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EDGE Position Preview: Can Michigan’s pass rush remain dominant in 2023?

Michigan’s pass rush has been rock solid two years in a row.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 08 Michigan at Indiana Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Michigan has put up significant sack totals the past two seasons from the edge position. It was almost all Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo in 2021 racking up a combined 25 sacks, which accounted for 76% of Michigan’s team total that season. Last year pass-pressure along the edge had many contributors and was truly a team effort. Defensive coordinator Jesse Minter took a rotational approach, and the experience some of the younger players gained because of their reps will become all the more important with Mike Morris heading to the NFL, Taylor Upshaw transferring to Colorado, and Eyabi Okie transferring to Charlotte.

Morris had 7.5 sacks in 2022, Okie tallied 4.5, and Upshaw chipped in with 1.5. Losing a steady amount of production to transfers and players leaving for the pros happens yearly to good programs, and those teams usually don’t skip a beat at positions where they are continuously dominant. With that in mind let’s take a look at who will be playing for Michigan along the edge in 2023.

Jaylen Harrell

Harrell started 12 games for the Wolverines in 2022 with 30 tackles (7.5 for loss) and 3.5 sacks. Two of those 3.5 sacks came in the Big Ten Championship Game versus Purdue. The 6-foot-4, 246-pound Harrell had 467 snaps last season, the most by any Michigan edge rusher last season, Mike Morris was second with 360 snaps. Harrell will be a big part of the rotation at edge once again in 2023.

Braiden McGregor

McGregor appeared in 14 games with three starts for Michigan last season. The 6-foot-6 pass-rusher had 16 tackles (5 for loss) and 2.5 sacks. McGregor is expected to receive a lot more snaps this season and could ultimately be Michigan’s leading edge rusher. The former four-star prospect is a force to be reckoned with and Jim Harbaugh thinks McGregor could be a special one.

“Braiden McGregor, he’s the next guy,” Harbaugh said in November. “He’s the guy that’s on the verge of stardom.”

Michigan will need him to ascend to stardom in 2023.

Derrick Moore

Moore played in 14 games last season as a true freshman. Moore played 224 snaps with two sacks. Moore, a former four-star prospect, had a penchant for getting into the backfield in high school. At St. Frances Academy Moore had 55 tackles (24 for loss) and 12 sacks during his senior season.

Harbaugh described Moore as a relentless player last spring.

“Derrick Moore, my personal opinion is he is going to be a fantastic player. Probably will also be a really good player right away in the fall,” Harbaugh said in 2022. “He is really gifted athletically and strength, it’s all there already.”

Josaiah Stewart

Stewart is a very intriguing name that was added to the mix recently. After spending the first two years of his collegiate career at Coastal Carolina, Stewart transferred to Michigan. Stewart will have to prove he can consistently win versus stout Big Ten defensive lineman, which will be no easy task for the 6-foot-2, 230-pound edge rusher. However, it would be foolish to count him out, as he was a playmaker for the Chanticleers.

Stewart played in 25 games for Coastal Carolina and in those two years of action he had 79 tackles (25.5 for loss), 16 sacks, and four forced fumbles. How much playing time Stewart will receive remains to be seen but he has talent and Jesse Minter should be able to find ways to help him succeed within the confines of Michigan’s scheme.

The rest

  • Kechaun Bennett: A 2021 three-star prospect from Connecticut, Bennett appeared in three games last season.
  • TJ Guy: A 2021 three-star recruit from Massachusetts, Guy appeared in 10 games for Michigan last season (6 at edge) with four tackles.
  • Tyler McLaurin: A 2021 three-star prospect from Illinois, McLaurin was the Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year in ‘21 and appeared in one game at edge last season.