Defensive Tackle U. Michigan is putting together a nice crew of defensive tackles, and the least heralded one is the guy making plays most consistently, it seems. Sophomore Mason Graham made 5 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and 0.5 sacks against UNLV, eating up the interior offensive line repeatedly. The Rebels ended the game with 61 rushing yards on 31 attempts, which includes sacks, but still . . . the middle was stuffed up all day. Kris Jenkins made 5 tackles and 0.5 sacks and Kenneth Grant made 4 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and 1 pass breakup. The title of this section is a little facetious, but the defensive tackle play has been terrific.
Name: Mason Graham Height: 6’3″ Weight: 318 lbs. High school: Anaheim (CA) Servite Position: Defensive tackle Class: Sophomore Jersey number: #55 Last year: I ranked Graham #63 and said he would be a backup defensive tackle (LINK). He made 27 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and 1 pass breakup. TTB Rating: 84
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh said last year that one of Michigan’s freshman defensive tackles was “a gift from the football gods” and that guy turned out to be Kenneth Grant . . . or Mason Graham. There was debate about which one he meant. It doesn’t really matter, though, because Graham turned out to be excellent for a freshman, and Grant should be pretty darn good by the time all is said and done, too. Graham had 1 sack each against Iowa and Nebraska, and even though he didn’t record any tackles for loss that weren’t sacks, he was consistently eating up double teams or otherwise creating problems for opposing offensive lines. His technical expertise and motor were impressive, especially for a freshman.
Now Graham is a sophomore and, for better or worse, he’s 26 pounds heavier than he was listed last year. Hopefully that doesn’t affect his quickness or persistence, and just judging by what we’ve seen from him over the past couple years (in high school and as a freshman), odds are that he will continue to wreak havoc. Graham is likely to start at nose tackle next to Kris Jenkins, Jr., which is a very formidable starting duo, with Rayshaun Benny and Grant backing them up. It’s likely to be another very good season for Graham.
Prediction: Starting nose tackle; 45 tackles, 4 sacks
Hello, J.J. McCarthy. Well, McCarthy didn’t wait too long to stake his claim for the starting quarterback job. He completed 11/12 passes for 229 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions while rushing 1 time for 16 yards. His first pass was a 42-yard bomb to Roman Wilson for a touchdown, and he didn’t really slow down after that. Every pass was accurate, even a crisp RPO slant to Ronnie Bell that accounted for McCarthy’s lone incompletion. It was an excellent starting debut against an atrocious team.
Name: Mason Graham Height: 6’3″ Weight: 292 lbs. High school: Anaheim (CA) Servite Position: Defensive tackle Class: Freshman Jersey number: #55 Last year: Graham was a senior in high school (LINK). He made 60 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, and 14 sacks. TTB Rating: 84
Graham made perhaps the biggest leap (for me) from his junior year to his senior year. Watching his junior film, I thought he was a slightly undersized, try-hard player who was a decent prospect. He was committed to Boise State at one point, and I thought that was appropriate. But the more I watched him as a senior, I thought he made great strides with his technique. And his high effort continued to be there, despite putting on some weight and starting both ways.
I’m leery of placing him too high in the countdown based on the spring, but I think it’s clear that he’s ready to play. He got a good number of reps in the spring game and didn’t look out of place. Here at #63 is a good place for a rotational player, but he has older, more experienced guys in front of him, such as Mazi Smith, Cam Goode, and Kris Jenkins, Jr. I think 2022 will be a developmental year for him, and by his sophomore season, he could be a starter if Smith and Goode move on.
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As much as we like to get excited about every single Michigan recruit, it’s important to keep perspective and realize that not every one of these players will be destined for stardom. This exercise can give us a range of what to expect from some of these players, even though star rankings can be very wrong.
Will Johnson – CB – Grosse Pointe (MI) South 2022 ranking: #14 Historical ranking: tied for #9 all-time at Michigan Tied with: S Daxton Hill (2019) and DE LaMarr Woodley (2003) Closest positional comparisons: Jabrill Peppers (#3 in 2014) and Donovan Warren (#27 in 2007)
Derrick Moore – DE – Baltimore (MD) St. Francis 2022 ranking: #49 Historical ranking: tied for #37 all-time at Michigan Tied with: OG Kyle Kalis (2012) and RB Ty Isaac (2013) Closest positional comparisons: Pierre Woods (#43 in 2001) and Luiji Vilain (#56 in 2017)
Keon Sabb – S – Bradenton (FL) IMG Academy 2022 ranking: #84 Historical ranking: #64 all-time at Michigan Flanked by: OT Cory Zirbel (#83 in 2005) and #87 Kyle Bosch (2013) Closest positional comparisons: Michael Williams (#72 in 2007) and Demar Dorsey (#87 in 2010)