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Last Monday I posted the top performers under Jim Harbaugh on Michigan’s offense (LINK).
DEFENSIVE END: 2016 Taco Charlton
Charlton’s performance in 2016 is underrated by some, even though it resulted in the highest sack total since Brandon Graham matched it with 10.0 in 2008. Charlton finished the season with 43 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, 2 pass breakups, and 8 quarterback hurries. He was taken in the 1st round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Hit the jump for more.
DEFENSIVE END: 2017 Chase Winovich
Once Winovich settled into a position (after moving from linebacker to tight end to defensive end), he became a disruptive force on the defensive line. Taking over for Charlton, he made 79 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 6 quarterback hurries. He’s #6 all-time at Michigan in tackles for loss during a single season.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE: 2017 Maurice Hurst, Jr.
In his fifth season, Hurst became Michigan’s most dominant defensive lineman since Graham left. His final year in a winged helmet included 61 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 2 pass breakups, and 3 quarterback hurries. He was in the conversation to be a 1st round draft pick, but a reported heart issue caused him to fall to the 5th round in 2018.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE: 2015 Willie Henry
Henry had an outstanding final season in Ann Arbor, making 34 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, 2 pass breakups, and 3 quarterback hurries. He played with good leverage and could be extremely disruptive on the interior.
LINEBACKER: 2017 Devin Bush, Jr.
Bush was great in his final two years at Michigan, but I give the edge to his true sophomore season in 2017. He finished with 102 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 1 interception, 8 pass breakups, and 1 quarterback hurry. Bush had the speed to go sideline to sideline, and he arrived with bad intentions. He could rush the passer and play in coverage. After one more year, he was picked in the 1st round by the Steelers.
LINEBACKER: 2019 Josh Uche
It’s almost cheating to include Uche here, since he spent part of the time playing like a defensive end. But he was also surprisingly good in coverage at times and used in a bunch of different ways by creative defensive coordinator Don Brown. Uche made 35 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, 2 pass breakups, and 2 forced fumbles during his final campaign.
LINEBACKER: 2017 Khaleke Hudson
Maybe Hudson wasn’t the revelation at the Viper spot that Jabrill Peppers was in 2016, but Hudson had the more impressive season in a number of ways (though Peppers was a more dynamic overall player with his contributions on offense and special teams). But if we’re talking about linebacker only, Hudson made 82 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 9 pass breakups, and 4 quarterback hurries. Even without his ridiculous 8-TFL, 3-sack game against Minnesota, he still would have had a very solid 10 tackles for loss and 5 sacks on the year.
CORNERBACK: 2016 Jourdan Lewis
Raw stats don’t necessarily tell the whole story at cornerback, where Lewis made 25 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, and 11 pass breakups in 2016. He was a First Team All-American.
CORNERBACK: 2018 David Long, Jr.
Michigan cornerbacks have put up excellent seasons virtually every year under Jim Harbaugh and cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich. Again, this wasn’t the most impressive statistical season, but Long was a shutdown corner in 2018 when he made 17 tackles, 1 interception, and 8 pass breakups.
SAFETY: 2015 Jarrod Wilson
Safety has not been a dynamic position in the last 15 or so years at Michigan, but Wilson became a “Steady Eddie” late in his career. He finished that 2015 season with 61 tackles, 1 sack, 2 interceptions, and 3 pass breakups.
SAFETY: 2018 Josh Metellus
Metellus rescued the 2018 game against SMU when he returned an interception for a touchdown against the Mustangs as time ran out in the first half, giving Michigan some momentum when they were struggling. He finished that season with 48 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions (for 104 yards and 1 touchdown), and 6 pass breakups.
KICKER: 2016 Kenny Allen
Allen is an easy choice for best kicking season, though he was pretty good in 2015, too. He finished 19/23 on field goals and 53/53 on extra points. He also created a touchback on 60.7% of his kickoffs (next best: 2018 Jake Moody’s 48%) and didn’t kick a single kickoff out of bounds.
PUNTER: 2018 Will Hart
Hart was a weapon in 2018. He averaged 46.98 yards per punt for the season, which would have been #5 in the country if he had enough attempts to qualify for the national lead. He was First Team All-Big Ten and the conference’s punter of the year.
PUNT RETURNER: 2016 Jabrill Peppers
Peppers made you hold your breath at punt returner, because you never knew when he was going to make coverage teams look slow. He was also excellent at sprinting to catch punts, which saved Michigan a bunch of yardage. Overall, he returned 21 punts for 310 yards (14.8 yards/return) and scored a touchdown against Colorado.
KICKOFF RETURNER: 2019 Giles Jackson
Michigan has had a few solid years of kickoff returners, but Jackson seemed like the guy who really settled into the position the most (and he was only a freshman). He returned 24 kickoffs for 622 yards (25.9 yards/return) and 1 touchdown, which came against Maryland.
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