Approaching his second year with the program, defensive coordinator Jesse Minter hopped on In the Trenches to discuss the defensive roster at length.
Breaking down each group to highlight the progress seen this offseason, Minter paints a vivid picture of the expectations that are had, as the defense prepares for the upcoming season. Now with a full year to really get to know the system and the players, Minter looks forward to what this year can bring.
“Now I’m really comfortable with the scheme and the system to hone in on technical pieces of the game that we can control,” Minter said. “Schematically, when you have success, people are chasing you and studying you, so it’s imperative that we continue to add, tweak, and find a better way to do certain things. That’s always an ongoing process.”
Minter discussed the defense and the progress by positional groups, starting with the secondary.
“We had a lot of guys battle for the spot in spring. For example, I think the best thing that happened to Amorion (Walker) was the spring game and going through a little adversity having guys make plays,” Minter said. “The toughest part about being an elite corner is the mental side of it, the down after down being locked in. I’m excited for the battle to continue and it will be our job as coaches to put the best combination on the field.”
Minter talked about how playing in big moments is huge for the confidence of his players, hence the shift for Walker. Mike Sainristil made the shift from receiver to cornerback and after being able to see himself execute in crucial stages, he now carries himself differently. Conversely, Walker hasn’t had a big moment yet. The spring game was Walker’s biggest stage at corner thus far. And while everything didn’t go according to plan, it was the best thing for him.
“The difference is Mikey played in big moments on offense, even understanding what it took to be successful at this level,” Minter said. “I think that’s the biggest adjustment, to utilize the skills that he (Walker) has and do it in front of 110,000 people. I think when we get going he will be capable of doing the things we need him to do.”
For the linebackers Minter cited how last year there was talent, but a lack of depth. Players were getting banged up by the end of the season and it became noticeable. This year it’s a different story.
“Lots of chess pieces on defense right now, different guys being successful doing different things,” Minter said, “We have the complimentary pieces to have multiple options this season.”
Perhaps the group most exciting and intriguing to the masses is at edge. Guys like Derrick Moore, who looked dominant at the spring game, and transfer Josaiah Stewart, who bought in immediately, have turned heads. Players have had huge shoes to fill at this position, but they have done so in stride.
“Braiden McGregor, him and Derrick play the same position, but the two of them are tailor-made for what we ask for for that spot,” Minter said.
Though he speaks highly of Moore and McGregor, there were two others that have caught Minter’s eye.
“Keschaun Bennett and TJ Guy. They are what we call the Michigan deal, where in the third year all of a sudden you’re a monster. Both are going into their third year. I wasn’t sure what to expect but both have made progress,” Minter said.
Finally, Minter discussed the interior defensive line.
“(Kris) Jenkins is a monster. He gets bigger every time I see him. The way he plays is the way we want all our guys to play,” Minter said. “Mason Graham, I’m excited about him, a guy who gets better and better. Rayshaun Benny improved in the last year. Kenneth Grant is a monster in the middle, and I am proud of Cam Goode and the improvements he has made.”
The talents of Minter garnered him recognition both in being named a Broyles Award Finalist and being interviewed by the Philadelphia Eagles. He has learned a lot about the process, but also what it means to coach on Jim Harbaugh’s staff at Michigan.
“Respect for Michigan football is real,” Minter said. “ You learn a lot about the process but number one is like ‘Wow, appreciate how coach Harbaugh operates the program’ and appreciate the players we have here. There is something special about the culture here and the people.”