June 25, 2024

The upcoming 2024 Michigan spring game marks the beginning of the Sherrone Moore era and the unveiling of Team 145. While this scrimmage won’t provide all the answers, it offers a glimpse into what to expect from the team in the upcoming fall season.

Michigan Spring Football Game

While much attention will be on the offensive side of the ball, which is rife with uncertainties, the defensive unit also presents its own set of unknowns. Despite boasting one of the nation’s best defenses, the Michigan Wolverines face the challenge of maintaining that status for the second consecutive year.

Here are three key aspects to observe on the defensive front during this year’s spring game.

1. Cornerback Depth Beyond Will Johnson:
With significant departures and injuries impacting the secondary, the Wolverines face a rebuilding task. The exits of Mike Sainristil and Josh Wallace to the NFL Draft, Keon Sabb’s transfer to Alabama, and Rod Moore’s injury reshape the team’s defensive backfield.

While Makari Paige and Quinten Johnson are likely to anchor the safety positions, the starting roles at nickelback and boundary cornerback opposite Will Johnson remain up for grabs. Several names to watch include Ja’Den McBurrows, D.J. Waller, Keshaun Harris, Brandyn Hillman, Zeke Berry, and Jyaire Hill. Veterans like Harris and McBurrows bring experience, while younger talents like Berry and Waller offer promise. The spring game won’t finalize the starting lineup, but it could provide clarity on potential contenders.

2. Safety Makari Paige and Quinten Johnson:

3. Potential Breakout Players:
The spring game serves as a platform for emerging talents to showcase their abilities and vie for starting roles. Sophomores D.J. Waller, Brandyn Hillman, and Jyaire Hill are among the contenders aiming to make their mark. While experience may favor veterans like Ja’Den McBurrows and Keshaun Harris, the performance in this scrimmage could influence the coaching staff’s decisions.

Transfer linebacker Jaishawn Barham brings to mind memories of former Michigan linebacker Devin Bush with his relentless pursuit of the ball carrier. Much like Bush, Barham’s impact is expected to be amplified in defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s scheme.

Teaming up with returning top tackler linebacker Ernest Hausmann, Barham is poised to showcase his playmaking abilities both in coverage and disrupting plays in the backfield, reminiscent of Michigan standout Michael Barrett. However, before we laud him as the next great linebacker, his journey begins with the spring game. Will Barham kickstart his path to excellence with a standout performance akin to Bush’s in 2017?

Defensive Line Depth
Recent history has shown that the team with the most formidable defensive line often hoists the national championship trophy. If this trend continues in 2024, Michigan must ensure it has the depth to support its top-tier starters.

With Derrick Moore, Mason Graham, Kenneth Grant, and Josaiah Stewart anchoring the defensive line, Michigan boasts an unparalleled starting lineup capable of dominating games. However, the key to maintaining their effectiveness lies in finding quality rotational players to spell the starters and prevent any drop-off in performance.

What Michigan football EDGE Derrick Moore added to his game offseason

Ideally, Michigan aims to secure four rotational players, two each at tackle and edge positions, who can seamlessly integrate into the lineup. While Rayshaun Benny solidifies one interior spot, the competition remains fierce for the remaining tackle position among Enow Etta, Cam Brandt, and Trey Pierce. To intensify this competition, Michigan is actively exploring transfer options. While the interior appears promising with potential transfers and rising sophomores, the competition for rotational edge players remains open.

T.J. Guy, Kechaun Bennett, and Aymeric Koumba emerge as frontrunners for the edge rotation spots, although confidence in their abilities may vary. Guy has garnered attention throughout the offseason and since his freshman campaign in 2021, but Bennett and Koumba’s capabilities are less known. It wouldn’t be surprising if Michigan pursues additional transfers to bolster this position.

Before considering any transfers, however, these depth players have an opportunity to stake their claim for an expanded role on what could be the nation’s most formidable defensive front.

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