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Maize n Brew’s Bracket for the best defensive player of the Jim Harbaugh Era: Round 2

We’re on to the second round of the Defense Region!

The Defense Region is well underway here for Maize n Brew’s bracket for the best player of the Jim Harbaugh era. This side has been absolutely stacked, as the defense has carried the Michigan Wolverines for much of Harbaugh’s time with the program.

That means two players that have gotten closer to winning the Heisman than any offensive player in recent memory. It makes for what should be a really competitive final couple of rounds here, so make sure to cast your vote!

Let’s get things rolling with Round 2 of the Defense Region.

No. 1: Aidan Hutchinson vs No. 9: Kwity Paye

The case for Aidan Hutchinson

Hutchinson’s impact was immense. He was a 2021 consensus All-American while breaking the program record for the most sacks in a season with 14. After a three-sack performance in the win over Ohio State, Hutch finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting while winning just about every award for the best defensive player in the country. He was also a two-time captain in Ann Arbor.

Being a hometown kid that wound up playing at Michigan and being drafted by the Detroit Lions at No. 2 overall is a dream for so many. Along with his play, I think that is why Hutchinson has an advantage over any other player on this list. He’s a Michigan man through and through, and he is one of the best to ever do it in Ann Arbor.

The case for Kwity Paye

Paye started 20 games along the defensive line, appearing in 38 games. He was a two-time All-Big Ten honoree and a team captain in 2020. In 2019, Paye led the team with 12.5 tackles for loss and then did it again in the COVID-shortened 2020 season.

The twitchy defensive lineman had some big moments at Michigan. His best was when he racked up 3.5 tackles for loss against Rutgers in 2019. But the most memorable play was probably his strip sack to halt an upset bid from Army in double-overtime in 2019:


Who’s the better player: No. 1 Aidan Hutchinson or No. 9 Kwity Paye

This poll is closed

  • 99%
    No. 1 Aidan Hutchinson
    (1005 votes)
  • 0%
    No. 9 Kwity Paye
    (6 votes)
1011 votes total Vote Now

No. 4: Jourdan Lewis vs No. 5: Mo Hurst

The case for Jourdan Lewis

I feel like because of how great the defensive lines were in his time, Jourdan Lewis does not get the respect he deserves. He was a two-time All-American making 30 starts in his career at Michigan. He’s the Wolverines’ career leader with 45 pass breakups, including a program single-season record of 22 in 2015.

Lewis just always seemed to make big plays in the most important games. In 2016, he made one of the greatest interceptions I have ever seen to seal a win against a top-10 Wisconsin team:

The case for Mo Hurst

Big Mo Hurst had an incredible career with 134 tackles, 33 for loss, 12.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. As a fifth-year senior in 2017, Hurst was a consensus All-American and a first-team All-Big Ten honoree.

Where Hurst could have the advantage in this matchup is he excelled in a position that is nearly impossible to do so. How long did we say the Michigan defense could use an interior defensive lineman like Hurst on the roster? It wasn’t until Mazi Smith that there was anyone like Hurst on the Michigan front.


Who’s the better player: No. 4 Jourdan Lewis or No. 5 Mo Hurst

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    No. 4 Jourdan Lewis
    (657 votes)
  • 34%
    No. 5 Mo Hurst
    (340 votes)
997 votes total Vote Now

No. 3: Devin Bush vs. No. 6: Chase Winovich

The case for Devin Bush

Devin Bush is the best linebacker Jim Harbaugh has had; he was all over the field. In 2017, Bush had 102 total tackles, earning him some nods for All-American status. Then after a stellar 2018 season, he was named a consensus All-American. He finished his career with 193 tackles, 19 for loss, 10 sacks and an interception.

Bush just did everything right. He could move sideline to sideline, stuff runs up the middle, and was good enough in coverage to stick along with just about anybody. There are so many plays that ended with me in awe of what Bush had just done. He’ll forever be one of my favorite Wolverines to watch. Plus, he was a gritty dude that delivered an all-time moment in the Michigan State rivalry:

The case for Chase Winovich

If this was a bracket for the most Michigan Man in the Harbaugh era, Winovich probably wins it. He was the team MVP in 2018 when he earned All-American mentions for the AP and AFCA. Appearing in 45 career games, Winovich had 185 tackles, 18 sacks and 45 tackles for loss.

Winovich was also the team’s vocal leader, leading the charge for the Revenge Tour, which at the time was the most exciting time to be a Michigan fan under Harbaugh. After every big win during that stretch, it felt like the broadcast was going to Winovich to see what he would say next. He always had such a strong attitude and set an example for every guy in the locker room.


Who’s the better player: No. 3 Devin Bush or No. 6 Chase Winovich

This poll is closed

  • 73%
    No. 3 Devin Bush
    (737 votes)
  • 26%
    No. 6 Chase Winovich
    (259 votes)
996 votes total Vote Now

No. 2: Jabrill Peppers vs. No. 7: David Ojabo

The case for Jabrill Peppers

Jabrill Peppers was a special college football player. He played meaningful downs in all three phases of the game at an elite level. In 2016, he became the first player in Big Ten history to win three individual conference awards — the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year, Linebacker of the Year and Return Specialist of the Year. He also finished fifth in Heisman voting and was a consensus All-American. I could go on and on...

Peppers also had one of the most impressive single-game performances I have ever seen. He had a sack, a two-point conversion taken the other way and scored a rushing touchdown in the 2016 win over MSU.

The case for David Ojabo

David Ojabo’s ascent in 2021 was incredibly important. He cleaned up just about everything Aidan Hutchinson didn’t, and they fed off each other. Ojabo forced a program-record five fumbles in his only season as a starter and was recognized an All-American by the AP and CoSIDA and was a consensus first-team All-Big Ten player.

Ojabo made a bunch of game-changing plays in 2021. Obviously, the strip sacks were monumental, including one that led to a touchdown at the end of the first half against Michigan State. He also secured a win against Rutgers by forcing a fumble with less than two minutes to play.

Then, Ojabo sacked CJ Stroud with less than two minutes to go to help secure the first win over Ohio State in almost a decade. O-JA-BO was all over the field.


Who’s the better player: No. 2 Jabrill Peppers or No. 7 David Ojabo

This poll is closed

  • 86%
    No. 2 Jabrill Peppers
    (1180 votes)
  • 13%
    No. 7 David Ojabo
    (182 votes)
1362 votes total Vote Now

Please be sure to drop your thoughts on the matchups and why your favorite player should win for a chance to be featured in an upcoming story!

The results for Round 2 of the Defense Region will be posted on Saturday!