ANN ARBOR — A key member of Michigan’s defense will return in 2018.
Defensive end Chase Winovich announced on Twitter, after a month of back and forth about his future, that he will indeed be back for his fifth and final season.
“Those who stay will be champions,” Winovich wrote. “After much deliberation, I have decided to forego the NFL and come back to Michigan for one last season. It’s my absolute honor to represent this university for one more season after everything it has done for me. Time to work.”
The redshirt junior wrestled with the decision leading up to the Outback Bowl, indicating that one day his mind would say leave, and the next day he would decide he was staying.
“It’s a tough decision,” Winovich said in Tampa. “I don't know. If you guys were in my shoes, what would you do? Come back and risk injury? It’s a violent game. I see people get hurt all the time. I even see managers get hurt, break arms and stuff, and they aren’t even on the field with us. But I'm also having fun, enjoying the moment with my teammates. Once [the Outback Bowl] is over, I’ll be forced to make my decision.”
Just shy of 48 hours later, Michigan finally received some much-needed good news after Monday’s 26-19 loss to South Carolina.
Winovich, a first-team All-Big Ten selection, led the conference with eight sacks and 18 tackles for loss. He also recorded 77 tackles, two fumble recoveries, and two forced fumbles.
The Wolverines will return nine starters from the nation’s No. 3-ranked defense, losing defensive tackle Maurice Hurst and linebacker Mike McCray.
Winovich was projected as a third- or fourth-round draft pick. NFLDraftScout.com rated Winovich as the eighth-best defensive end.
“There's so many pros to both,” Winovich said. “There are not a lot of cons to either decision. Michigan’s been so great to me. It’s not about the money, I didn’t get into this game for money, and I’m not going to leave for money. It’s about opportunity. The NFL’s been a dream of mine.”
The first person Rashan Gary befriended when he arrived at UM in 2016 was Winovich, and the tough-to-block defensive ends created an objective.
“Our goal is to be the best defensive-end duo [in the country],” Gary said in Tampa. “Hopefully, he doesn’t leave until we get that done.”
Ultimately, Michigan’s underwhelming results during Winovich’s four seasons in Ann Arbor seemed to be the biggest contributing factor to his return. The Wolverines are 0-4 against Ohio State and 1-3 against Michigan State in Winovich’s career, and UM is in the midst of a 13-year Big Ten championship drought.
“I’m just being frank here,” Winovich said. “As a Michigan football player, there’s not a lot of things that I can really say we did. We lost to Michigan State this year. Two years we lost to Michigan State. I can go on and on about those losses. We’ve just been so close. It’s just a matter of hanging my hat on something and saying I came here to make Michigan great again and you’ve got to ask yourself — not that it wasn’t great when I got here — but that national championship-contending power, it wasn’t quite there yet.
“I mean, I think we’re in that trajectory. But am I there yet? Are we there yet? That’s the question you’ve got to ask yourself. There are other positives, like if I come back, there’s good chance I’d be a captain. There are so many reasons to be a leader for these young kids. In my eyes, I know what it takes to win. I love [head coach Jim] Harbaugh, the coaching staff, [defensive line coach Greg] Mattison, [defensive coordinator Don] Brown. I could go on and on. There are a lot of reasons.”
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