It doesn’t take much to get Don Brown talking about his defense.
On Tuesday, the defensive coordinator was asked who, of the younger guys on the Michigan football team’s roster, was competing for playing time at linebacker. It sent Brown into a four-minute answer, listing 20 players from all over the defense who have impressed him in some way this spring.
He lingered longest while talking about the Wolverines’ defensive line, naming seven specific players who stood out before giving a caveat.
“I just hope I’m not missing anybody up front,” Brown said. “Because I really feel very strongly that we’ll have seven or eight guys there.”
It makes sense, as the defensive line was perhaps Michigan’s deepest position last season. Its only loss this offseason was defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, who graduated.
But the question does remain: Who will replace Hurst?
Junior defensive end Rashan Gary was much more brief when asked who’s stood out in Hurst’s absence.
“We’ve got this guy, you know, Jersey kid, (junior defensive tackle) Michael Dwumfour,” Gary said. “He’s fast off the ball, just like (Hurst). It’s ridiculous. But, you know, you’re gonna see it when the time comes.”
Maybe there’s some bias, as Gary, a New Jersey native himself, admitted he’s known Dwumfour since the second grade. Still, though, it’s high praise from the junior.
In fact, it’s somewhat surprising considering that Dwumfour has been a bit of a second fiddle in his time being recruited and playing for the Wolverines.
When he graduated from high school, Dwumfour was a three-star recruit, according to 247Sports. In Michigan’s 2016 recruiting class that had 13 four and five-star players, including three on the defensive line, Dwumfour was overshadowed. That isn’t an automatic disqualifier, but Wolverine faithful weren’t exactly clamoring for Dwumfour’s arrival.
The same could be said for his time on campus too. Dwumfour has played in just 10 games in his career — nine last season — and amassed six career tackles. For the past two seasons, he’s been mostly an afterthought at a position that has yielded multiple NFL players in recent years.
Hurst’s departure leaves a question mark on a defense that otherwise has very few. But from all accounts, Dwumfour has returned this season with a new mindset. He’s made improvements that have his teammates taking notice, and he is smack-dab in the middle of the conversation for who will take Hurst’s spot on the interior of the defensive line.
“I’ve seen a guy, you know, grow up,” said sophomore linebacker Devin Bush. “I’ve seen a guy go through ups and downs. He was feeling one way, this way, and he’s down on himself, then he’s up in spirits. I’ve seen a guy go through a bunch of mixed emotions and, you know, when we’re on the field, he’s out there working. And you can see improvement from him and he has taken a huge jump from when he first got here.”
Added Brown: “The guy that was taking great steps a year ago during Bowl prep was (Michael) Dwumfour. He hasn’t slowed.”