The 2019 Michigan football season camp has kicked off and the season is only a couple weeks away. One of the biggest questions heading into camp was whether or not the defense could live up to the Don Brown reputation after losing several standouts, including Devin Bush, Rashan Gary, Chase Winovich and David Long. Don Brown and Jim Harbaugh are both on the record believing in this defense, but players will need to step up.
Here are my top five breakout candidates for Michigan’s 2019 defense:
1. LB Cameron McGrone
The loss of Devin Bush will be the hardest to replace. He was an All-American game changer and tone-setter. Michigan has plenty of talented linebackers on the roster including Khaleke Hudson, Devin Gil, Josh Uche and Josh Ross. But the next generation needs to step up. And McGrone is the guy I see making a statement this season. He brings that speed and aggressiveness that Bush added. This is a big year for him as he could be one of the main faces of the 2020 defense.
2. CB Vincent Gray
David Long’s departure and Ambry Thomas not being at 100% opens the door at the starting spot across from Lavert Hill. And Gray looks to be the favorite heading into camp. The sophomore made some noise during his freshmen year and during bowl practice, after being a late addition to the 2018 class. He’ll have plenty of competition from Jaylen Kelly-Powell, Gemon Green, Sammy Faustin and true freshmen DJ Turner. But I like the mix of size and cover ability in Gray to win out and show out.
3. DB Daxton Hill
The highest-rated signee of the 2019 class and coming in at a position of need. He’s a versatile defensive back that can play safety, nickel or even corner, has elite speed and has been getting plenty of praise already since arriving on campus. His coverage ability, playmaking, and speed will help him see the field quickly, where I see him starting by the start of October, at the latest. Believe he has a very real chance to be a Freshmen All-American.
4. DE Mike Danna
The Central Michigan transfer may have flown under the radar a bit when he decided to join the Wolverines but he should make plenty of noise this fall in the maize and blue. ProFootballFocus ranked him the #22 player in the country on its Top50 College Football Players, with a 91.6 grade. Aidan Hutchinson and Kwity Paye will likely get the starting nods but Danna will be a problem off the edge whenever he sees the field.
5. DT Donovan Jeter
Jeter is going into his junior year and will be a player the defense relies on. He’s struggled with injuries early on in his career but has started to put things together and is a guy who should see plenty of playing time. He has plenty of size and a quick first step that can help him penetrate into the backfield and make plays in both the run and passing game.
Who are your picks for the breakout defensive players this fall? Let us know in the comment section below!
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