ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan will won’t have to replace a second starting defensive lineman in 2018.
Defensive end Chase Winovich announced Wednesday morning that he will return to the Wolverines for his final year of eligibility. Winovich’s return will fortify an already deep and experienced defensive line as it prepares for 2018.
“Those who stay will be champions”
After much deliberation, I have decided to forego the NFL and come back to Michigan for one last season. It’s my absolute honor to represent this university for one more season after everything it has done for me. Time to work pic.twitter.com/l8pb1Z4Chq
— Chase Winovich (@Chase_Winovich) January 3, 2018
Winovich’s return means that Michigan will return all but one of its starters on the defensive line in 2018; defensive tackle Maurice Hurst will graduate and is a likely first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft in April.
Michigan prides itself on the depth of its line, but its experience will be just as valuable. Winovich’s presence on the line will take the pressure off Rashan Gary, who was double-teamed at points in the season. That allowed Winovich to flourish, even as he took on some of Gary’s responsibilities. In addition to Winovich and Gary, Bryan Mone and Aubrey Solomon are targets to start at defensive tackle this fall.
Winovich, a redshirt junior, had 77 tackles, 8 sacks, 18 tackles for loss and 6 quarterback hurries. Winovich helped Michigan register the No. 3 defense in the country (271 yards per game), according to CFBStats.com.
Winovich discussed weighing the decision to turn pro last week during Outback Bowl practices in Tampa, Fla.
“I came here to make Michigan great again,” Winovich said. “That national championship contending power wasn’t there [in 2014], so you have to ask yourself … I think we’re in that trajectory but you have to ask yourself, are we there yet? Am I there yet? That’s the question you have to ask yourself.
“Then, you have to ask yourself, am I going to be a captain? There’s something meaningful about being a leader to these young kids, and in my eyes, I know what it takes to win.
“There’s a lot of reasons.”
Winovich also has a chance to become one of Michigan’s captains as a fifth-year senior. Michigan needs a successor to defensive captain Mike McCray, and Winovich fits the bill with his experience and with his perspective: He has played or practiced at three positions (linebacker, tight end and defensive end) in four seasons, following a redshirt year in 2014.
Winovich will help a team that will be tabbed as a College Football Playoff contender. He also will improve his draft stock with one more season at Michigan.
Charlie Campbell, a senior draft analyst with WalterFootball.com, does not project Winovich to be selected in the first three rounds of the 2018 draft.
NFLDraftScout.com, however, projects Winovich as the No. 8 defensive end available for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Dan Shonka, general manager of Ourlads.com and a former NFL scout, told Land of 10 last month that it would benefit Winovich to return to the Wolverines for his final season of eligibility.
“This is his breakout year, and he can tack another year onto that. He’ll get drafted maybe in the fifth or sixth round. But he has a chance to elevate his draft status and be a ‘joker end’ — be on the outside and drop into coverage and do different things — after learning another year and playing quite a bit.”