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Michigan defensive coordinator Jesse Minter talks pass rush through three games

Chris Balasby:Chris Balas09/20/23


The Michigan defense didn’t register a sack against East Carolina in the opener, a 30-3 win, at which point some fans immediately went into panic mode. Film review, though, showed a group that was not only getting to the quarterback, but also forcing bad throws … or, at the very least, making the quarterback get the ball out quickly. 

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In addition, Michigan defensive coordinator Jesse Minter said Wednesday, the Wolverines were being cautious not to get beat by mobile signal callers. ECU had more designed runs in the bag, for example, but the Wolverines designed the defense to keep him in the pocket … ditto the UNLV game, Minter disclosed.

“Particularly the first couple games, we’ve faced quarterbacks that movement and elusiveness was piece of their games, so you’re trying not to create these big lanes,” the Michigan D.C. said. “You’re trying to constrict them while also suffocating them at the same time. 

“Coach [Mike] Elston does such a great job on some of our pressure, helping design things that keep the keep the quarterback in the pocket. Then it allows the guys … we’re trying to just create as many one-on-one situations as possible. Very rarely nowadays, pro and college football, are you able to design just an absolute free runner at the quarterback. The ball gets out really fast; protection schemes are verry advanced. A lot of times it’s just putting this wall around him, a group of people around him, that are pushing the offensive line back into them, trying to suffocate them. That’s really our main goal in pass rush.”

The Michigan defense has notched only 8 sacks and 5 official quarterback hurries through three games. The former is tied for 38th in the country, but neither stat is close to indicative of the pressure they’re getting on quarterbacks. Minter acknowledged as much, adding he was extremely pleased with his guys. 

“I like to look at just like pressures,” he continued. “I feel like our interior guys have just rushed way at a higher level than we have in the past. I think the edge guys are also doing really well there. When guys get a one on one, it’s one, can I get the sack. That’s goal one. No. 2, maybe I get the quarterback to throw it quicker than he wants to, or to move to where he’s not able to set his feet. That’s where the rush and coverage really work well together. 

“That’s kind of what I‘ve seen up to this point. Even in that first game where we didn’t have any sacks, the first interception was all [Michigan sophomore lineman] Kenneth Grant getting great pressure, forcing the guy to throw off his back foot. The route was probably there if the quarterback looked on tape. It was probably open if he would have made a really nice throw, but that’s why you do it.”

And that’s how you design it, Minter added — to get all facets of the defense to work well together. It’s paid off, especially in creating turnovers. 

“Most of our interceptions up to this point I believe had been some sort of that, even with [Michigan safety] Quinten Johnson’s interception,” Minter said. “It was up the middle, only a four-man rush, up the middle, but forced [the quarterback] to kind of get off his spot and not be able to step into the throw. All those things go hand in hand.

“Through three games, I’m certainly pleased with where it’s at, but know we have a long way to go to be where we really want to be.”

Starting Saturday when Michigan plays Rutgers in the Big Ten opener. 

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