The Michigan defense in 2023 will be missing some key parts, as multiple players like DJ Turner, Gemon Green, Mazi Smith and Mike Morris have departed for the NFL Draft, while other vets like Taylor Upshaw and Eyabi Okie have entered the transfer portal.
Thankfully, there is plenty of talent waiting in the wings. Without further ado, let’s get right to my depth chart as things stand today, Jan. 18.
Note: * signifies a true freshman; ** signifies a transfer
Edge: Jaylen Harrell, Derrick Moore, Josaiah Stewart**, Braiden McGregor, TJ Guy, Kechaun Bennett, Enow Etta*, Aymeric Koumba*, Breeon Ishmail*
DT: Mason Graham, Kris Jenkins, Rayshaun Benny, Kenneth Grant, Cam Goode, Ike Iwunnah, Trey Pierce*, Brooks Bahr*
LB: Junior Colson, Ernest Hausmann**, Michael Barrett, Jimmy Rolder, Nikhai Hill-Green, Jason Hewlett*, Semaj Bridgeman*, Hayden Moore*
CB: Will Johnson, Mike Sainristil, Ja’Den McBurrows, Jalen Perry, Kody Jones, Myles Pollard, Jyaire Hill*, Cameron Calhoun*
S: Rod Moore, Makari Paige, RJ Moten, Quentin Johnson, Caden Kolesar, Keon Sabb, Zeke Berry, Damani Dent, D’Juan Waller Jr.*
Explaining my selections/general thoughts
-First off, just like yesterday’s offensive depth chart, if you see some true freshmen above you have high hopes for that you think are too low, remember this is a depth chart as of current day, not what I believe will be a final depth chart in the fall.
-The edge spot still has a chance to be really good despite Morris going to the NFL and Okie entering the portal. Harrell should take a big step forward, as should Moore as a second-year player. Stewart has a ton of proven production — albeit at a lower level of college football — and McGregor and Guy are veterans who should continue to ascend and provide depth. Etta is the only true freshman I see making a big impact along the edge next season, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him move way up the depth chart before the fall.
-The interior defensive line remains stout with Jenkins, Graham, Benny and Grant. Goode is also back and provides needed depth. I’m interested to see if Iwunnah takes a step forward as a redshirt sophomore. Pierce and Brooks will likely need a couple years before making strong contributions.
-Linebacker should be a strength for the Wolverines with Colson, Barrett and Rolder back and coming off solid seasons. Hausmann is a key transfer portal addition and should be one of the starters right out the gate. Hill-Green is a bit of an unknown since he missed all of 2022 due to injury, but it’ll be nice to have him back for depth at the very least. The freshman trio of Hewlett, Bridgeman and Moore should be good, but it’ll likely take some time to get there.
-Similarly to what I said about the wide receivers relative to the offense, the cornerback position could be the weak spot on defense. Johnson is a stud and Sainristil is a great slot corner and captain, but who will team up with them? McBurrows is coming off a season-long injury and no one else behind him has significant experience. Perhaps Hill or Calhoun can make some noise as incoming true freshmen. Or perhaps the Wolverines take a look at the portal for help.
-Safety, meanwhile, is in good hands with all three main contributors returning. Kolesar is also back and provides depth. I’m interested to see if Berry or Sabb can take snaps away from Quentin Johnson and move up the depth chart; I suspect that can happen at some point next season.
What do you think of the defensive depth chart? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments.