Stellar, Standard & Subpar: Luiji Vilain In 2020
We continue our series as we look at each potential contributor on Michigan's roster in numerical order and look at what would be a stellar, standard and subpar season in 2020.
We're on to No. 18, redshirt junior defensive end Luiji Vilain.
Coming out of high school, Vilain was viewed as a very athletic, very talented pass rusher who might push for playing time early. Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to stay healthy at Michigan causing him to watch from the sidelines during the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Last year, he played in seven games and made seven tackles including one for loss, one sack, and one forced fumble to earn his first varsity letter. Heading into the 2020 season, he's going to be needed behind Aidan Hutchinson and Kwity Paye, but how much and what will the results be?
A stellar season for Vilain would start with him remaining healthy from wire to wire. It seems like his injury-plagued days are behind him but being available is the first box that needs to checked.
If he does that, he's going to play in every game. Last year, graduate transfer Michael Danna was the guy to relieve Aidan Hutchinson or Kwity Paye and he was also used in some pass rush packages. In 2020, Vilain is the only other defensive end with any experience so he's going to be needed.
In terms of production, Vilain should play in every game, rack up about 20 tackles including four or five for loss, a couple of sacks and maybe a big play or two. Hutchinson and Paye aren't going to come off the field much but if one of them gets dinged or they need to check out for an occasional blow, that will open the door for Vilain to see the field.
I think a standard season for Vilain still involves him playing in every game but, just not a lot of snaps as Hutchinson and Paye eat up most of the reps. Statistically it would likely be just a slight uptick from his production in 2019. Call it 10-15 stops, with a couple for loss and a sack or two. If he plays a big more, and produces just a little bit, that would be a solid step with two years of eligibility remaining.
I hate to even think it but one thing that would make for a subpar season for Vilain would be another injury. It's something you worry about with him, but hopefully he's all done getting hurt.
If he's healthy, but gets passed up by guys like David Ojabo, Mike Morris, Taylor Upshaw or Julius Welschof, that would be a bad development for him. If even younger guys like Aaron Lewis or Braiden McGregor start to see the field before Vilain, his days in Ann Arbor are likely numbers.
Vilain obviously wasn't super productive in 2019, but playing in seven games is a nice baseline heading into 2020 after missing two years due to injury. Playing in seven games or less while being passed up by younger guys and recording similar numbers would be a disappointing season for the fourth-year Wolverine.
I think Vilain is going to have a stellar season out of necessity. I'm sure defensive line coach Shaun Nua is going to have a heart to heart with Vilain about needing him in 2020. As I stated previously, there just isn't anyone else to lean on behind Hutchinson and Paye. Salt and Pepper are going to play a lot, but they can't do it all. When they need to come out, Vilain needs to go in, and I think he will.
If he's healthy, he's a solid player, at least from what we've seen in limited action. That will result in playing in every game and at least doubling his numbers from 2019.
No. 1 — Ambry Thomas
No. 2 — Carlo Kemp
No. 2 — Jake Moody
No. 3 — Quinn Nordin
No. 4 — Nico Collins
No. 5 — Joe Milton
No. 6 — DJ Turner
No. 6 — Cornelius Johnson
No. 8 — Ronnie Bell
No. 10 — Dylan McCaffrey
No. 12 — Josh Ross
No. 12 — Chris Evans
No. 15 — Chris Hinton
No. 15 — Giles Jackson
No. 17 — Sammy Faustin