2024 Spring Football Preview: Defensive Line

Tag: Breeon Ishmail

18Mar 2024
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2024 Spring Football Preview: Defensive Line

Kenneth Grant (#78, image via Yahoo!)

2023 Starters: OLB Jaylen Harrell, DT Mason Graham, DT Kris Jenkins, DE Braiden McGregor
Losses: Reece Atteberry (transfer), Cam Goode (NFL), Harrell (NFL), McGregor (NFL)
Returning players: Josaiah Stewart (Sr.), Kechaun Bennett (RS Jr.), Rayshaun Benny (RS Jr.), T.J. Guy (RS Jr.), Ike Iwunnah (RS Jr.), Tyler McLaurin (RS Jr.), Graham (Jr.), Grant (Jr.), Derrick Moore (Jr.), Alessandro Lorenzetti (RS So.), Breeon Ishmail (So.), Cameron Brandt (So.), Roderick Pierce (So.), Brooks Bahr (RS Fr.), Enow Etta (RS Fr.), Aymeric Koumba (RS Fr.)
Newcomer: DE Dominic Nichols (Fr.)
Projected starters: OLB Stewart, DT Graham, DT Grant, DE Moore

Michigan had an excellent defensive line in 2023, and it might have been the best position group on the national championship squad. The biggest differential in the national championship game against Washington was Michigan’s defensive line against the offensive line of the Huskies. Washington had a couple potential high draft picks in that group, and the Wolverines tossed them around like rag dolls.

Whereas Michigan had dynamic edge rushers in 2021 with David Ojabo and Aidan Hutchinson, the interior of the defensive line has been the strength the past two years. That should be the case once again in 2024, though I’m expecting a little more pass rush from the edge guys this season. Mason Graham and Kenneth Grant are entrenched as the starters at defensive tackle, and they should be the #1 defensive tackle combo in the nation. Grant is 6’3″ and 340 pounds but is fast enough to chase down Penn State running backs from behind. Graham is 6’4″, 310 and plays with both explosion and technique.

Michigan needs someone to emerge from the backup ranks, as starter Kris Jenkins, Jr. and frequently used backup Cam Goode have both moved on. Rayshaun Benny broke his foot late in the season, too, and will probably not be full strength until the fall. This spring look for Roderick Pierce to get some heavy rotation after playing a decent amount as the fourth nose tackle a year ago. Ike Iwunnah is a fourth-year player who has yet to see the field, so it’s tough to see him breaking out at this point, and Alessandro Lorenzetti is another player with decent size (6’5″, 301) who has yet to see the field. Michigan will either have to play one of those inexperienced older guys or give a shot to some young guys who really needed to bulk up from “strongside defensive end” vibes to playing tackle, such as Cameron Brandt or Brooks Bahr.

On the edges, Josaiah Stewart – who spent his first two seasons at Coastal Carolina – and Derrick Moore seem like very good bets to start. Stewart should step in capably for Harrell, and Moore should slide in smoothly for McGregor. They both rotated heavily last year and received a ton of playing time, and Stewart in particular showed a lot of growth throughout the year as he adjusted to playing in the Big Ten.

Once again, the big questions come from the backup ranks. Who will step up to rotate into the game frequently? And will anyone turn into an elite pass rusher? T.J. Guy is a fourth-year player with a good bit of experience, and he could be a solid backup option. He’s probably not a game-changer at this point, so the guys fans really want to see are the likes of Breeon Ishmail and Enow Etta. Both had excellent potential coming out of high school, and Etta was a highly valued recruit who was absolutely dominant in high school (20+ sacks in each of his final two seasons) but played against inferior competition.

Aymeric Koumba is a second-year Frenchman, and Dominic Nichols is an early enrollee freshman. Both have potential but it seems a little early for them to make much of an impact.

27May 2023
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2023 Season Countdown: #108 Breeon Ishmail

Breeon Ishmail (image via 247 Sports)

Name: Breeon Ishmail
225 lbs.
High school: 
Hamilton (OH) Princeton
Jersey number:
Last year: 
Ishmail was a senior in high school (LINK). He made 64 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, and 2 interceptions (1 returned for a TD).
TTB Rating:

Ishmail was one of the later commitments in the class of 2023, announcing his intention to play for Michigan in late November. A whirling dervish of a player, Ishmail did a little bit of everything for Princeton’s defense, playing middle linebacker, overhang defender, and edge rusher. They didn’t rush him as much as they could have, or else his sack totals should have been higher.

Ishmail has the length and closing speed to be a productive pass rusher, but he’s a little bit light right now and doesn’t have a whole lot of technique in his arsenal. Rated as a 3-star, the #91 linebacker, and #1107 overall in the 247 Composite, Michigan lists him as an EDGE, which I think is his best fit. He will need a couple seasons to pack on enough weight to hold up against kickout blocks, and then he’ll have a chance to see the field.

Prediction: Redshirt

13Dec 2022
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Visitors: December 16-18, 2022

A.J. Barner (image via Twitter)


A.J. Barner – TE – Indiana: Barner is a 6’6″, 250 lb. starting tight end and captain from the Hoosiers. After spending three seasons in Bloomington, he has two seasons of eligibility left. This season he caught 28 passes for 199 yards and 3 touchdowns. Barner was a 3-star, the #51 tight end, and #1147 overall in the class of 2020. With Michigan losing Erick All (Iowa), Luke Schoonmaker (NFL), Louis Hansen (transfer), Carter Selzer (graduation), and Joel Honigford (graduation), they need some reinforcements at the tight end position.

Josaiah Stewart – OLB – Coastal Carolina: Stewart is a 6’2″, 230 lb. outside linebacker whom Michigan offered when he came out of high school in 2021. He went to Coastal Carolina and had an outstanding freshman season followed up by a pretty solid sophomore year. Now that he’s in the transfer portal, he has two years of eligibility remaining and appears to be choosing between Michigan and USC.

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26Nov 2022
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Breeon Ishmail, Wolverine

Cincinnati (OH) Princeton LB Breeon Ishmail (image via 247 Sports)

Cincinnati (OH) Princeton linebacker Breeon Ishmail committed to Michigan on Black Friday. He picked the Wolverines over offers from Cincinnati, Kentucky, Pitt, Purdue, and Tennessee, among others.

Ishmail is listed at 6’4″ and 220 lbs. As a senior in 2022, he made 64 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks.

ESPN: 3-star, 76 grade, #71 OLB
On3: 3-star, 83 grade, #116 ATH
Rivals: 3-star ATH, 5.6 grade
247 Sports: 3-star, 86 grade, #88 LB

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