A year ago, as all eyes watching Michigan football were curious about who would be able to rush the passer with the departures of Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, those in the know touted defensive end Mike Morris and his capability. That proved to be prescient, given that he led the team in sacks and was a force coming off the edge.
But now, again, the Wolverines have a similar problem, with the two sack leaders — Morris and Eyabi Okie, who transferred to Charlotte, following Biff Poggi — no longer in Ann Arbor.
Still, Morris is confident in those who come after him. Speaking to reporters at the NFL scouting combine on Wednesday, he notes that Michigan has essentially been plug-and-play along the defensive front, with the starting edge rushers succeeding throughout the Harbaugh era. While he isn’t sure who will be the best of the bunch, he’s optimistic given the talent.
“Man, in the edge group, I have no idea, because there are so many great guys,” Morris said at the combine. “So many great guys going in. Some really good guys coming in that are really good, as well. Some freshmen that are really good, some juniors that are seniors that are going to step up.
“We Edge Rush U., so there’s going to be a person every single year coming up.”
Two of the likely candidates are starter Jaylen Harrell, who’s a quasi-outside linebacker reminiscent of Josh Uche, and senior Braiden McGregor, who came on strong late in the year.
When it comes to McGregor, Morris had particular shining words given his athletic ability.
“Jaylen’s a SAM that can rush the passer on third down, and Braiden is an athletic freak, and I think both of them are going to do really, really well,” Morris said. “Jaylen stepped up when I was hurt in the Purdue game.
“Braiden had a lot of good snaps this year as well. He came in clutch in the Michigan State game with a sack. Both of them can do really good things.”
Though not mentioned here, Derrick Moore is another possibility as he enters his second year. Moore saw a decent amount of time in his freshman season, but players tend to make big jumps going from year one to year two. Additionally, TJ Guy got more involved in the rotation, and it would be interesting to see if a player like former four-star Kechaun Bennett takes off. Both are now upperclassmen.
Regardless, Michigan will miss Morris’ production, but considering that every starter in the Jim Harbaugh era at edge rusher who has gone to the NFL has been no worse than a third-round pick (Mike Danna, a backup, was even a fifth-round selection), the maize and blue are likely in good hands.