A consistent talking point among naysayers in the media is the Michigan Wolverines have too many question marks surrounding the edge position to have an excellent defense this year. While these voices are correct in pointing out Michigan does not have a clear replacement for the likes of Aidan Hutchinson or David Ojabo, takes like these overlook the incredible depth the staff has recruited and developed. And just about every year under Jim Harbaugh, one or two under-the-radar guys emerge to lead the defense — earning themselves a chance to play on Sundays.
Consumed with a healthy dose of sodium chloride — the following list should be viewed more as an initial power ranking than a bona fide depth chart. Expect a heavy amount of rotation and experimentation with this position group. Jesse Minter’s NFL background suggests a steady cadence of substitutions, and the untapped production of the younger pass rushers in this unit necessitates a platoon-like mindset.
At the top spot is Michigan’s most proven pass rusher. With the frame and personality to be the leader on defense, Morris should be the first choice to pin his ears back on third downs.
Standing 6-foot-7, the football version of the German connection could be a game wrecker this season. With plenty of length, speed and experience, Welschof has the potential to be a force for the Wolverines.
Harrell possesses the versatility to penetrate the backfield, as well as drop back in coverage against tight ends and running backs. While he might not presently have the pursuit skills Ojabo had last year, Harrell gives the defensive coaches the option to use him in a similar capacity.
Consistently penciled in to be a starter with this group, Upshaw brings maturity and veteran status to this deep group. A solid tackler, his bigger contributions this year may be to stop the run.
Beset with injuries, McGregor’s stint at Michigan hasn’t been the smoothest sailing. Highly touted coming out of Port Huron, he has enough ability to become the breakout story this season in the pass rush. He’s my darkhorse candidate to become Michigan’s leading edge defended this season if he can stay healthy.
The latest addition to the Wolverines is also the team’s biggest enigma on defense. Hailed as the No. 1 edge rusher in his recruiting class, Anoma’s collegiate career hasn’t panned out as one expected. But if he can claw his way up the depth chart in the waning days of fall camp, he could become this year’s version of Mike Danna — or better.
Names like TJ Guy, Kechaun Bennett and Derrick Moore are also likely to populate box scores for the Wolverines, but their time in the spotlight may not come until next season.
As one can see, the degree of depth at the defensive end position places the defensive unit in a superb position to compete for championships in 2022. To fill the exceptional cleats left by Hutchinson and Ojabo, Michigan will need to rely on that extraordinary depth it cultivates year after year in this crucial position. And who knows, the next great game-wrecking duo may just be lurking under the radar.