ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Greg Mattison has a giant hole to fill at defensive tackle for Michigan.
Michigan’s defensive line coach has a pool of players to pick from. He already has a couple of ideas as to who will plug the spot vacated by Maurice Hurst, a projected first-round NFL draft pick who exhausted his eligibility after 2017.
But Mattison can’t stop talking about Michael Dwumfour.
Mattison sees many of Hurst’s qualities in Dwumfour. Michigan hasn’t decided on its starting defensive lineman, but Mattison’s praise is a sign that Dwumfour is a likely successor to Hurst.
“There’s times you see him go off the ball and you’re just like, ‘whoa,’” Mattison said. “That’s really good. And he’s a little bit thicker and a little bit bigger.”
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh also noted Dwumfour’s emergence on his weekly podcast, Attack Each Day.
“Very disruptive, he’s been very Mo Hurst-like,” Harbaugh said of Dwumfour. “I think he’s just poised to have a great year. He’s putting it together every day too. Back to back to back to back practices. Just outstanding.
“There’s other guys, but if I had to just say one name right now, it’d be Mike Dwumfour.”
The idea of replacing Hurst flatters Dwumfour, a sophomore who had 3 tackles and half a sack in nine games as a reserve in 2017. But he’s not competing to be the next Hurst. Dwumfour wants prove his own value to the Wolverines.
“To take somebody’s spot like Mo, I know what Mo did was very special last season,” Dwumfour said. “That’s not what I use to motivate myself. What I use to motivate myself is to go out there and let my coaches know we have a 3-tech. I just try and play like my coach wants me to play.”
Dwumfour hasn’t officially won the job as Michigan’s next starting defensive tackle. Mattison is cultivating depth on his defensive line. Dwumfour leads a group that includes Lawrence Marshall, Bryan Mone, Carlo Kemp, Phillip Paea and Aubrey Solomon.
Marshall, Mattison said, has shown leadership skills through his performance on the practice field. Donovan Jeter has put on weight and has improved his strength.
But Mattison keeps coming back to Dwumfour when discussing the open spot at defensive tackle.
“He’s having one of the best springs I can remember,” Mattison said of Dwumfour.
Dwumfour credits his improvement to growing his knowledge of the game.
“When you know the game, you just play faster,” Dwumfour said. “I just got my mental aspect stronger.
“I knew I had to mature. To take somebody’s spot like Mo, you’ve got to know what you’re doing, so I just had to mature as a football player and understand the game more.”