’s a 0-0 score and we want to win every half.”
While Michigan’s defense is getting deserved praise, they know there are still things to work on in order to beat Illinois and Ohio State. Linebacker Junior Colson says the unit knows they can’t reach perfection but that’s what they’re striving for, that’s the image in their heads.
The Michigan defense wants to impose its will and leave a lasting impression on their opponents.
“Our mindset is to just dominate whoever is in front of us and just make them remember us by the time they’re done. We’re trying to be the defense out there so it doesn’t matter who we play,” Colson said. “We’re always going to give them our best shot.”
The Michigan coaches have helped develop a scheme that has maximized the strengths of their personnel. And the players have taken that scheme and executed within it at a high clip with some swagger.
Michigan’s defense is really coming into form, and they’ll need to be at their very best the rest of the season if the team is to remain undefeated.