Top Scrimmage Performers: Defense

Sam Webb, Kyle Bogenschutz, and Josh Newkirk break down the standouts on defense in Michigan's "Saturday Night Lights" Scrimmage. The defensive line was nearly unstoppable on the night, with Willie Henry leading way. Joe Bolden also made his presence felt, thus continuing his outstanding camp showing.

Staff's Top 3 Performers

Sam Webb Kyle Bogenschutz Josh Newkirk
Willie Henry Willie Henry Maurice Hurst
Maurice Hurst Joe Bolden Jabrill Peppers
Joe Bolden Jourdan Lewis Joe Bolden

Top Performer Breakdown

(Listed alphabetically)

Joe Bolden - Junior LB

Sam’s Take: The performance of the defensive line made life fairly easy for the linebackers.  They didn’t have to fight off as many blocks as they did last year or that they will at times this year.  But when they did have to fight through traffic Bolden’s improvement was clear.  He didn’t get caught up in the wash nearly as much.  Sometimes that was the result of taking a great angle to the football and beating the lineman to the spot.  Other times he simply got off blocks to make plays. His best play came on a screen pass that he diagnosed immediately, then blew through the block of an approaching lineman, before laying a bone-crushing hit on Derrick Green.

Kyle’s Take: Bolden was aggressive and physical but he was also extremely smart at that inside linebacker spot. He routinely was able to diagnose plays and get in there and make a tackle. I think Bolden really made some steps as a linebacker that can really get into the backfield and create mayhem.

Josh’s Take: People have been waiting for Bolden to make his mark at Michigan. Well, it seems he has finally found his niche as he heads into his junior season. He made numerous plays throughout the contest. His highlight play came when he smashed Green for a hug tackle for loss behind the line of scrimmage.

Frank Clark - Senior DE

Sam’s Take: Brady Hoke said after the scrimmage that he felt Clark consistently during a scrimmage for the first time all camp.  While that comment wasn’t heartening, Clark’s performance on the day was.  He was a force off the edge, against both the run and pass. They gave a glimpse of the games he will be involved in up front.  Mattison called for a number of twists and stunts involving Clark and he made numerous trips into the backfield as a results.

Ryan Glasgow – Redshirt Sophomore NT

Sam’s Take: This kid is just tough to move.  He’s a big, strong presence in the middle of the defense, but compliments that size and strength with non-stop effort.  He isn’t nearly the up-field presence that that Hurst, but he is more of an anchor against the run.  And for good measure he did make his way into the backfield a number of times, including a big solo tackle for loss. Mark Smith called Glasgow “a technician” that “will compete for a lot of time.” There’s a very good chance that he’ll also be called “a starter.”

Matt GodinRedshirt Sophomore DT

Sam’s Take: Maybe the most surprising of the defensive trenchmen Saturday. The knock had always been he was a kid that played high too often and was inconsistent with his effort.  Neither was true on Saturday.  He played with great pad level and a motor to match Glasgow.  It’s doubtful he’ll beat out Henry, but he’ll play.

Willie Henry – Redshirt Sophomore DT

Sam’s Take: “Willie Earl” was the most impressive player on the field Saturday. He did it all.  He won with quickness, often blowing by the opposition with his off the snap of the ball.  He won with power, exemplified best by his pummeling of Chris Fox late in the scrimmage en route to the quarterback.  He also won with technique on numerous occasions by engaging the offensive lineman, shedding the block, and getting to the football.  Saturday’s showing was an example of the next level that his coaches saw when they called him out during the spring and summer.  Sure his debut last year had a few highlight moments last year, but his coaches are looking for a highlight season. This kid has the tools to make it happen.  My bold prediction: if/when he plays with the motor he showed Saturday, he will be a difference-maker for the defense.  He wasn’t out there with the first string line Saturday (that distinction went to Matt Godin), but that almost certainly was to keep the fire beneath his backside nice and hot.  As long as he keeps the intensity dialed up Henry will be the first string 3-tech when game one rolls around.

