Uche emerges as another star on Michigan D

By Eric Coughlin ,

Football

Josh Uche brings down Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley with an assist from Chase Winovich. (Andy Shippy)

Coming into the season, defensive ends Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary, plus junior linebacker Devin Bush were expected to be leaders for Michigan when it came to pressuring opposing quarterbacks.

Gary has been injured, and Winovich and Bush are pulling their weight (four sacks each, tied for 16th in the Big Ten), but Michigan’s sack leader headed into its 10th game is reserve linebacker/defensive end Josh Uche with seven, tied for second in the Big Ten.

“He’s got a real knack to create speed off the edge and then convert that to power when he needs it,” coach Jim Harbuagh said during his weekly press conference on Monday. “He also has good speed on the edge. He’s highly determined and motivated. He is a really special player.”

Uche got two sacks on Saturday against Penn State, a definitive, 42-7 victory, and has notched all seven of his season sacks in the last five games.

The redshirt sophomore is a big reason why Michigan’s defense is ranked first in the nation according to S&P+. And drilling into those numbers a bit, the Wolverines are ranked first to S&P+ in pass defense and passing downs defense (how well the D plays against second down with eight or more yards to go, or third or fourth down with five or more yards to go, whether or not the offense passes). That’s often when Uche, a pass-rush specialist, is on the field.

When looking at havoc rate (a team’s total tackles for loss, passes defended, and forced fumbles divided by total plays), Michigan’s D is ranked fifth, with most of that oomph coming from the front-seven (ranked ninth) versus the secondary (ranked 25th).

“When he’s gotten in games he was able to rush the edge,” redshirt junior Jordan Glasgow said about Uche during media availability on Monday. “You could see during camp that he was an elite pass rusher. Being in the same position group, I’m very happy for him. Since the beginning of the season, everything’s been there. He’s been able to showcase his talents. He’s gotten better at pass rushing since he’s been getting in games, but you could tell in camp he was a good pass-rusher.”

Redshirt junior Jordan Glasgow praised Uche during media availability Monday. Photo by Eric Coughlin

A consistent pass-rush is integral to any solid defense. It can erase problems in the secondary (not that the Wolverines have any) and is one of the few reliable ways to create turnovers. Uche doesn’t have a forced fumble yet, but if he keeps eating opposing offensive tackles for lunch, a strip-sack couldn’t be far away.

Uche will get his next shot at an opposing QB on Saturday, when Michigan takes on Rutgers in Piscataway, New Jersey.


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