DJ Turner and Mazi Smith are poised to have big seasons and are expected to be major cogs in Michigan's defense. The veteran cornerback and defensive tackle took the podium together in Indianapolis during Big Ten Media Days and had some of the best lines of the event.
"Dang...were we out there? Was only one of us playing?"
Mazi Smith's words about Kenneth Walker's five-touchdown performance hit home for Michigan folks far and wide. And you could tell that the performance itself hit Smith at home. Michigan has lost two in a row against the Spartans and the lackluster performance by U-M's defensive line coupled with Walker's banner afternoon has Smith and the defense especially motivated in 2022. You could hear it in every player's voice as they spoke to the media.
Just hearing Mazi talk about that game and how it has stuck with him leads me to believe that the defense, even with a new coordinator, is going to be more ready for that game than in the past.
"If you want to dominate in the biggest games, in the biggest situations, you can do it."
Smith was asked what he learned from Aidan Hutchinson and the big defensive tackle did not disappoint. He rattled off several major things that Hutchinson did on a daily basis as a senior leader and you really got the sense that Smith is ready to do the same. Leading by example, shining during the biggest moments and climbing draft boards — all things accomplished by Hutchinson as Smith and others watched day in and day out.
Smith obviously plays a different position, but it feels like he's ready to be that guy on defense. He was locked in during the media sessions and physically looked as impressive as a defensive tackle can.
"I love him to death. I don't think anybody can lead this team like he does."
Wow. What an endorsement for Jim Harbaugh by Mazi Smith. Whether you as fans love Harbaugh or not does not matter, because he is revered by his players. Both Smith and Turner took turns sharing Harbaugh stories that truly illustrated how they feel about him. The depth of that sentiment might not be universal on across the entire roster, but it's certainly widespread enough to create a culture and a program that allowed the team to go 12-2 last year and win a Big Ten title.
I'm actually not going to type out any one quote from DJ Turner's story about his father and Jim Harbaugh, because the entire thing is outstanding. Instead, you can watch it in it's entirety below.
Man, if you're a father, especially of a son, that story might just make your eyes well up. I've been as critical of Harbaugh as anyone, but that story coupled with the season he and his team just put together last year...
On to 2022.