Will it be a pass-rush-by-committee approach again, or will a star emerge?
In addition to being a great football coach for the Michigan Wolverines, head coach Jim Harbaugh is a content factory. While providing a classic Harbaugh answer to a question about former Wolverine Cade McNamara, Harbaugh delved into current positional battles on the team including the one on the edge.
“I see four really good edge players there, at least, and probably going to witness the same situation there that may go into the game one, game two, very similar to what we saw last year at the quarterback position.”
Instead of speculating about who will start, let’s power rank the top four edge players on the Michigan roster to better understand the competition, as well as the depth of talent and potential at this position.
1. Jaylen Harrell
Jaylen Harrell is the most well-rounded of any of the edge rushers on the team. Harrell can do it all: a three-down player who is equally good at rushing the passer, stopping the run, and dropping into coverage.
The only thing holding Harrell back, however, is his lack of one elite skill. Can he take that next step to refine one of his good qualities and make it great?
2. Derrick Moore
Moore is my personal choice to become the top guy on the team by the end of the year, but until it comes to fruition, he cannot be No. 1. The rising sophomore has the size (6-foot-3, 279 pounds) to be an every down player and blends power and speed seamlessly unlike anyone else on the roster. Moore still needs to work out some freelancing tendencies, but there are no limits on his potential this season.
3. Braiden McGregor
You would be hard-pressed to find a Wolverine who has persevered through more during their college tenure than Braiden McGregor. After years of injuries and setbacks, McGregor finally started to emerge last season as a reliable and versatile edge defender.
In taking that step, though, McGregor also displayed what most first-year contributors do: inconsistency. McGregor has the physical tools necessary to succeed and has flashed a high IQ during his time on the field. The question now remains: can he take the vaunted next step and put it all together?
If he does, let’s just hope his postgame interview is as unapologetic as an MMA fighter with the same last name.
4. Josaiah Stewart
The Coastal Carolina transfer is immediately the best natural speed rusher on the team. During the spring game, Stewart flashed exceptional quickness and bend when pursuing the quarterback. But can he hold up against the run in the Big Ten?
Stewart is only listed at 237 pounds, and that is worrisome when considering the average size of a Big Ten tackle. Stewart will be featured prominently on third downs, but in order to contribute on the first two downs he will need to prove he is reliable as a run-stuffer.