ANN ARBOR, Mich. — On Saturday, we’ll finally get a sense of whether Michigan’s football defense will fill Jim Harbaugh’s ‘sneaky suspicion’ that it might be better than it was a year ago.
There has been a lot of talk this offseason about the Wolverines stepping back on that side of the ball due to personnel losses, which include Aidan Hutchinson, David Ojabo, Dax Hill, Brad Hawkins, Christopher Hinton and Vincent Gray. However, Harbaugh said at the Big Ten press days that this “starless” defense could be even better.
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He spoke more about it Monday, noting that the competition is thriving many positions as the team gears up for the 2022 season.
“I said I thought I had a chance to be,” Harbaugh said. “And you don’t know it, but he has a chance to be, based on the fact that, like David Ojabo last year. I didn’t know that he was going to become the player that he was. I see a lot of hungry guys in those positions, the security position in particular. All four of those players have been really competing and fighting for our football team. The same in the external endorsement. I see that this is happening. The boys are hungry and want to play. Based on that, you have a chance. He has a chance. He has the opportunity to be better. He has a license and the ability to be it and now you go and have it and see if he can be it.”
A person could have a pretty good idea about the health of the defensive front. Zak Zinter is the starting right guard, which means that in fall camp, he’s constantly going up against the interior defensive line.
Considering there have been new faces there, as well as stalwart Mazi Smith, that’s been one of the question marks for this team, especially considering they’ll need to be more involved in the pass rush.
On Monday, we asked Zinter if there are any players he hates facing on that defensive front. He stated that he sees it as more of an ‘iron to iron’ situation, but adds that he doesn’t worry about that unit as he enters the season. Which, given that Zinter was part of last year’s Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line, that he’s confident is a pretty telling story.
“A lot of people have doubts about the defense that’s coming in spring ball, in fall camp, but I have no doubt in my mind that they’re going to be a dominant front again, up front,” Zinter said. “There really isn’t a particular guy I hate going up against, they’re all doing really well in camp. So finding Mazi was like the number one freak in college football or something. So facing him every day, Kris Jenkins is doing great, Mason Graham is doing great, all three of them. I have to go against them every day. Now, it’s not a camp, we’re going to get some looks from the scouting team, so it’s going to be a little easier on our end, but they’re all really good to take on.”
Fans will get a chance to see the new defensive front on Saturday when Michigan hosts Colorado State for a noon start at The Big House. The game will be televised nationally on ABC.