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Michigan football defensive line facing adversity, but is looking scarier than ever

The Wolverines have a dangerous trait this year: they know their flaws and are working towards perfection.



Michigan football defensive line
Nov 26, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive lineman Kris Jenkins (94) celebrates as time winds down in the win against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

ANN ARBOR, MI — The Michigan Wolverines head into the 2023 college football season with some high hopes after winning Big Ten titles in 2021 and 2022. Over the past 28 games, Michigan football has won all but three, including a 19-1 Big Ten record, some massive wins over Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, two Big Ten title game blowouts, and two CFP appearances. During spring ball, the Michigan football defensive line has identified their flaws, and looks to self-correct ahead of the season.

Michigan football defensive line is fixing its flaws ahead of the 2023 season

Just as we saw last offseason, the Michigan football defensive line is facing some adversity when it comes to depth. Michigan is losing a few key players across its D-line, most notably edge rusher Mike Morris and nose tackle Mazi Smith — both are projected draft picks in next month’s NFL Draft.

Still, with young, talented players stepping up and even some veterans playing crucial roles, the Michigan football defensive line is in good shape. The loss of Smith in the middle of the line will be hard to replace, though senior Kris Jenkins has already bulked to over 300 pounds, and is ready to step into a new role with the Wolverines this year.

“That’s one of the weaknesses we identified with ourselves in the room,” Kris Jenkins told MSN this week. “We were able to establish ourselves as one of the main run (stop) threats in college football, and we really wanted to emphasize making the quarterback fear us this year in pass rush.

“We want to turn our weaknesses into strengths and continue to chisel away at our strengths as well, so we can dominate every aspect of the game,” Jenkins said. “We think we’re moving in the right direction right now, so we’re only going to continue upwards here. But we’ve still got more work to do.”

Jenkins is not the only Michigan football defensive line contributor that sees some room for improvement, either.

“The whole D-line — we’ve got to get better at our pass-rush,” sophomore defensive tackle Kenneth Grant said. “That’s something that we’re targeting right now to better. For me personally, it’s my pad level — trying to lower it and attack people as hard as I can.

“This year, we kind of want to have the whole D-line getting sacks, getting pressure from the inside and the outside,” Grant added. “If you look at the statistics, the interior defensive line didn’t really get a lot of sacks. It was more of the edge group these past couple of years.”

Over the past two seasons of college football, two key factors have driven the Wolverines to being one of the top programs in the country: the Michigan football defensive line and offensive line. Without these two immensely successful units, the Wolverines would likely be nowhere near where they are today. As we turn the page from 2022 to 2023, Michigan will need to sustain this offensive and defensive line success to stay competitive.

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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.