‘Going to be a threat.’ Michigan defensive line is turning heads early

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — With Michigan zeroing in on its passing attack during the early days of training camp, the defense has reportedly benefitted, too.
Especially the group up front.
The Wolverines return several familiar faces along the defensive line this fall, a unit determined this offseason to improve its pass-rushing ability. And so far, players on the offense say, there has been a noticeable difference.
“The defensive line is moving,” an emphatic Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy told reporters on Monday. “They are going to be a threat this year.”
McCarthy, who is set to enter his second season as the full-time starter, claims he’s given the defensive line “props every single day so far” for getting to him. Contact has been limited during these first few practices, which have not been open to the media.
“They’re just getting me to really quick,” McCarthy continued. “It’s great to see; it helps our offensive line out tremendously.”
Michigan has four players vying for reps at the end/ edge rushing position, a group that includes juniors Jaylen Harrell and Braiden McGregor, sophomore Derrick Moore and Coastal Carolina transfer Josaiah Stewart. Early reports on the 6-foot-1, 245-pound Stewart have been positive, while Moore dropped 20 pounds in the offseason to help prepare him for the role.
“We look good,” Harrell, who amassed 30 tackles (7 1/ for a loss) and 3 1/2 sacks last season, said. “Each and every day, we’re just competing, attacking — trying to get to the quarterback; just causing havoc each and every play.”
Harrell described the defensive line of playing “smash mouth ball,” a descriptor that might usually be reserved for Michigan’s offense. Instead, it has apparently transferred to the other side of the ball.
And McCarthy is not the only player on offense who’s taken notice. Senior guard Zak Zinter praised the interior tackles, a group led by senior Kris Jenkins, up-and-comer Mason Graham and Kenneth Grant tasked with applying more pressure over the middle this fall.
“Kris (Jenkins) is an elite pass rusher right now,” Zinter said. “The first few days, getting the pads back on, he’s one of those dudes where I’m like, ‘I’ve got to lock in my set here,’ because Kris is going to make a move.
“I don’t think I’m going to get a better pass rusher on the interior than Kris, all year.”
That is high praise coming from a key part of Michigan’s back-to-back Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line, a unit of strength that brings back two starters and welcomes in three transfers with plenty of experience.
“It’s been great work,” Zinter said. “Mason, KG — they’ve all definitely focused on their pass rush this offseason. They look better.”
Added McCarthy: “They’re going to be not-fun for my fellow quarterback friends, that’s for sure.”

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