Michigan’s dominant defensive line was a primary reason the Wolverines finished with the No. 1 overall defense in the country last season. 2017 will be a lot different, as all four former starters are no longer on the roster. The good news for the Wolverines is that all four potential starters have a considerable amount of game experience. With a top rated pass rusher and a former No. 1 overall recruit now stepping into starting roles, Michigan’s defensive line may be better off than any unit on the team.
It is more than fair to say that Rashan Gary has one of the end spots locked down already. Greg Mattison has indicated that Gary may be one of the best defensive linemen he’s ever coached. He’s a former No. 1 overall recruit and has made the Bednarik Award watch list for the top defensive player in the country. Last year Gary finished with 23 total tackles and five tackles for loss in 12 games.
Senior Chase Winovich should be able to secure the other end spot. The converted tight end was a pleasant surprise on Michigan’s defensive line last season. In a reserve role, Winovich accounted for five sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss in 13 games. Look for Chase to have a break out senior season, assuming he can fend off competition in camp.
Maurice Hurst is another guy that pretty much has a guaranteed starting spot. Pro Football Focus ranks him as the No. 1 returning pass rusher among defensive tackles. Mo put up stellar numbers last season as a rotational lineman. He finished the season with 11.5 tackles for loss and five sacks in 12 games. Hurst is returning for his fifth year in 2017 and has the most experience out of any player on Michigan’s defense. Like Gary, he was also featured in the Bednarik Award watch list along with all of the best defensive players in the country.
Bryan Mone will likely get the nod at the other tackle spot. He has struggled with injuries throughout his college career, but has still shown some flashiness when he’s healthy. In 12 total games Mone has compiled three tackles for loss and one sack. Assuming he stays healthy and wins the starting spot, expect him to be a leader along with Hurst.
In the Mix
There are plenty of guys in the mix who will a play crucial role for this line in 2017. The most notable name is true freshman, Aubrey Solomon. Solomon is the No. 24 ranked overall recruit in this year’s class. He plays on the interior of the defensive line and is already getting much praise from coaches and players. He will be the type of rotational player that Rashan Gary was last season. That is unless he beats out Bryan Mone for the starting tackle spot.
Carlo Kemp is another guy that will be in the rotation as a defensive end. He is a redshirt freshman who has been turning heads this summer. He ranked as the No. 15 defensive end in the class of 2016. Look for Kemp to relieve Winovich or Gary when they need a breather.
Luiji Vilain is another highly touted true freshman who will most likely be part of the defensive line unit in 2017. He ranked as the No. 56 overall recruit in country, and is ready to make an immediate impact. He also has a very long and quick body at 6’4″, 242 pounds.
Donovan Jeter is another true freshman that can be a potential member of the line this season. Jeter was listed as the No. 12 ranked defensive end recruit in the class of 2017. Like Solomon and Vilain, Donovan will have to make a good impression on the coaches during fall camp to get a significant amount of playing time this fall.
The performance of Michigan’s defensive line will be decisive when it comes to winning or losing games in 2017. Rashan Gary and Maurice Hurst will put tons of pressure on apposing quarterbacks and close up running lanes. This is important because the young secondary will need leeway, as they are bound to make plenty of mistakes. ESPN’s Phil Steele has Michigan’s line ranked No.9 in the country. This unit will be the reason that the Wolverines finish with a top 20 defense in the nation.
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