This year’s NFL Draft saw Michigan’s lethal duo edge rushers Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo come off the board pretty early. Hutchinson went No. 2 overall to the Detroit Lions and Ojabo went in the second round to Mike Macdonald and the Baltimore Ravens.
With those guys gone, one of the main questions this offseason is who will step up in their places? Junior defensive end Braiden McGregor addressed this himself in a recent interview with MLive, saying “it’s not a question mark, we’ll be alright. If anything it fuels the energy of the room, because everyone’s talking about (it).”
Last season, Hutchinson and Ojabo combined for 25 of Michigan’s 34 sacks, which has made the idea of replacing them seem near impossible. Luckily, Michigan looks to reload and replicate at a similar level. It has guys like McGregor eager to prove they’re ready to take on the expectations and make a name for themselves.
The Port Huron native will be on his third defensive coordinator under a third new defense. McGregor came in as a freshman during the shortened COVID season where the Wolverines went 2-4. This saw the exit of former DC Don Brown at the end of that season and the arrival of Mike Macdonald from the Baltimore Ravens. McGregor, like the rest of the defense, had to learn a completely different system.
“It was hard (last year). It was tough, for sure. It was a big learning curve,” McGregor admitted. But this time around the junior is more prepared.
After time spent rehabbing a knee injury and waiting in the wings with a stacked defensive end room, this season could be McGrergor’s opportunity to shine. While he appeared in nine games this past season, this year could present a more unique role for him, on and off the field.
“The leaders are gone, so I want to step into a leadership role and build on top of what we did last year”, McGregor said.
He has set his sights high, hoping to lead the team in sacks this upcoming season. With the hope to build upon last year’s success, we can expect a similar hunger among everyone else in Michigan’s locker room. McGregor highlighted the utilized skills of his teammates, illustrating a concerted team effort to live up to the expectations that lay before them.
“We’ve got guys that set the edge good; and I think we’ve got guys that can pass-rush really good,” he said. He also highlighted his own strong suit, “I’m more of a second-and-long, third-down, dime-package (player). That’s what I’m doing this year, and I love that role.”
McGregor has embraced this new role with confidence, adding how he is working on learning both sides of the line, much like Ojabo and Hutchinson. Up to the challenge, he promises the team is ready by stating, “The offense, defense — we’re ready. I just know that people are going to see. I can’t wait.”