The Wolverines had arguably the best duo of EDGE rushers/defensive ends in Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo. They combined for 25 sacks last season and were leaders for the team, on and off the field. Hutchinson and Ojabo are guys who got pressure on quarterbacks, were able to stifle their opponent’s run game, and were anchors for an elite Michigan defense.
The only issue is they will not be with the Wolverines in 2022.
Both players were selected within the top 45 picks in the recent NFL Draft, leaving Michigan football with a dilemma on defense. How do you replace two star EDGE rushers, one of whom was a Heisman finalist?
Coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Jesse Minter have been tasked with that question throughout spring practice, looking for the guys who will be the next defensive line duo for the Wolverines.
A few players stuck out during their Spring Game based on the number of snaps played and what they did on the field. Only time will tell what Minter and Harbaugh will do in the 2022 season but here are some players to keep an eye on at the EDGE position.
Breaking down Michigan football’s EDGE rushers
One player who is poised to have a large role at EDGE in 2022 is Mike Morris. Morris is the only player returning to the position group who played in more than four games in 2021 and will surely be looked to as a leader for this relatively young group.
Last season Morris was in a rotation role for the Wolverines, but he was able to make an impact on the field with the snaps he saw (finishing with 16 tackles, 0.5 sacks, and one interception).
During the Spring Game, he played both left and right EDGE, showing his versatility and flexibility. Morris looks to be a starting EDGE rusher for the Wolverines and someone vital to the success of Michigan’s 2022 defense.
As for who will be starting alongside Morris, that is still a bit of a mystery. In the Spring Game Taylor Upshaw and Jaylen Harrell were paired with him for a majority of the Blue team’s snaps, which may be a sign that Minter is looking to choose between them for the other EDGE spot. Upshaw and Harrell are both solid options but have different skill sets that could compliment Morris on the line and Michigan’s defense in general.
Harrell provides speed off the ball which will give the Wolverines more versatility. Upshaw is more of a power rusher who can help clog up opposing running lanes. Both players are talented in their own right and will be welcome additions to the starting lineup for Minter and Harbaugh.
Outside of those three, there is plenty of depth at the EDGE position that will surely be used at various points throughout the upcoming season. Players like TJ Guy, Braiden McGregor, and Kechaun Bennett shined for the Maize team during the Spring Game and are sure to be in the EDGE rotation.
If you are looking for a guy who will be an X-Factor in 2022, incoming freshman Derrick Moore will be an interesting player to watch. Moore was a four-star recruit who is extremely talented, ranking inside the top ten of defensive ends in his class.
His role within the Wolverines’ defense this season will be intriguing. It is entirely possible for Moore to jump up the depth chart and become a starter alongside Morris. But, with the depth that Michigan has at EDGE, Moore will likely start the season in a limited role and work from there.
Despite the loss of Hutchinson and Ojabo, Michigan’s defensive line will continue to be a strength next season.The Wolverines have a tremendous amount of talent returning and also have nice young players who will be looking to make an impact. Are there any stars in this group? Only time will tell, but the Wolverines will have what it takes on the EDGE to have a top-tier defense again in 2022.