Michigan Football: Wolverines trending with key defensive targets in 2021 by Chris Peterson
ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN – SEPTEMBER 28: Defensive coordinator Don Brown of the Michigan Wolverines look on during the second half while playing the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Michigan Stadium on September 28, 2019 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Michigan football defensive coordinator met the media Thursday and here are the highlights, plus some key takeaways.
Just like offensive coordinator Josh Gattis did recently, Michigan football‘s defensive coordinator, Don Brown, held a conference call with the media and touched on a number of topics.
Brown is always interesting to listen to. He’s been around the game for a long time and he’s not shy about sharing a few things, which was the case this time around. He talked about a few players who he expects to take a step forward next season, as well as some possible scheme adjustments.
There’s a lot of things to work through, but here are a few key things Brown said about the defense upcoming in the 2020 season.
Michigan football might have found its Viper
When asked about the Viper role and Michael Barrett, Brown was pretty open that he was going to be the guy. He touted his speed and at 4.51, he’s an impressive athlete. In high school, he was a quarterback who ran all over the place. Defensively, he should be an integral piece this season. Here’s what Brown had to say via Wolverines Wire:
“I’ve seen enough out of Michael Barrett to be excited. Runs 4.51 – that’s fast! At 220-pounds. So that’s a good place to start. He’s had a tremendous role model in Khaleke Hudson that showed him the way.”
Barrett is a versatile guy and while there are others who could see time at Viper, such as Anthony Solomon or even some incoming freshman such as William Mohan, it sounds like it’s Barrett’s job to lose at this point.
Positive developments on the D-line
Brown also talked about some of the guys who will need to step on the defensive line, such as Chris Hinton, Mazi Smith and Donovan Jeter. Those three are all expected to contribute at defensive tackle and Hinton will likely start inside Carlo Kemp (more on that in a second).
Hinton, a five-star recruit in 2019, could be the big run-stuffer that Michigan needs up front and is one of numerous breakout candidates. He can also rush the passer, which is very valuable at defensive tackle, as Maurice Hurst and others have taught us. Smith should be also a key run defender. Here’s what Brown had to say:
“Christopher Hinton – I’m really excited about his potential. You mentioned Donovan Jeter. Mazi Smith is another guy as well. We think all of those guys, in evaluating and watching them in some of the winter workouts in the conditioning phases, I really feel like they’ve taken their game to the next level in terms of their physical ability, their ability to run.”
Brown also said he was excited about defensive ends such as Luiji Vilain, David Ojabo and Taylor Upshaw, three guys who will be competing to fill the role left by Josh Uche. It’s not likely they would play Sam as he did, that will likely be Solomon’s job and Brown alluded that Uche’s role will need to be filled by multiple players.
But with Kwity Paye and Aidan Hutchinson playing lots of snaps at defensive end and sometimes bumping inside to rush on third downs, Michigan football needs another good edge rusher, either in a two or three-point stance and those three guys seem to be making progress according to Brown:
“What I’ll say to you is I do feel very strongly about (Taylor) Upshaw, I do feel strongly about Luiji Vilain. David Ojabo, I think has a lot of similar traits that Josh Uche has.”
Michigan football back to a four-man front?
Last year, the Wolverines played with three defensive lineman more and this year, it seems like that will change. The expected starting lineup is Paye, Hutchinson, Kemp and Hinton, with others mentioned above rotating.
While Brown didn’t expressly admit that the Wolverines were moving back to a four-man defensive line, when he was asked about it, his response was: “To answer that question, I’ve gotta kill you, but you’re on the right track there.”
It does sound like that’s the plan for this season. That doesn’t mean Michigan won use odd fronts. It does mean that we will see more situations with three linebackers on the field instead of four, but Brown is creative and he loves multiple looks, so expect to see a little of everything once again.