After Kwity Paye logged six and a half sacks as a junior last year, Michigan defensive line coach Shaun Nua felt like he had a solid understanding and hold on who his talented pass rusher was. Little did he know that Paye's 2019 effort was just scratching the surface.
"He's improved tremendously," Nua said on Wednesday. "He's always been a good pass rusher, but he's taken his pass rush game to another level. Following some of the top NFL guys, whatever Zoom meetings they have, he'll jump in, being able to talk about different stuff. Coach Brown has provided a lot of guys with a lot of sacks, and we all see that. We will put him in all the best positions to execute and get to the quarterback."
Over the offseason, Paye has put in a lot of work to build on what was a strong junior campaign. From studying film to learning from older, more accomplished players, Paye has taken the mental aspect of football seriously. And given the fact that he's long been a focused worker in the weight room to get his body right, Paye could be in store for a dominant senior year.
"He can physically do things that I wish I could do," Nua said of Paye. "I lie to them so much. 'I used to do that. I used to do this.' But you watch it, like just the weights, the balance and to combine that with the intelligence that he ha for the game, it's just at a different level. It's good to be part of it and to have a role to continue to enhance it, to get it better. That's what a freak is: someone who can do a lot of things that the majority of people can't do physically."
Aligning with that breakdown, Paye was named the No. 1 "freakiest" player in college football by The Athletic's Bruce Feldman over the summer months, but that was back in July. Since that timespan, Nua says that Paye has revealed even more of his character and that it speaks volumes to the type of player that U-M fans will see on the field this fall.
"[He's] very, very unselfish," Nua said. "Loves Michigan and loves his teammates. He wants to leave a legacy here that is even beyond my understanding because what he's doing is you look around the country and see young men opt in or opt out-- I'm not saying that's right or wrong-- but to see him not even flinch once throughout the whole pandemic, that puts Kwity at a whole different level in my book when it comes to character and the quality of man he is. I'm not surprised, it was just, 'wow.' I'm expecting a really good year because he's fricken dominating right now."
Given his performance from last year, Paye could easily cross the double digit threshold for sacks in 2020. Paye did just that with tackles for loss a year ago (12.5), but his pass rushing ability has been the talk of the offseason. Though Paye will only have nine games to bolster his profile, recording one sack per game should be a comfortable baseline for the U-M defensive lineman.
But based on what Nua had to say, it might be only the beginning.
How successful do you think Kwity Paye will be this year? Will Michigan's defensive line have one or more 10-sack players? Let us know!