ANN ARBOR, Mich. — On Saturday, we’ll finally get some idea as to whether the Michigan football defense will fill Jim Harbaugh’s ‘sneaky suspicion’ that it could be better than it was a year ago.
There’s been a lot of talk this offseason about the Wolverines taking a step back on that side of the ball due to the personnel losses, which include Aidan Hutchinson, David Ojabo, Dax Hill, Brad Hawkins, Christopher Hinton, and Vincent Gray. However, Harbaugh said at Big Ten media days that this ‘no-star’ defense might be even a little better.
He spoke more about it on Monday, noting that the competition is making a lot of positions thrive as the team prepares for the 2022 season.
“I said I thought it had a chance to be,” Harbaugh said. “And you don’t know that, but it has a chance to be, based on the fact that — like David Ojabo last year. Didn’t know he was going to turn into the player he did. I see a lot of hungry guys at those positions, the safety position in particular. All four of those players have been really competing and battling for our football team. Same at outside backer. I see that taking place. Guys are hungry and want to play. Based on that, it has a chance. It has a chance. It has a chance to be better. It has a license and an ability to be and now you go and have it and see if it can be.”
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One person might have a pretty good idea about the health of the defensive front. Zak Zinter is the starting right guard, meaning that in fall camp, he’s constantly going up against the interior defensive line.
Considering that 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 that they’ll need to be more involved in the pass rush.
We asked Zinter on Monday if there’s a player he hates going up against in that defensive front. He stated that he looks at it more as an ‘iron sharpens iron’ situation, but adds that he has no concerns about that unit as it enters the season. Which, given that Zinter was a part of the Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line last year, him having confidence is a pretty telling tale.
“A lot of people have questions about the defense coming in spring ball, in fall camp, but I have no question in my mind that they’re going to be a dominant front again, up front,” Zinter said. “There’s not really one guy in particular that I hate going against, they’re all doing great in camp. So finding Mazi was like the No. 1 freak in college football or something. So, going up against him every day, Kris Jenkins is doing really well, Mason Graham, also — all three of them. I get to go against them every day. Now, it’s not camp, we’ll get some scout team looks, so it’ll make it a little easier on our part, but they’re all really good to go up against.”
Fans will get a chance to see the new-look defensive front on Saturday when Michigan hosts Colorado State for a noon kickoff at The Big House. The game will be nationally televised on ABC.