Kyle’s Take: Impressive, running sideline to sideline and as aggressive as any defensive lineman I saw on the night. Willy Henry is clearly ready to play at a higher level and he showed that this evening blowing up plays in the backfield, routinely making tackles for loss, and even getting pressure on the quarterback. It's Henry's motor that's the most impressive part of his game right now, and he was able to really disrupt things for the offensive line. He was a catalyst for a lot of the pressure and some of the blown up plays that the Michigan defense were able to compile.

Maurice Hurst – Redshirt Freshman DT

Sam’s Take: Hurst picked up right where he left off in the spring. This redshirt freshman had himself a great day… one almost as impressive as Henry’s.  He is the quickest player Michigan has up front and was often in the gap by the time the ball was snapped.  The power with which he played was also noticeable.  He held point well and either made the play or allowed the linebackers to flow to the football. One of his most impressive plays came when he engaged two blockers and road those blocks down the line of scrimmage before shedding then and getting to the ball-carrier.  Glasgow is the bigger, stouter player so he’ll likely hold onto the #1 NT spot, but Hurst is in-line to play a ton this year.  Expect Mattison to call for a lot of movement when he is in the game (to take advantage of his quickness and mitigate any disadvantage due to size) and definitely expect him out there in obvious passing situations.

Josh’s Take: The redshirt freshman defensive tackle put himself on the map with his scrimmage performance. His biggest play came when he busted through the defense to force a safety on Derrick Green. While the offensive line struggles are certainly a sign of that unit still being a work in progress, some of their issues resulted from Hurst just being that good. He didn’t make it easy on them. At 6-foot-2, 282-pounds, he was just one of many reasons why this defensive line looks it could be one of the best Michigan lines in years.

Jourdan Lewis - Sophomore CB

Kyle’s Take: Blanket coverage. Jourdan Lewis was the best cornerback on the field from a coverage standpoint. Lewis didn't lose his guy very often and I know he was flagged for a couple of pass interference penalties but that's something I think that is called more tightly in practice. Lewis is the guy that Michigan's needed, somebody who can press up and stick receivers but also has great recovery speed. Lewis complements your real Peppers and what he's able to do very well.

Jabrill Peppers - Freshman CB

Sam’s Take: As was predicted pre-scrimmage in our pre-scrimmage report, Peppers was out with the first string at corner.  When the Wolverines brought in an extra defensive back Raymon Taylor came in and Peppers slid to the nickel. Saturday we saw what the coaches have seen throughout camp, and especially this week when he made the switch to corner.  Peppers is a perfect fit for the style the Wolverines employ out on the island.  He mauled receivers at the line of scrimmage and was able to turn and run with everyone he faced.  That includes Devin Funchess.  The only thing Peppers couldn’t do was match Funchess’ 6-5 frame.  Despite perfect coverage on a fade, Funchess high-pointed a lofting delivery from Devin Gardner for six.  It was the only time I noted a receiver getting the best of Peppers on the day.

Josh’s Take: The former five-star talent is flat out good. The hype is real. He looks like a season veteran, and he hasn’t played a game yet. He started at cornerback in base coverage. He moved over to nickel in three wide receiver sets. He also looks like a formidable option in the return game. U-M got a good one in Peppers, no doubt about it.

Jake Ryan – 5th Year Senior LB

Sam’s Take: Again, the linebackers were kept pretty clean all day, so they made numerous plays at or near the line of scrimmage.  Ryan was certainly in on that party. He definitely showed the ability to track plays sideline to sideline.  His best play came when he picked up A.J. Williams on an out route, popped the big tight end as the ball arrived, and jarred the ball loose before knocking Williams to the turf.

Jarrod Wilson – Junior Safety

Sam’s Take: The now veteran safety was maybe the most effective blitzer of the day for the Wolverines. He forced a number of QB hurries and was good on the safety force.

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