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Who we think stays, leaves on Michigan football’s defense headed into 2023

In contrast to last season, the Wolverines’ defense is likely to retain a lot of talent in 2023.

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star Grace Hollars/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

Yesterday, we looked at the roster moves on the offensive side for the Michigan Wolverines. Today, we take a look at what we think the significant players on the defensive side of the ball are likely to do.

Confirmed to be staying

Following the Big Ten Championship, wideout-turned-nickelback Mike Sainristil announced he would be returning for a fifth season.

  • DB Mike Sainristil

Confirmed to be leaving

Jake Moody and Brad Robbins have all exhausted their eligibility, while George Rooks announced his intentions to transfer on Monday.

  • DT George Rooks
  • K Jake Moody
  • P Brad Robbins

Eligible for 2023 NFL Draft, likely to declare

Mazi Smith and DJ Turner are easy enough to guess on what their future plans are; Smith has been hyped up for his athleticism and physicality since the summer, while Turner has been quietly seen as a top talent in NFL Draft projections for some time.

  • DL Mazi Smith
  • DB DJ Turner

Eligible for 2023 NFL Draft, 50/50 on declaring

Admittedly, this is kind of a cop-out section. There are a lot of reasons Mike Morris could and probably should declare for the draft — his All-American selection, winning the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year Award, and Michigan’s strong reputation as a pass rusher factory. That said, currently Morris projects as a Day 3 selection and it’s likely he could improve upon that by staying for another year.

Meanwhile, Barrett technically has one year of eligibility remaining thanks to the COVID year in 2020. This would be his sixth year in college but with not a ton of NFL Draft stock, a nice NIL deal may come in handy here.

  • DL Mike Morris
  • LB Michael Barrett

Eligible for 2023 NFL Draft, unlikely to declare or transfer

There’s a lot of names on this list, and part of that is due to the nature of the defensive style Jesse Minter likes to play. If this was a defense that liked to rely on a hard and fast core group of players, it’s likely some of these guys would be looking elsewhere.

  • DL Julius Welschof
  • DL Kris Jenkins
  • EDGE Jaylen Harrell
  • EDGE Braiden McGregor
  • EDGE Taylor Upshaw
  • EDGE Eyabi Okie
  • LB Nikhai Hill-Green
  • DB R.J. Moten
  • DB Gemon Green
  • DB Makari Paige

Ineligible for 2023 NFL Draft, unlikely to transfer

You might be noticing the majority of the names on this list are freshman — that’s not a coincidence. You can’t ignore the possibility of these guys leaving given the transfer portal, but it’s similar to the way you can’t ignore the possibility of getting struck by lightning when you’re standing in a thunderstorm.

  • DL Rayshaun Benny
  • DL Mason Graham
  • LB Junior Colson
  • LB Micah Pollard
  • LB Jimmy Rolder
  • DB Keon Sabb
  • DB Rod Moore
  • DB Will Johnson