ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Michigan football players, coaches and fans took over the Crisler Center on Sunday for the team's 2018 awards show.
There were speeches, nominations and awards throughout the afternoon, but it all culminated with the announcement of Michigan's most valuable player.
Chase Winovich beat out Devin Bush, Karan Higdon, Shea Patterson and Donovan Peoples-Jones to win the honor, which was voted on by his teammates and presented by head coach Jim Harbaugh.
A case certainly could have been made for Bush, who anchored the nation's top defense, or Higdon and Patterson, who led the charge for a revamped offense.
But in the end, the former linebacker-turned-tight end-turned-defensive lineman took home the prize, and it felt like the right choice.
When people think of Don Brown's defense, they think of aggressive play and man-to-man coverage. The most important component to that equation is getting pressure on the quarterback, as evidenced by Michigan's struggles against Ohio State.
The defensive line couldn't touch OSU quarterback Dwayne Haskins, as he was never sacked or knocked down. That allowed him to stand in the pocket and pick Michigan apart to the tune of 62 points.
The Ohio State loss demonstrated how important Winovich was to the defense all season. He finished the year with 14.5 tackles for loss, leading Bush by 5.5 for the team lead.
Winovich also led the team with seven additional quarterback hits. He was constantly in the backfield this season, setting up long-yardage situations and forcing bad decisions that turned into turnovers.
But Winovich wasn't just a pass rusher. He also finished third on the team with tackles with 62 -- 18 more than Rashan Gary for the most on the defensive line.
Only Bush and Josh Uche had more than Winovich's four sacks.
It's impossible to put a value on Winovich's intangibles, but he clearly became a leader for the team as a fifth-year senior.
Winovich took a chance by returning to Michigan this season, but it has worked out tremendously in his favor. He was considered a mid-round NFL draft prospect in the offseason, and now, he could hear his name called on the first day.
Winovich returned to Ann Arbor because he had unfinished business, and he helped lead the team to its best run under Harbaugh.
The Wolverines won 10 straight games in between losses at Notre Dame and Ohio State, and they did so in completely dominant fashion.
Winovich set the tone for a hard-hitting, trash talking defense that became Michigan's identity. He coined the "Revenge Tour" that victimized Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State. He brought back the "little brother" comments after a win over MSU. He even mocked Trace McSorley's celebrations in the team's dismantling of Penn State.
At the awards show Sunday, Winovich was praised for going full speed every snap and refusing to take plays off. That became the calling card for Brown's defense.
Bush might have been Michigan's best player on defense, leading the team with 79 tackles and finishing second with nine tackles for loss and five sacks. He'll be one of the team's two highest draft picks if he decides to declare.
Patterson, Higdon and Peoples-Jones were all breakout stars on offense this season.
Higdon rushed for 1,220 yards in 11 games, averaging more than 100 yards per game and scoring 10 touchdowns. Harbaugh's offense is heavily reliant on the run, and Higdon took on a massive workload, averaging 5.3 yards per carry on 224 attempts.
The quarterback position was one of the two most improved spots on the Michigan roster, along with the offensive line. Patterson was a massive upgrade from Wilton Speight and John O'Korn, having one of the most efficient seasons for a Michigan quarterback in history.
Patterson completed more than 65 percent of his pass attempts and finished with 21 touchdowns to just five interceptions. His ability to make plays in the read option game took Michigan's offense to a new level.
Peoples-Jones was probably the fifth-most deserving of the group, but he did finish the season with eight total touchdowns and finished second with 541 receiving yards on a team high 39 catches.