After suffering a season-ending injury during a brutal 2020 season, Aidan Hutchinson returned to Schembechler Hall for another year and with a renewed sense of purpose.
Speaking with the media on Tuesday, Hutchinson made his intentions clear. “I wanted to come back for my teammates and lead this team to get on the right path,” said Hutchinson. “Obviously it was a disappointing season last year), but I wanted to come back and reset the culture here...get back to our winning ways”.
Michigan finished the 2020 season with a 2-4 record, good for sixth place in the Big Ten east division. To make matters worse, the Wolverines finished 0-3 at home - the first winless home record in program history. Though many were quick to dismiss the failures of the 2020 season given the unique circumstances, it’s clear that the veteran players feel a sense of responsibility to correct course and to prove that 2020 was an anomaly.
For Hutchinson, correcting course means getting back to their winning ways. “We want to get back to our usual 10-11 win seasons,” said Hutchinson. “Progressively get better every single year.”
In order to get back to their winning ways, Harbaugh’s bold move of bringing in six new assistant coaches during the offseason will need to pay off quickly and in a very big way. Not only does Hutchinson think that the young coaching staff is more than prepared, he’s feeling an energy around the program that he hasn’t felt in his previous three years at Michigan. “Everyone in this building has a higher sense of energy. In practice, I've seen some things that I haven't seen in my previous three years in this program. Guys want to play ball, guys are fired up - you can tell in practice that there's a different type of energy around Schembechler Hall.”
According to Hutchinson, a big part of that renewed energy comes from new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, who arrives after spending eight years with the Baltimore Ravens. “Coach Mac has new energy and a different kind of focus,” said Hutchinson. “You can tell he’s been in the league for the last eight years. I like the culture he’s instilling in us and I’m fired up to have him as my coach.”
“It’s just his demeanor,” Hutchinson continued. “He’s got that NFL focus. When I first met him you know, he's very precise and articulate. The guy just sounds like he knows what he's doing. Very focused.”
As far as how Hutchinson plans to be used in Macdonald’s defense, he says to look no further than what you see out of the defensive ends in Baltimore. “I’ll have my hand in the dirt, I’ll be standing up, you name it I’ll be doing it.” said Hutchinson. “Look at any of the edge guys for the ravens and that’s what I'll look like.”
Another big challenge for the Wolverine defense will be replacing veteran players like Kwity Paye and Carlo Kemp up front. Hutchinson indicated there are two guys in particular who are stepping up to fill the void up front and assuming a leadership role within the defense. “Chris Hinton is coming up and has great leadership qualities., (Donovan) Jeter is also stepping up. Those are probably the top two defensive line replacements emerging as leaders.”
Just three months removed from offseason surgery, Hutchinson says that he feels great and expects to be fully participating in spring drills in the near future. "I’m three months removed from surgery, but I’m recovering fast. I’m doing everything but the competitive periods. I should be ready for competitive periods by the end of spring ball.”