The Michigan Wolverines need a true No. 1 edge rusher. Since the departures of Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo two seasons ago, there has been a star-sized void across the defensive line.
Last season’s pass rush-by-committee approach was exciting, but it was not sustainable against the more difficult opponents on the schedule. Furthermore, without three prominent edge rushers from last season (Mike Morris, Eyabi Okie, Taylor Upshaw), the void is even greater on the edge.
You know the big names competing — Jaylen Harrell, Braiden McGregor, Derrick Moore, and Josaiah Stewart — but let’s talk discuss a fast-rising dark horse contender who could add excitement if nothing else this fall.
The story so far
Kechaun Bennett is a former four-star recruit who has spent the better part of two years relegated to mop-up duty. As a freshman, Bennett made his Michigan debut playing against Northern Illinois in a 63-10 blowout.
Last season, Bennett only appeared in the three non-conference games against Colorado State, Hawaii and UConn. The turning point for Bennett’s career came in the 2023 spring game. While the box score won’t jump out to anyone (three tackles, one quarterback hurry), the effort leaped off the screen.
Bennett was playing like a man possessed. Similar to early Josh Uche, Bennett was making an impact every time he was on the field, whether he was credited statistically or not. His energy and ferocity shined through like a player who finally got it.
When any player can stop thinking and play instinctually, subsequent growth is inevitable. This appears to have finally happened for Bennett. But can this translate to the fall in a crowded room?
Outlook for 2023
Bennett already has a starter’s frame at 6-foot-4, 241 pounds, and is of comparable size to Harrell. However, given Bennett’s frame and weight distribution, he could easily add another nine pounds to help him hold up in the run game and escape blocks against bigger offensive linemen.
It remains to be seen if Bennett can seize a sizable share of the pass-rushing responsibilities, but his understanding of the game and energy will give him a chance. Even if he is a long shot to enter the two-deep, Bennett will have an impact this season in whatever role he is tasked with.