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5 Toughest Players to Replace - Big Ten Defense

Big Ten Defensive Replacements

Big Ten Defensive Replacements

#1 Aidan Hutchison - DE

Lynn Sladkey/AP

Lynn Sladkey/AP

Potential Replacements: Mike Morris (RS Junior), Derrick Moore (Freshman)

Replacing a player who was an unanimous All-American, winner of the Hendricks, Lott, and Lombardi Trophies, and was the Number 2 overall selection in the NFL Draft is going to be a tough task for the Wolverines this year. Fortunately, Michigan has two bonafide top options to replace Hutchison:

Mike Morris, who has waited behind Aidan Hutchison, Mike Danna, and Kwity Paye, all of who are in the NFL presently looks to continue the tradition as of late as great defensive ends for Michigan.

"Morris could be the next Aidan Hutchinson, [David] Ojabo," Harbaugh said recently. "There’s some really exciting things going on with the defensive line."

If there is anyone that could push for time is incoming freshman Derrick Moore who was a 4-star defensive end from St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, Maryland. Moore has been compared to former LSU defensive end and current Minnesota Viking All-Pro Danielle Hunter.

#2 David Ojabo - EDGE

Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Potential Replacements: Taylor Upshaw (Gr. Senior), Jaylen Harrell (Junior)

Michigan saw 2021 Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald leave for the same position with the NFL's Baltimore Ravens. Joining him in Baltimore will be former All-American David Ojabo. Ojabo had 35 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and 11 sacks for the Wolverines in the new EDGE position Macdonald implemented.

New Michigan Defensive Coordinator Jesse Minter has said all spring this is "Year 2" with this defense and one of his biggest tasks will be replacing Ojabo. Heading into summer, graduate student Taylor Upshaw looks like the favorite to take over for Ojabo.

Upshaw has shown promise with the ability to relieve Ojabo and Hutchison and in those situations be a force on the field. Upshaw's highlight up to this point was playing without Ojabo or Hutchison against Rutgers in 2020 and finished with 6 tackles.

Jaylen Harrell was in a committee with Ojabo last season, Ojabo seemed to excel on passing downs or situations and Harrell excelled in rushing downs and situations. Also, look out for former 2020 4-star recruit Braiden McGregor to get an opportunity for a major role.

#3 Chase Young - DE - Role as Elite Pass Rusher

Jason Maiorana - USA Today Sports

Jason Maiorana - USA Today Sports

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Potential Replacements: Jack Sawyer (RS Freshman), Zach Harrison (Senior), J.T. Tuimoloau (RS Freshman)

The first thing that you might be asking yourself is why is a player who hasn't played in college football since 2019 on this list?

One of the trademarks of Ohio State's dominant run since the Urban Meyer returned to coaching in 2012 and what continued into Ryan Day's early tenure is Ohio State always seemed to have that elite pass rusher that caused havoc in the Big Ten and would go on to be high end draft picks like Joey and Nick Bosa and Chase Young pictured above.

Since Young's departure the two likely candidates have been the recently departed Haskel Garrett and Zach Harrison. Garrett who was an interior lineman, unlike the men before him who worked the edges, went undrafted this past spring.

Zach Harrison, who is a two-time 2nd-Team All-Big Ten selection will be a leader and attempt to reverse course and take that next step.

Who new Ohio State Defensive Coordinator Jim Knowles will be looking at is to realize the potential and expectations of 2021 5-star defensive ends Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau.

#4 Jaquan Brisker - S


Potential Replacements: Ji'Ayir Brown (Senior), Keaton Ellis (Senior)

For Penn State co-defensive coordinators Manny Diaz and Anthony Poindexter they will have veteran leadership at the safety positions this year in Ji'Ayir Brown and Keaton Ellis. What they will be missing from the former All-American and Chicago Bears 2nd Round pick Jaquan Brisker is the big play component in the secondary.

Brisker's versatility allowed him to play all phases of the game, and allowed former Penn State Defensive Coordinator Brent Pry the ability to put Brisker in all positions and when he was in position where he was free and not on assignment Penn State would get those big plays like the Wisconsin interception above.

#5 George Karlaftis - DE

Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Potential Replacements: Jack Sullivan (RS Senior), Scotty Humpich (Transfer Senior), Kydran Jenkins (RS Sophomore)

When Kansas City Chiefs made George Karlaftis a 1st Round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, it was the first Purdue player to be drafted in the 1st Round since fellow defensive edge Ryan Kerrigan in 2011. Karlaftis in 2021 finished the season with 39 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. He was named as an All-American and to the First-Team All-Big Ten team.

Jeff Brohm will most likely look to a by-committee approach to replace Karlaftis, beginning with senior Jack Sullivan. He has a similar frame to the former all-American at 6’5″ and 275-pound frame, and has the ability to set the edge effectively. As a pass rusher, he has enough burst and power to be disruptive. His power, in particular, is defines his game, allowing him to punish tackles.

Murray State transfer Scotty Humpich has good size at 6’4″, 255 pounds, and has shown potential in spurts. However, over the previous two seasons, he’s played in seven games total, accruing four sacks and seven tackles for loss in that span.

Kydran Jenkins who was selected to Athlon Sports 2022 Preseason Fourth Team All-Big Ten has shown flashes at the LEO position for Purdue is going into the 2022 season measuring 6'1" and 270 lbs, and he has the potential to play himself into a role as well.