2019 Season Countdown: #46 Mazi Smith

2019 Season Countdown: #46 Mazi Smith


July 19, 2019
Mazi Smith (image via MGoBlog)

You can pre-order John U. Bacon’s new book, Overtime, which is coming in September (LINK):

Name: Mazi Smith
Height:
6’3″
Weight:
303 lbs.
High school:
Kentwood (MI) East Kentwood
Position:
Defensive tackle
Class:
Freshman
Jersey number:
#58
Last year:
Smith was a senior in high school (LINK). He made 81 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, and 3 forced fumbles.
TTB Rating:
86

Michigan is in a weird transitional phase on the defensive line. For several years the Wolverines have had returning standouts on the line to take up many of the snaps, including Chase Winovich, Rashan Gary, Maurice Hurst Jr., Chris Wormley, Ryan Glasgow, and others. And now not only is Michigan replacing most of its defensive line, but there’s a new defensive line coach doing the development. Michigan lost Bryan Mone (graduation), Lawrence Marshall (graduation), and Aubrey Solomon (transfer to Tennessee) from the tackle position alone, not to mention several defensive ends.

In order to get enough bodies on the field, Michigan needs to play freshmen in 2019, and Smith seems like a certain bet to be one of them. The Wolverines are particularly lacking in big bodies to take up space in the middle, and Smith is hovering just over 300 lbs. after losing a chunk of weight. He enrolled early in January and while I don’t expect him to stand out – few freshman defensive tackles do – he should be able to eat up some snaps. The Wolverines are probably looking at him as someone to be on the two-deep, either at nose tackle or 3-tech. I look back at the likes of freshman seasons for Solomon and Ondre Pipkins with indifference for their effectiveness, so this will probably not be a great season.

Prediction: Backup defensive tackle

25 comments

  1. Avatar
    Comments: 1277
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    WindyCityBlue
    Jul 19, 2019 at 8:50 AM

    “Weird transitional phase” translates as “roster hole resulting from inadequate recruiting at defensive tackle”.

    We need to stop trying to make 240 lb DEs into 290 lb 3 techs or NTs, and taking 3-4 years to do it. In all but the smallest classes, we should be signing at least 2 true DTs.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 5515
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Jul 19, 2019 at 12:27 PM

      I would argue retaining talent (Hudson, Solomon, Irving-Bey) is an issue as well.

      I think they need to continue to anticipate weight gain. Moving people down is a great way to get athleticism and positional versatility. We could certainly use a few more Chris Wormley types and should be following this model for turning bigger ‘outside’ linebackers into WDEs too. I have no complaints about recruiting guys projected to anchor and/or 3-tech.

      I do think they need to put a lot more focus on DL recruiting numbers (pure DTs, pure DEs and everything in between, particularly with Mattison gone and with Nua being unproven. There’s a pipeline of guys at some other positions (e.g., linebacker, WR) and what feels like scrambling on the DL. If you have a proven position coach (e.g., Zordich) you can feel a bit more confident. With a new guy it’s wise to hedge your bets. So yeah, let’s get some more DTs like Smith and Hinton.

      • Thunder
        Comments: 3367
        Joined: 7/13/2015
        Jul 19, 2019 at 8:28 PM

        Meh on the retaining talent thing. Hudson would probably be starting at right tackle on offense this season if he was still at Michigan, not playing defensive tackle. And Irving-Bey got booted from CMU for academic reasons; it’s hard to retain players at U of M who can’t hack it in Mount Pleasant.

      • Avatar
        Comments: 1277
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Jul 19, 2019 at 11:25 PM

        Well, if you’re signing two true DTs every year, that goes a long way towards covering attrition. But we haven’t even been close lately.

        We signed no DTs in 2015. in 2016, we signed Gary, who played DE, and Dwumfour who has gained no weight, is still undersized, and still isn’t starting in his 4th year. 2017 would have been a reasonable year if not for attrition and moving guys around, but we signed no DTs in 2018. Going two years in a stretch of 4 with no signees at that position virtually guarantees a roster hole (or at best, having to rely on tweeners), especially since the chances of having no attrition at DT in that same stretch are low. And it’s not even about talent level exclusively. It’s about roster balance, and keeping a steady stream of bodies at a critical position.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 5515
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Jul 21, 2019 at 1:05 PM

          Dwumour’s Junior Year: 10 games, 19 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT

          Hurst’s Junior Year: 13 games, 35 tackles, 3 sacks

          Dwumfour is listed as being bigger than Hurst.

          Seems rather short-sighted for a Michigan fan to see this kind of career arc and this body type as problematic.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 5515
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Jul 19, 2019 at 3:03 PM

      The weird phase really just boils down to one guy. If Solomon stayed along the path he looked to be on after his freshman season (2017), Michigan has an all-conference caliber NT starting beside Kemp, who is pushed by a higher ceiling backup (Dwumfour). The 4th guy in the rotation is Jeter, potentially getting pushed by one of the two freshman. This hypothetical is more or less idea — a mix proven veterans pushed by young talent.

      But they couldn’t keep Solomon on the roster because of the program culture/approach to injury management. Similar questions have popped up with other transfers. Regardless, Solomon’s 2018 was a disaster for Michigan – due to health, player, culture or some mix. That’s why we are where we are with major questions at DT.

      • Thunder
        Comments: 3367
        Joined: 7/13/2015
        Jul 19, 2019 at 8:26 PM

        I agree that the departure of Solomon is a big blow. It’s tough to stockpile a three-deep of good players. You can sometimes have a trio of good interior guys to rotate in and/or move a defensive end to tackle on passing downs, but very few teams have 4-6 great players at the two interior defensive line positions.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 5515
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Jul 21, 2019 at 1:11 PM

          I agree. That’s why I’m saying having 1 great player (hypothetical Solomon), 1 quality starter (Kemp) and a couple talented backups (Jeter/Dwumfour) with freshman behind them is close to an ideal.

