ANN ARBOR, Mich. – What can you take away from a dominant win over a team like Rutgers? For Michigan, one of the most significant developments was the emergence of some young defensive players.
Don Brown's unit was exposed two weeks ago in Wisconsin, surrendering four touchdowns in six first-half drives and 487 yards overall. Michigan looked undersized along the defensive line and a step slow at the second level.
There were some obvious changes when Rutgers came to town, namely the presence of Cam McGrone at the middle linebacker position.
McGrone made his first career start after being perhaps the only bright spot in the loss at Wisconsin. In that game, McGrone made six tackles, including five solo tackles, and proved he's ready to make an impact as a redshirt freshman.
He only registered one tackle against Rutgers, but he was all over the field throughout the game. He pressured the quarterback and showed some ability in coverage.
Jordan Glasgow, Devin Gil and Josh Ross are solid players, but McGrone has a chance to be a true playmaker, and that's what Michigan is missing on the defensive side of the ball.
Speaking of playmakers, the fastest guy on the roster also got some extra time against Rutgers.
Safety Daxton Hill was on the field much more than usual, making four tackles and getting in on a sack. He also made an excellent open-field tackle on special teams.
Hill has speed and good instincts. He provided strong support in the running game and is an asset on obvious passing downs.
Michigan's secondary hasn't been quite the standout strength it was expected to be this season, but Hill could give that unit a shot of life.
Hill was obviously a high-profile recruit as the No. 1 safety in the 2019 class and a five-star prospect. He had scholarship offers from every major school in the nation and ultimately chose Michigan over the likes of Alabama and Clemson.
There's no doubt Hill has the highest ceiling of any Michigan secondary player, and with the defense needing a boost, he should be allowed to start searching for that potential. He already looks like someone who belongs on the field for the majority of Michigan's defensive snaps.
McGrone wasn't as highly ranked on some recruiting sites, but 247 Sports had him as the No. 1 outside linebacker in the country and a five-star talent.
Michigan has plenty of safe, veteran linebackers, but after Devin Bush moved onto the NFL, the Wolverines are missing a true difference-maker. McGrone is at least showing flashes that he could be that playmaker, and the recruiting profile backs that up.
The Wolverines were missing something defensively in the first three games, but with Hill and McGrone on the field, they've looked a little more like a Don Brown defense.