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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Michigan football team has seen its fair share of effective pass rushers over the last four decades.
LaMarr Woodley had a nine-year career in the NFL. Mark Messner earned all-Big Ten first-team honors in all four seasons in Ann Arbor.
But no Michigan defensive player has done what Aidan Hutchinson has done in 2021.
Hutchinson has been a menace for opposing offenses, sacking quarterbacks 13 times through 12 games. Michigan’s record book tracks sacks as far back as 1980, and Hutchinson is at the top of the list.
“There’s no question we’re not in the position that we’re in today without Aidan Hutchinson,” Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh said.
He’s also 13th in Michigan history in career sacks.
Pro Football Focus graded Hutchinson as the top edge defender in college football. Many mock drafts project him to be a top-six pick in next year’s NFL Draft.
Hutchinson “does not take any plays off,” Harbaugh said.
The defensive end played in 80-plus snaps in two of Michigan’s last three games, per PFF.
“He has always just given it his all, his very best,” Harbaugh said. “That has become contagious for our team.”
The Hawkeyes are embracing the challenge of going up against such a talented player.
“Any time you’re going against players as good as (Hutchinson), you love the challenge,” Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum said.
It’ll especially be a challenge for an offensive line that PFF graded as the 100th-best in pass blocking among 130 FBS teams.
Running back Tyler Goodson will likely be a part of the effort in pass protection to stop Hutchinson.
“It's very important for us to be able to slow him down so (quarterback) Spencer (Petras) has a little bit more time to get the receivers the ball,” Goodson said. “He's pretty much unstoppable if you have a one-on-one with the guy.”
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz recognizes the difficulty of preparing for Hutchinson.
“I don't know what you do to neutralize him,” Ferentz said. “He's an outstanding player.”
Ferentz compared Hutchinson to Reggie White, J.J. Watt, Howie Long and John Randall.
They’re “not the same players,” Ferentz said, “but he doesn't stop, and that's part of the reason he's so good.”
Hutchinson has the benefit of having another elite pass-rusher on the other side to keep opposing offenses from ganging up on him.
“He's got a running mate that kind of gets your attention,” Ferentz said. “The guy on the other side is, I don't want to say equally dangerous, but it's pretty close. It's a 1-2.”
David Ojabo, who didn’t play football until high school, has 11 sacks in 2021. The only Big Ten player with more sacks is Hutchinson.
“I was thinking this morning, I don't know how often we've faced a team that has two guys outside like that that can be as disruptive as they are,” Ferentz said on Tuesday.
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