ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Unlike most teams that lose all four of its defensive line starters to graduation, Michigan has the luxury of returning a second unit that could’ve started for most teams in the country.
Maurice Hurst Jr., all 6-foot-2, 282-pounds of him, decided to come back to Michigan for his fifth year and is part of that unit that he says has chance to be just as good or even better in 2017.
“I think it’s just a mindset for us,” Hurst said. “Just to be the best and to prove that we were a crucial part of the defensive line last year. We did some great as a unit. I think that we got a lot of guys that can make a lot of plays, I think we can contribute and help make this defense great.”
But it’s not just Hurst that’s making a difference. It’s the overall speed of the defense that is sticking out in spring camp, says Hurst.
“I think the biggest thing is speed,” Hurst said. “I think we are really fast to the ball. We have a lot guys that are really athletic and can make a lot of plays. I think that’s the biggest change so far.”
How does Hurst know specifically that this team is faster defensively than a unit that finished 2016 ranked as the No. 2 overall defense in the country?
“Just how fast we get to the ball and how quick we are able to get to the passer, it’s like spontaneous that we’re in the backfield together, just when we’re practicing,” Hurst explained.
So far this spring, Hurst says his main focus has been working on his technique and getting used to more reps as a starter. However, his biggest attribute is “just being a leader” of the defensive line.
“Yeah, I have to take on more of leadership role. But playing-wise it still feels the same to me,” he added.
“I think technique-wise and just focusing on hands, also just getting used to taking on more reps during practices and getting more conditioned is the biggest thing,” Hurst said. “When you have a rotation it’s easy to come in and out when you’re exhausted or just reps and being able to play when you are tired.”
Along with Hurst, Rashan Gary, Bryan Mone and Chase Winovich are the expected starters on the defensive line in 2017. But there are others who are having notable spring camps who can also contribute this fall, says Hurst.
“Lawrence (Marshall) has been really good, I mean he’s not young, he’s about to be a senior. But he’s been great. He’s been able to transition from anchor to a three-technique,” Hurst said of Marshall. “It’s really great to have him there and help team him. He’s been doing really well at three, I think it’s something he can have a future in.”
And sophomore to be Carlo Kemp is another notable lineman that has caught Hurst’s attention.
“He’s been playing really well, he’s a big effort guy,” Hurst said of Kemp. “