Redshirt junior Chase Winovich, the defensive end with golden locks that led the Big Ten in tackles for loss at 19, is returning for his redshirt senior season.
Here’s why that’s important, beginning with his superb highlight reel:
He gets to the quarterback
Winovich racked up eight sacks (.62 per game) during the 2017 season.
Getting to the quarterback is a crucial component to any defense as sacks are drive-killing, momentum-crushing, events in college football. Sacks always carry the risk that the quarterback might not get back up (ask Michigan’s offense why that’s a big deal). Plus, getting to the quarterback is one of the few reliable ways to force turnovers — the statistic most related to winning.
A good pass rush can cover deficiencies in the secondary because quarterbacks that don’t have time to throw can’t identify open receivers. These eye-popping stats would be even more impressive, if other members of Michigan’s dominant front-seven weren’t often getting to the quarterback right before Winovich.
With all the benefits of a good pass rush, it’s not a surprise that defensive coordinator Don Brown chooses to solve problems with aggression. Winovich was a big part of that in 2017 and will be in 2018, too.
He gets to the ball-carrier
Winovich is no slouch when it comes to rush defense.
He had 77 tackles and 18.5 tackles for loss. The primary objective of most defensive ends is to get to the quarterback, but on non-passing downs, Winovich was just as valuable, leading to the fact that …
He rarely comes off the field
Winovich played on 91% of Michigan’s defensive snaps, the most on the defensive line.
A common offensive tactic is to go no-huddle (“tempo”) when the defense puts its backups in. The lack of huddle time makes it difficult for the defense to sub its starters back in. Winovich gets tired so rarely, though, that it’s hard for the offense to exploit a time when he’s not on the field.
You can’t escape him!
He creates opportunities for the rest of the front-seven
— Michigan Sports News (@SportsGuyMI) January 1, 2018
Disruptive d-lineman require the o-line to double team or slide protection his way, opening up chances for the rest of the front-seven to shine. The people probably most ecstatic about Winovich coming back? Michael Dwumfour, Aubrey Solomon, Rashan Gary, Khaleke Hudson and Devin Bush.
Pro Football Focus named him a First Team All-Big Ten defender this year:
The 2017 PFF All-B1G First Team Defense pic.twitter.com/L4XCrJ11TY
— PFF College (@PFF_College) December 5, 2017
It allows the Wolverines to redshirt an incoming freshman
Redshirting is very important to program health (unless you’re Alabama, and you’re just rolling out five-stars at every position). A program will usually play a player for four years, whether they’re redshirted or not. Three of those years are the same.
The difference with redshirting is that the extra fourth year comes when the player is 23-years old and in his fifth year in the program versus 18 and fresh out of high school. Look no further than East Lansing, where almost every player in Michigan State’s program is automatically redshirted to see an example of this impact.
Programs that redshirt often are more developed physically and mentally, a huge advantage.
It gives players behind Winovich on the depth chart another year to develop before they’re starting
Carlo Kemp, Reuben Jones, Ron Johnson, Kwity Paye and Luiji Vilain.
Other than a little bit of Kemp, these players didn’t see the field very often.
That could have been because Winovich was too good to give them playing time, or it could be because they weren’t ready to see the field yet. Either way, they’ll all benefit from another year of backup duty before one or two of them are thrust into the spotlight.
He’s got great hair
Winovich is doing the long, blonde hair thing that has become somewhat of a staple for Michigan’s front-seven (Jake Ryan, Noah Furbush). It’s got to be intimidating for an offensive lineman to feel like he’s about to blown into the backfield by a Norse god or extremely intelligent cave man. It should always be in Michigan’s defense, like the number 1 jersey on offense, but without all the baggage.
Thor Winovich also looks great in orange, which reminds me…
Chase Winovich can really raise some dough
If you haven’t heard, Winovich kicked off a campaign a couple weeks ago to raise money for the ChadTough Foundation, which benefits the Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Initiative.
He would dye his hair orange for the Outback Bowl if he could get $15,000 in donations. After several teammates and even Don Brown joined in, they ended up raising more than $400,000.
That’s the kind of influence you want in the locker room an extra year.