Name: Mazi Smith
Weight: 326 lbs.
High school: Grand Rapids (MI) East Kentwood
Position: Nose tackle
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: #58
Last year: I ranked Smith #28 and said he would be a backup defensive tackle (LINK). He made 3 tackles and 1 tackle for loss.
TTB Rating: 86
Michigan fans have been longing for an impact defensive tackle basically since Maurice Hurst, Jr. moved on to the NFL. For the past few seasons, the Wolverines have been lacking true defensive tackles, resulting in the team playing people like former linebacker Carlo Kemp on the interior. In the class of 2019, Michigan recruited a couple highly regarded, beefy tackle types, and fans have been salivating for them to play. Unfortunately, it’s been some slow going with Smith and Chris Hinton, Jr. Smith played in a couple games in 2019 but didn’t do much, and last season he made just 3 tackles in five games as a backup.
With the move to more of a 3-4 look under new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, Michigan needs a nose tackle to step up. Smith is the obvious top choice considering his size and recruiting pedigree. The concern continues to be his conditioning. How long can he play at one time or in any one game before his performance falls off drastically? Michigan did bring in help in the form of Oregon State nose tackle Jordan Whittley, but reports coming out of practice are saying he’s probably not going to help much. (Whittley sat out the 2020 season and is in the 350 lb. range.) Beyond those two players, Michigan is looking at the likes of Donovan Jeter, Jess Speight, and Jack Stewart. Ideally, Smith and Whittley would provide a nice 1-2 punch on standard downs, perhaps with a sub package coming in on passing downs to get a better pass rusher on the field.
Prediction: Starting nose tackle; 15 tackles, 3 tackles for loss