Michigan

How Michigan’s defense is dominating the opposition

At Big Ten Media Day, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh was very confident about the Wolverines’ defense for 2022.

“I’ve been on a lot of teams where the no-star defense was the better defense because there’s more competition within the position groups,” Harbaugh said in July. “There are more people who are as hungry as David Ojabo was a year ago. A hunger to be great. So when I look at it, I just have the slightest suspicion that things could go even better on the defensive.”

Fast-forward to November — Michigan is ranked No. 3 in the nation, they’re having their first 10-0 start since 2006, and their performance on defense is a big reason for that.

  • The Michigan defense has given up the fewest first downs in the nation at 127.
  • Defense ranks first in rushing defense, allowing only 72.7 yards per game
  • Michigan’s defense ranks first in goal defense, giving up 11.2 points per game.
  • The unit ranks first in overall defense, allowing a low 232.8 yards per game.

After Michigan’s 34-3 win over Nebraska, Harbaugh thanked many Michigan coaches and players for their efforts this season.

“They get a lot of attention in our program. Really does a great job. All positions play really well. The linebackers, the inner line of defense, are having a great season. Mazi and Kris Jenkins, Mason Graham are just doing so well. The Edge guys, they just keep getting better. So many really good players doing a great job.

You will be trained really well. Jesse and Mike Elston and Clink (Steve Clinkscale) know what he’s doing on the backend. It’s really good and really special. The corners now, there’s a great rotation with DJ (Turner) and Mikey (Sainristil) and Gemon (Green) and Will (Johnson). And the security, Rod Moore does a great job. I wish I had more Rod Moores. Guy is a tackle machine that keeps them grounded.”

They understand that Harbaugh loves Michigan defense and these are just a few of the players who have stellar seasons. There are other guys like Mike Morris, Junior Colson, Michael Barrett and Eyabi Okie who all made a big contribution. Michigan’s defense has a lot of good players at all levels.

“Can’t say enough really good things. How they run to the ball. The team defense, it was great. Let it roll.”

Another area where Michigan’s defense has excelled this season is in second-half adjustments. In the past five games, the defense has dropped just three points in the second half and zero in the fourth quarter.

“Coach Minter and the entire defense team are doing a great job when we come in at halftime and make the adjustments,” said cornerback Mike Sainristil. “We’re not giving anyone anything in the second half, we just want to keep having second-half shutouts. We know it’s a 0-0 result in the second half and we want to win every half.

While Michigan’s defense gets well-deserved praise, they know there are still things they need to work on in order to beat Illinois and Ohio State. Linebacker Junior Colson says the unit knows they can’t achieve perfection, but that’s what they strive for, that’s the image in their minds.

The Michigan defense wants to get their way and make a lasting impression on their opponents.

“Our mindset is to just dominate everyone that’s in front of us and make them remember us when they’re done. We’re trying to be the defense out there, so it doesn’t matter who we’re playing against,” Colson said. “We will always give them our best.”

Michigan coaches helped develop a program that maximized their staff’s strengths. And players took that scheme and performed it in a high clip with some swagger.

Michigan’s defense is really coming on form and they need to be at their best for the rest of the season if the team is to go undefeated.

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