          Of course it could be better (Michigan 2016 DL was exceptional) but in general Michigan’s DL depth situation is in good shape if Solomon had stayed healthy on on track to be an all-conference caliber starter. Losing a high-end starter bumped everyone up a spot in importance and makes them each look more wobbly than they would otherwise.

      • Avatar
        Comments: 1619
        Joined: 1/19/2016
        je93
        Jul 19, 2019 at 9:01 PM

        Just last week you were griping over rumors, now here you are with the Solomon rumors. Guess it’s just different when Lank does it

      • Avatar
        Comments: 1277
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Jul 19, 2019 at 11:08 PM

        Sorry, but one guy does not make the difference between “ideal” and “major questions”. Jeter, Kemp and Dwumfour are all still question marks. Jeter and Dwumfour have limited experience, and Kemp is still undersized and a journeyman. We have no top-notch returning talent at DT.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 5515
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Jul 21, 2019 at 1:12 PM

          Solomon could have changed that, is the point.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3367
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jul 19, 2019 at 8:30 PM

      I don’t really have a problem with making DEs into DTs. That’s been the norm for a long time, even going back to the Miami Hurricanes’ heyday, who were notorious for making ends into tackles, linebackers into ends, safeties into linebackers, etc. FYI: Jeffery Simmons and Taven Bryan are a couple 1st round draft picks at defensive tackle who were listed at 251 lbs. as recruits.

      • Avatar
        Comments: 67
        Joined: 1/10/2017
        Julio
        Jul 19, 2019 at 9:23 PM

        Yeah, well, Maizen (or the MGoBlog user who, again, bears a remarkable resemblance to WCB here) expects better. No, he *demands* better. Michigan should be recruiting 5-star, NFL-ready players or paying Harbaugh less money.

        I’m experiencing deja vu, by the way.

        • Avatar
          Comments: 1277
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          WindyCityBlue
          Jul 19, 2019 at 11:10 PM

          Yes, I know, you fanboy dudebros from mgoblog like to get your cred by calling every poster you don’t like maizen. Do you really think it makes you one of the cool kids? It doesn’t. It’s sad.

      • 17years
        Comments: 277
        Joined: 2/6/2018
        17years
        Jul 20, 2019 at 10:24 PM

        You comment makes me wonder what will become of Ben Mason at DT.

  2. Avatar
    Comments: 1619
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Jul 19, 2019 at 1:24 PM

    100% agreement. Smith will play a lot, but historical precedence dictates it won’t be impressive. Will it be at the expense of our backup/8? We’ll see

  3. Avatar
    Comments: 1619
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Jul 19, 2019 at 1:24 PM

    *back7, not backup

  4. GKblue
    Comments: 322
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    GKblue
    Jul 19, 2019 at 4:13 PM

    Poor performance at the DL almost has to be at the expense of the back 7. . Defensive coaches Brown and Nua have a lot of work schematically and covering the basics without a ton of depth. I am concerned until proven otherwise

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3367
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jul 19, 2019 at 8:07 PM

      I’m cautiously optimistic until proven otherwise. Brown’s track record at Michigan (and elsewhere) is that he can put a ton of pressure on the quarterback. Whether it’s Uche, Hutchinson, Paye, Vilain, Dwumfour, or whoever, a couple of these guys are probably going to be terrors for opposing quarterbacks. We just don’t know who it will be yet.

      • 17years
        Comments: 277
        Joined: 2/6/2018
        17years
        Jul 20, 2019 at 10:26 PM

        I’d put some money down on Adain Hutchinson.

      • Avatar
        Comments: 166
        Joined: 9/15/2015
        ragingbull
        Jul 20, 2019 at 11:59 PM

        agreed – im confident brown and company can handle passing situations and generate pressure. the issue will be whether they have the talent and depth to consistently stop the run vs the better teams on schedule

      • Avatar
        Comments: 1277
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Jul 21, 2019 at 6:57 PM

        We had zero sacks against OSU last year. That’s less than a ton when it really mattered.

  5. Lanknows
    Comments: 5515
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Jul 21, 2019 at 1:32 PM

    Agreed. There are a lot of personnel configurations that could work out very well for Michigan. Concern is warranted but the coaching track record is strong and it’s not as if the cupboard is bare.

    • Avatar
      Comments: 1277
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      WindyCityBlue
      Jul 21, 2019 at 6:51 PM

      No, the Dline certainly doesn’t look like a train wreck, but in Harbaugh’s 5th year we shouldn’t still be rebuilding and trying to get all the pieces together. The real question is whether this is more 9-3ism talent, or whether this is a national championship level Dline. I would tend more towards the former at this point.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 5515
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Jul 21, 2019 at 11:26 PM

        “still be rebuilding”? That’s one way to look at it, I guess. Michigan has fielded elite DLs under most of Harbaugh’s tenure. I was pretty good under Hoke/Mattison too, once things got settled. I’m not seeing a need to rebuild. I’m seeing a team that needs to reload again, and recover from unexpected departures.

        Semantics maybe. Obviously they lost a lot of veteran starters, but Paye, Kemp, Uche, and Dwumfour are in line to step in. There are always questions about any backup moving into a feature role, but this is standard procedure. Those guys have to step up just like the guys before them stepped up when the vet starters ahead of them left.

        But yes – the DL doesn’t look right now to be a team strength and it’s probably not a top 25 unit nationally (the equivalent of a 9-3 team). They don’t need to be if other units are excelling. So I disagree with the question you posed being THE question. The question I’m asking is if the DL can be good enough to not screw things up for what should be a very good group behind them.

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