The Michigan Wolverines have had plenty of success along the defensive line over the years. We tend to think of the edge rushers as the players along the defensive line who make all the big plays and make the most money in the NFL. While that is mostly accurate — although Aaron Donald has a word — one of the most unheralded, yet important positions in a defense like Michigan’s is defensive tackle, and more specifically, nose tackle.
There aren’t too many of them on Michigan’s current roster, but one addition who could make a big impact is true freshman Kenneth Grant. He is one big dude at 6-foot-4 and 335 pound. He could be a real difference-maker by clogging up lanes in the running game while still getting after the quarterback.
So how did this giant human find his way to Ann Arbor? Let’s talk about that and look at where he may sit on the depth chart for the 2022 season.
The story so far
A three-star recruit in the 2022 class out of Merrillville, Indiana, Grant was ranked the No. 444 overall prospect and the No. 59 defensive lineman in the class, per 247Sports’ composite. According to MaxPreps, Grant compiled 38 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries his senior season.
Grant didn’t hold offers from many other schools, but his final three were some of the best in the Big Ten — Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin. He took official visits to all three of those schools, with the Wisconsin and Ohio State visits being in the summer of 2021. He was considered a Buckeye lean for a long time but just a few weeks after visiting Ann Arbor for the Maize Out game against Washington last September, he ultimately committed to Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines.
Coming out of high school, Allen Trieu of 247Sports compared Grant to Johnathan Hankins, a second round draft pick of the Las Vegas Raiders who is just an inch shorter and 15 pounds lighter than Grant. In his analysis about Grant, Trieu wrote:
“Massive interior prospect. Looks like a classic nose guard but is not just a gap plugger in high school. Runs surprisingly well for a big guy, shows closing speed and will pursue plays. Nimble and can make offensive linemen miss their punch but can also drive them straight back with brute strength. Has to be more consistent play to play but has upside because size and ability to move at that size are rare.”
Looking at his film, that evaluation certainly seems to add up, specifically about Grant’s speed. He isn’t just a big boy looking to take up space; he wants to kill quarterbacks, too.
Grant’s ceiling is as high as any interior defensive lineman Michigan has landed during the Harbaugh era. Now he just has to put it all together at the collegiate level.
Outlook for 2022
And putting it all together at the collegiate level is probably going to take some time, as it does for most linemen. It is one of the most difficult positions to make an instant impact, especially for a player like Grant who was not an early enrollee, so I don’t expect a whole lot out of him as a true freshman.
Even if Grant does come in and perform well during fall camp, it will be a challenge for him to find the field on a consistent basis this upcoming season. To do so, he would have to jump ahead of guys like Mazi Smith (not happening), Kris Jenkins (also not happening), Rayshaun Benny (probably not happening), and fellow true freshman Mason Graham — who was an early enrollee and looked really good in the spring game — among others.
I think the best and most likely game plan for Grant is to focus on strength and conditioning, get him in a few games this season, preserve the redshirt and come back next year ready to compete.