Michigan football DC Wink Martindale excited about defensive front

While many write Michigan football off coming into the 2023 season due to the coaching and offensive player turnover, there’s still a lot to like about the Wolverines in 2024. Namely the personnel on the defensive side of the ball.

Though Michigan did lose a lot of starters — edge rushers Jaylen Harrell and Braiden McGregor, defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, nickel corner Mike Sainristil, linebackers Junior Colson and Mike Barrett, and cornerback Josh Wallace — their replacements have been biding their time, not just waiting for their opportunities, but also getting involved in big, key moments.

Taking the helm of the defense in 2024 will be Wink Martindale, most recently of the New York Giants, but famously the defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens — the team and defense in which the Michigan defense was modeled after. Martindale joined Jon Jansen on the In the Trenches podcast on Wednesday and is particularly excited about who he inherits up front, noting just how good Kenneth Grant and Mason Graham are at interior defensive line play.

Martindale discussed that dynamic duo as well as his linebackers — Ernie Hausmann and incoming transfer Jaishawn Barham — and why they provide a lot of opportunity for the next iteration of the Michigan defense.

“Well, the thing that you see, and this is through the draft process, so when you’re evaluating college guys coming out is the lack of technique that a lot of them play with. And these guys are square football players who play with knockback. And they can make plays,” Martindale said. “And it warms my heart to see that and where some will say that they don’t have enough of this or they don’t have — it’s complete hogwash. Because if you can start with stopping the run, which those two are very good at, and they do it different ways. It’s not just because they’re square and play with knockback. They both move well. And it’s gonna be exciting for us.

“And, you know, we got the two linebackers with Ernie and Jaishawn, the transfer from Maryland, that — when you’re strong up the middle, and you talk about those two tackles those two inside backers, and then the two safeties that we have, that’s a great place to start to have a great defense.”

Those may be the standouts in the middle, but what about the edge rushers? Losing both Harrell and McGregor isn’t opportune, but Martindale sees what we all saw in their replacements.

Derrick Moore and Josaiah Stewart were the two players on the field for the most pivotal play of the entire 2023 season — the final defensive stand against Jalen Milroe and Alabama in the Rose Bowl. It was those two who made the key stop, with Stewart pancaking star tackle JC Latham while Moore got his arms wrapped around Milroe, effectively ending the game in walk-off fashion.

Martindale is excited about what he has on the edge but says that the next step is getting more players to step up behind them.

“Oh, I think that it’s a great starting point, we just need to build some depth behind them,” Martindale said. “But I think both D-Mo and Josaiah, like you said, they’re their hidden gems, and they did a lot. Just look at the final play against Alabama with Josaiah doing that to that tackle. I mean, that’s what made the play, which a lot of people don’t realize, but that it is that type of mentality up front across the board is going to win a lot of football games.”

Spring ball for the Wolverines begins on March 18 with the annual spring game set for April 20.


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