ROSEMONT, Ill. — The No. 2-ranked University of Michigan football team saw four different players earn first-team All-Big Ten honors on Tuesday (Nov. 30) among 11 total honorees on defense and special teams.
Senior defensive end Aidan Hutchinson led all honorees as the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year and the Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year. Senior kicker Jake Moody was chosen as the Bakken-Anderson Kicker of the Year. Linebacker David Ojabo was a consensus first-team pick and defensive back Daxton Hill was a first-team selection by the coaches.
Together, this group leads a defense ranked in the top 25 nationally in seven major categories: pass defense (23rd), rushing defense (22nd), third-down percentage allowed (20th), pass efficiency defense (16th), first downs (15th), total defense (14th), scoring defense (eighth).
Twice voted a team captain, Hutchinson is third among all U-M defenders and first among defensive linemen with 54 tackles this season (32 solo). He has generated a team-leading 14.5 tackles for loss and a program-record 13.0 sacks (No. 3, NCAA), along with 10 quarterback hurries, three pass breakups, a pair of forced fumbles and one fumble recovered. Hutchinson is graded as the No. 1 defensive player in the country by Pro Football Focus College (93.8).
Hutchinson is a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, the Senior CLASS Award, and the Lombardi Award presented to the country’s top lineman. He is the sixth Wolverine to be named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, joining Devin Bush (2018), Jabrill Peppers (2016), LaMarr Woodley (2006), Larry Foote (2001), and Charles Woodson (1997). Hutchinson is the fifth U-M player to be named Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the year, joining LaMarr Woodley (2006), his father, Chris Hutchinson (1992), Mark Messner (1988), and Mike Hammerstein (1985). No father-son duo had previously accomplished the feat.
Hutchinson and Ojabo are the first pair in U-M history to both reach double-digit sack totals (10.0-plus) in the same season. With 13.0 from Hutchinson and 11.0 from Ojabo, no pair of teammates in Michigan history, or in the NCAA this season, have matched the duo’s 24.0-sack total.
Ojabo has contributed 33 tackles (23 solo), 11.0 sacks among them, in his first year as a starting player (seven starts, all in 2021). He has generated 86 yards for loss with those sacks, the seventh-highest single-season total in program history.
Defensive back Daxton Hill led the secondary’s honorees with first-team accolades from the coaches and second-team honors from the media. His 60 tackles (37 solo) are second on the team and first among secondary players. Playing heavy coverage snaps in the slot, Hill has broken up 10 passes including two interceptions. He’s also posted 3.5 tackles for loss including a split-sack, and has three quarterback hurries. Hill is the only Wolverine to record both a fumble recovery and an interception this season.
Behind Hill, defensive backs Vincent Gray and Brad Hawkins were elected to the third team ballot by the media and both were honorable mentions from the coaches. Gray has posted 36 tackles (27 solo) roaming the boundary with 3.5 tackles for loss including one sack. Gray also has seven pass breakups to go with one forced fumble. An assistant captain, Hawkins is fifth overall on the team with 49 stops (35 solo). He has made three tackles for loss to go with four pass breakups. Hawkins has two forced fumbles with one recovery, a memorable win-sealing play at Nebraska.
Defensive captain Josh Ross, also the team’s leading tackler, was a third-team choice by the league’s media and an honorable mention pick from the coaches. Ross’ 86 tackles (45 solo) are 26 more than any other player on the Wolverine roster. He has created 8.5 plays for loss with one shared sack and has another eight quarterback hurries to go with two pass breakups this season.
U-M saw three specialists honored on both ballots. Moody was a first-team pick from the coaches and a third-team selection by the media. Moody has 22 made field goals this season (of a possible 24), three shy of the single-season record set by Remy Hamilton in 1994. Moody has converted on all 18 of his kicks this season inside 40 yards, and has scored 116 points total (No. 10 NCAA). Moody is four points shy of tying the second-highest single-season scoring total in Michigan history. He has also been a weapon on kickoffs with 58 touchbacks on 88 attempts, leading to the country’s No. 1 kickoff return defense unit (12.08 yards, average).
Moody is the first Wolverine kicker to be named the Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year. He is also one of three finalists for the Lou Groza Award given to college football’s top kicker.
Return man A.J. Henning picked up third-team honors on both ballots. Henning is the country’s No. 17 punt return man based on average (9.3 yards per attempt) and leads the nation’s No. 31-ranked return unit (10.65-yard average). Henning has 26 returns for 241 yards via punt return this year, along with six kickoff returns (all in the last two weeks) for 179 total yards, a 29.8-yard average that included an 81-yard touchdown on a lateral play at Maryland.
Punter Brad Robbins was named honorable mention All-Big Ten on both the coaches and media ballots. Robbins is up to a 45.8-yard average, which would rank No. 2 all-time for a single season at Michigan.
Robbins has yielded 41 punt return yards on 38 punt attempts, pinning 17 punts inside the 20 with 18 forced fair catches. He commands the No. 6 net punt coverage unit in the country, with a net average of 43.68 yards. Overall, he has punted 38 times for 1,741 yards this season with a 65-yard long, nine punts of 50-plus yards, and only two touchbacks.
Following is a breakdown of Michigan’s players on the All-Big Ten defensive and special teams ballots:
All-Big Ten Conference (Coaches)
First Team:Aidan Hutchinson, David Ojabo, Daxton Hill
Honorable Mention: Christopher Hinton, Josh Ross, Mazi Smith, DJ Turner
First Team:Jake Moody
Third Team: A.J. Henning
Honorable Mention: Brad Robbins
All-Big Ten Conference (Media)
First Team: Aidan Hutchinson, David Ojabo
Second Team: Daxton Hill
Third Team: Josh Ross, Vincent Gray, Brad Hawkins
Honorable Mention: Christopher Hinton, Mazi Smith, DJ Turner
Third Team: Jake Moody, A.J. Henning
Honorable Mention: Brad Robbins