Projecting Michigan's Defensive Starters For 2021
If you missed our breakdown of the projected offensive starters for 2021, you can click here.
Defensive Ends - Sr. Aidan Hutchinson & R-Soph. Mike Morris
While there has been some talk that Hutchinson could leave after his junior season, he embodies everything that Michigan stands for, and here's betting that he wants to live "Those Who Stay Will Be Champions" with a senior season as U-M's captain and its MVP. Michigan's weakside end could be any number of players: Luiji Villain, David Ojabo, Mike Morris - who takes the lead as Kwity Paye's backup this fall? My pick is Morris because Villain's injury history is concerning and Ojabo is still such a raw athlete that he might not be ready for a full-time role.
Defensive Tackles - Jr. Chris Hinton & R-Fr. Aaron Lewis
A former five-star Hinton is projected to start at tackle this fall alongside senior Carlo Kemp, and by 2021, he could be one of the most-talked-about interior defensive linemen in the Big Ten. Lewis and classmate Kris Jenkins are both making the transition from high school end to college tackle this fall, and the interrupted offseason will almost certainly mean redshirts in 2020, but by 2021, one of the two could be big enough and strong enough - and Lewis is the more naturally talented - to push Mazi Smith or walk-on Jess Speight.
Inside Linebackers - 5th Sr. Josh Ross & R-Jr. Cam McGrone
I wouldn't sleep on Anthony Solomon, who is expected to be a backup to McGrone and Ross this season, but Ross took a redshirt in 2019 for the very purpose of being back for a fifth year. McGrone could go pro after 2020 if he has a monster season, but with a chance to go down as one of Michigan's all-time great middle linebackers, I suspect he'll be back for 2021 before leaving for the NFL.
Viper - R-Jr. Michael Barrett
Like the offensive line, Michigan could be in the rare position of three multi-year starters at linebacker. Barrett is poised to take over the viper job for Khaleke Hudson this season and all indications are that he has elite physical ability, capable of being a true chaos-maker for the Wolverines.
Cornerback - R-So. DJ Turner II & Soph. Andre Seldon
Cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich recently had some good things to say about Turner, who appears to get it. Vincent Gray could also be a starter as a redshirt junior - we'll see if he becomes more consistent as a sophomore in 2020 - but Turner and Seldon are a pair of mentally-strong, physical, and fearless competitors, and those are exactly the traits that have defined Michigan's starting corners under Jim Harbaugh.
Safeties - Jr. Daxton Hill & Soph. Jordan Morant
Hill will be approaching, most likely, his final season in Ann Arbor, a physical freak that NFL teams will be coveting. Hill's junior year should be an All-American campaign (2020 could be too). There aren't a lot of great options among Michigan's more veteran safeties so bet on one of three incoming freshmen this fall: Morant, Makari Page or RJ Moten.