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Michigan defense wants quarterbacks to fear their pass rush

Michigan has a big goal in 2023 — get to the quarterback more.

Michigan State v Michigan Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Michigan was the 6th ranked rushing defense in the nation in 2022 but ranked 33rd in team sacks. While the defense had its moments getting to the quarterback, they want to pressure quarterbacks at a higher clip this fall.

Michigan defensive lineman Kris Jenkins has made it clear this off-season that the defense really wants to get after the quarterback and affect the passing game.

“Everybody’s obsessing over us being the leading sack defense in the country,” Jenkins said in February.

Jenkins told the media on Monday that the defensive line wants to turn weaknesses into strengths.

“That’s one of the weaknesses that we identified about ourselves in the room,” Jenkins said. “And we were able to establish ourselves as one of the main running threats in college football. We wanted to really emphasize making the quarterback really fear us this year on pass rush.”

Edge-rushers such as Jaylen Harrell, Braiden McGregor, Josaiah, and Derrick Moore will contribute to the pass rush, but who along with Jenkins can get to the QB along the interior of the line?

Jenkins said we’ll be seeing a lot of Mason Graham, Cam Goode, and Rayshaun Benny, while also mentioning Kenneth Grant. Jenkins noted that Benny has been a beast and coming off the ball quickly.

“A lot more guys are going to step up this year and they’ve already shown that,” Jenkins said. “You’re going to be seeing a lot more of the younger guys come up and start to ball out and dominate as well.”

We’ll also see a lot of Jenkins, someone who could have a huge year himself. Jenkins posted 54 tackles and two sacks last season, numbers that seem destined to go up in 2023.

“Kris Jenkins is just a monster,” Braiden McGregor said last week. “Everyone will see this year come fall like, ‘yeah this guy’s going to be one of the best guys in the country.”

Last season Mazi Smith was the leader on the defensive line, now it’s Jenkins who is the biggest voice at the position.

Last month head coach Jim Harbaugh said that Jenkins could end up being Michigan’s best player on defense. Teammates have told the media that Jenkins has been “crazy” in practice, bringing high energy and intensity.

“When it’s early morning, 6 a.m. and guys aren’t necessarily enthusiastic, I try to bring that type of energy every day. Some can say I’m hyped up, some can say I’m crazy — just trying to bring that excitement, bring that juice, is one of my favorite things.”

Jenkins and Michigan’s defense will hope to “bring that juice” to their pass rush next season. That’s the only way for quarterbacks to fear them. Knowing that every time they drop back there’s a chance one of Michigan’s defenders are going to clobber them.