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While the athletic and size profiles are always evolving for NFL players, two traits that remain a constant for projecting success is a player’s toughness and resiliency.
The talented Michigan defense has plenty of skilled underclassmen like Rashan Gary, Devin Bush, Lavert Hill, and David Long, however, it is impossible to not admire the motor and energy that senior Chase Winovich plays with.
Watching Winovich’s game, it is evident that he truly loves the game of football and appreciates every chance he gets to strap on a helmet. This was further confirmed after learning about his background and what got him to where he is at now.
A quarterback and linebacker at Thomas Jefferson High school in blue-collar Jefferson Hills, Pennsylvania, Winovich originally came to Michigan as a linebacker but was moved to tight end in his second year. Struggling to move up the tight end depth chart and relegated to scout team duties, Winovich again switched positions to defensive end and this was finally where he started to make an impact on Saturdays.
Scouts we have spoken with say that Winovich regularly snuck into the weight room after hours and ended up packing on 20 pounds of muscle and he attended ballet classes to improve his body control and hip agility as an edge pass rusher. Those kinds of stories are the ones that scouts share in draft meetings when they want to sell a player’s football makeup. This motivation and work ethic has paid off as he has become an All-Big Ten player with 39.5 TFL and 17 sacks up to this point in his career.
Heading into Saturday’s game with Indiana, Winovich has racked up 17 sacks and 39.5 TFL over the past two seasons. There may be bigger players at his position with better testing numbers, but few can match his total package of instincts, quickness, technique, and relentlessness.
The Senior Bowl scouting staff has seen Michigan play live twice this fall against Northwestern and Wisconsin and Winovich has stood out both times. Based off what we’re hearing from our friends at Schembechler Hall, he also has the charisma to win over a room so the more he puts himself in front of NFL decision-makers the more his stock will rise through the pre-draft process.
Lined up across from Winovich on Saturday will be another player who has had to overcome adversity in his collegiate career, Indiana right tackle Brandon Knight.
After being earning the team’s Offensive Newcomer of the Year award as a freshman, Knight struggled with injuries as both a sophomore and junior and all that missed time made him a difficult evaluation for NFL scouts.
Going into his senior season with a new athletic performance staff, Knight developed his body to improve his durability and prepare for his first injury-free season at tackle.
Yet to miss any time this season, Knight has impressed with his athleticism and football awareness. Adept at identifying twists with good feet and reactionary skills, we believe he has the ability to be, at minimum, a solid swing tackle in the NFL. He is still developing his core strength and anchor, which will be tested by Winovich, but Knight has the athletic tools and mental processing that teams will want to work with.
Although they probably will not line up head-to-head, Winovich will also have a good battle with Wes Martin when twisting and stunting inside. There will not be any durability or late-bloomer concerns with Martin, who has started 35 games in a row at left guard and is ready-made for NFL interior work. An incredibly balanced and heady player, Martin always plays within himself and uses his body control, initial quickness, and toughness to consistently handle defensive linemen.
Massachusetts WR Andy Isabella vs. Georgia CB Deandre Baker
Baker has some of the best instincts in the country but his speed will be put to the test against the rapid feet and acceleration of Isabella.
Michigan State LB Andrew Dowell vs. Nebraska RB Devine Ozigbo
Dowell has a good blend of short area quickness and aggressiveness in run support which will be needed against the size and bruising running style of Ozigbo.
Ohio State OT Isaiah Prince vs. Maryland DE Byron Cowart
Cowart is a well built, former five-star recruit who has recently been reclassified as a senior. We will be keyed in on his matchups against the talented, high-upside ability of Prince.
Pittsburgh RBs Qadree Ollison, Darrin Hall vs. Wake Forest SS Cameron Glenn
Glenn is a physical safety who excels in the box and will be active against the punishing duo of Ollison and Hall.
-- Jim Nagy, Reese's Senior Bowl Executive Director