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Michigan football could see elite pass rush once again in 2023

The Wolverines are reloading their pass rush and looking dangerous again.



Jesse Minter, Michigan football pass rush

Head coach Jim Harbaugh is heading into his ninth season at the helm in Ann Arbor right now, and throughout the course of his tenure, one thing has remained a constant: the Wolverines’ high-level pass rush. Just as we saw last offseason, Michigan is losing plenty of star players — such as Eyabi Okie and Mike Morris — when it comes to the defensive ends, though second-year defensive coordinator Jesse Minter has high hopes for the Michigan football pass rush in 2023.

Michigan football pass rush could be elite yet again in 2023

The Michigan football pass rush has become known as one of the best in the country on a yearly basis — UM is often referred to as ‘DEU’ for its incredible development of top defensive ends, such as Aidan Hutchinson, who just won Pepsi Rookie of the Year after his first season in the NFL.

The two biggest losses that the Michigan football pass rush is facing right now are Mike Morris (NFL Draft) and Eyabi Okie (transfer portal). Still, the Wolverines have always done a great job with developing in-house talent, and as we have seen in the past (such as last season), someone will be ready to step up.

“I’ve seen tremendous growth, tremendous improvement,” Jesse Minter told the media. “I think we certainly have a bunch of capable guys. Coach Elston, Dylan Roney, those guys have put in a tremendous amount of work in that aspect. We want to certainly get sacks and pressure and be able to do it at times without committing extra guys. That’s been a huge emphasis for us.”

While last year’s defense was incredible, the Michigan football pass rush was at its best in 2021 with Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo terrorizing opposing defenses off the edge. If the Wolverines can get back to that style of play, this year’s defense will be elite.

“While we ended up having a good number last year, there were times where we probably had to send more than we wanted to. So a huge emphasis and also huge excitement in what I’ve seen through the first part of spring, where we’re at now and the improvement in that area. Expect that to be a big weapon for us in the fall.”

Defense wins championships, and in year two, more is expected of the Wolverines’ defensive play-caller

Last season, Jesse Minter did a great job filling in as a first-year defensive play-caller after Mike McDonald moved back to the NFL on John Harbaugh’s staff in Baltimore. Still, against TCU in the Fiesta Bowl, Minter’s defense was unprepared, giving up 37 points on their own plus 14 more from interceptions thrown by JJ McCarthy. Now, Minter, the Michigan football pass rush, and the defense as a whole must grow from that game and build on it heading into a new season this fall.

“The guys started to understand our expectations for how we want to play,” Minter said. “…We talk about four pillars being really important: effort, block destruction, ball disruption and communication. We’ve made strides in those areas, but I honestly think there are leaps and bounds more for us in all four of those areas.

“I look forward to these guys continuing to chase those. We made them a huge emphasis for us in the spring, and can’t wait to see that continue to progress for the third year of the system.”

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CJ has covered college athletics in paid roles for around five years, including numerous sports and beats. His most recent work revolves largely around Penn State and Michigan football and basketball as a member of the credentialed media at both schools. Right now, CJ writes for Blue by Ninety, where he also serves as the site's credentialed football reporter. He also does some credentialed basketball coverage. Previously, CJ has made stops with sites like GBMWolverine, Saturday Blitz, Steeler Nation, and more.