Hutchinson, on and off field, leads Michigan to CFP semis

Dec 29, 2021, 9:26 AM | Updated: 11:28 pm
Heisman Trophy finalist Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson speaks during a news conference bef...

Heisman Trophy finalist Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson speaks during a news conference before attending the Heisman Trophy award ceremony, Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — A 9-year-old kid was watching the Big Ten championship game on television earlier this month, eager to tell his father all about Michigan star defensive end Aidan Hutchinson.

The kid’s name: Andrew Smart.

His father: Georgia coach Kirby Smart.

“I’m like, ‘How does my 9-year-old son know about Aidan Hutchinson?'” Smart said, noting that the conversation was taking place even before Michigan (12-1) and Georgia (12-1) were paired up to meet in the College Football Playoff semifinals.

That’s easy.

Everyone who follows college football probably knows about Hutchinson, the Wolverines’ standout who got more first-place votes in the Heisman Trophy race than any defensive player had in the last nine years, was a consensus All-American and the MVP of the Big Ten championship.

Next up: Friday night at the Orange Bowl against Georgia for a berth in the national title game.

“When I heard that story, I was laughing,” Hutchinson said of the younger Smart’s fandom. “My dad told me, and we were both laughing about it. It’s crazy that the head coach’s son of the team you’re about to play is a very big fan of yours. It’s a blessing. It’s really cool.”

Hutchinson — whose father, Chris, also was a standout at Michigan — leads the Wolverines with 15½ tackles for a loss and 14 sacks, with the sack total ranking third in the nation this season despite him always being the focal point of an opponent’s blocking scheme. He was second in the Heisman race behind Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, and his 78 first-place votes were the most received by a defensive player since Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o finished second in 2012 with 321 first-place ballots.

Michigan offensive lineman Andrew Steuber often draws the assignment against Hutchinson when the Wolverines go full pads, starters vs. starters, in practice.

It doesn’t always go well, he acknowledged.

“It’s something that I personally love doing because it makes the game so much easier,” Steuber said. “You’re not playing Aidan Hutchinson out there in the games. He’s just such a talented player in everything he does, and it really forces me to focus on my technique and try to give my best every single day playing against him. I know I give him my best every day, and so it’s truly something that I look forward to every day. Sometimes the practice tape is pretty rough on my end, but I know it’s getting me better and it’s getting him better, so that’s all that matters.”

That’s just one of the ways Hutchinson has been invaluable to the Wolverines. He makes teammates better.

Consider David Ojabo, who entered this season with one career tackle — a third-quarter tackle in a loss at Indiana last November. And now, he’s widely considered someone with first-round potential for the 2022 NFL draft, in large part because he told Hutchinson during the offseason that he wanted to do everything he was doing — and how he was doing it.

“At the end of the day, I have the tools and the physical traits, but it’s the work ethic and the grind, and just knowing that you’re not going to fall from the sky and become a top-round pick,” Ojabo said. “You’ve got to grind.”

Hutchinson showed him the grind. Ojabo’s numbers have exploded since.

“Every day in that offseason he was right with me that whole time,” Hutchinson said. “He committed to it every day. Even in the days that it was very difficult. He was grinding his (butt) off this whole offseason, so all the awards and accolades that he’s getting right now, he completely deserves.”

Same goes for Hutchinson, of course.

He’s responsible for one of the viral plays in college football this season, the one where he pointed at the Ohio State offensive line and wound up rolling over Buckeyes lineman Thayer Munford — a very good player — late in the fourth quarter of the Wolverines’ long-awaited win over their biggest rival.

And now, they’ve got a chance to reach the national title game.

“We’re a very talented defense,” Hutchinson said. “We’ve got a lot of good players. If we go out there and just do our job, I think we can have a lot of success.”


More AP college football: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Philadelphia Eagles' Kenneth Gainwell celebrates scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NF...
Associated Press

Undefeated Eagles spoil Pederson’s return, top Jaguars 29-21

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Miles Sanders ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns, Jalen Hurts threw for 204 yards and ran for a score and the undefeated Eagles spoiled former coach Doug Pederson’s return to Philadelphia with a 29-21 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. Trevor Lawrence threw for 174 yards and two touchdowns to […]
13 hours ago
Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell arrives with his players at Folsom Field before an NCAA college fo...
Associated Press

Dorrell out as coach at Colorado after 0-5 start to season

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Colorado fired football coach Karl Dorrell after an 0-5 start in which the Buffaloes have been blown out by more than 20 points in each game. The school announced the decision Sunday, a day after a 43-20 loss at Arizona. It’s only the fourth 0-5 start in the history of Colorado […]
13 hours ago
FILE - Fox commentator Terry Bradshaw is sen before the NFC Championship NFL football game between ...
Associated Press

Terry Bradshaw says he’s been treated for 2 kinds of cancer

Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw said Sunday he has been treated for two forms of cancer in the past year. Bradshaw said on “Fox NFL Sunday” that he was diagnosed with bladder cancer late last year and was treated at Yale University Medical Center, including surgery. “As of today, I am bladder cancer free,” […]
13 hours ago
Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Simeon Woods Richardson throws against the Detroit Tigers during t...
Associated Press

Tigers beat young Woods Richardson, sloppy Twins 5-2

DETROIT (AP) — Eric Haase and Victor Reyes homered and the Detroit Tigers took advantage of Minnesota’s sloppy play, beating touted pitching prospect Simeon Woods Richardson and the Twins 5-2 Sunday. Woods Richardson made his big league debut five days after turning 22 years old, making him the youngest pitcher in the majors this season. […]
13 hours ago
Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) throws a pass for a completion while under pressure fro...
Associated Press

Florida handles lower-division Eastern Washington 52-17

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Anthony Richardson threw for 240 yards and two touchdowns, a top-level NFL prospect who looked comfortable playing on a Sunday, and Florida handled lower-division Eastern Washington 52-17 in a game delayed a day by Hurricane Ian. The Gators (3-2) scored touchdowns on their first five possessions while having their way with […]
13 hours ago
Associated Press

Steelers rookie QB Kenny Pickett makes debut against Jets

PITTSBURGH (AP) — It’s Kenny Pickett time for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The rookie quarterback made his NFL debut in the second half on Sunday against the New York Jets, coming in after starter Mitch Trubisky was hit late near the end of the first half. Pickett, taken 20th overall by the Steelers as the heir […]
13 hours ago
Hutchinson, on and off field, leads Michigan to CFP semis