Maurice Hurst

DT / Michigan

Maurice Hurst has regularly been at the core of everything good achieved this season by Michigan’s defense, which is third nationally in yards allowed headed into a game Saturday against Ohio State, and it’s not by coincidence.

“The intensity he brings to every play” is what sets the tackle apart, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. Hurst has obvious talent, "but he has an intensity about him, a motor. He’s really refined his technique, his fundamentals.”

Watch video of him and those things sometimes jump off the screen.

“He’s one of the best players if not the best player” on the Michigan defense, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “We’ve got a lot of respect for him.”

In his fifth year at Michigan and already holding a degree, Hurst has improved steadily from a player Harbaugh and his staff inherited when they took over in 2015. At 6 feet 2 and 280 pounds, Hurst is sixth on the team in tackles with 56 but second in tackles for loss with 13.5, including five sacks.

He’s a nose tackle, but he’s not simply an A-gap plugger. He tries to be a gap jumper and disruptive force. That helped him gain recognition as a first-team midseason All-American by the Associated Press.

“I think he’s even growing into his own style of play,” Harbaugh said.

When the Michigan defense is at its best, Hurst is stirring the pot from the inside out. His play is an homage in a way to some of the great nose tackles of yesteryear like Ohio State’s Jim Stillwagon and Nebraska’s Rich Glover.

“He’s very disruptive,” Harbaugh said. “To have the size he does, and the initial quickness, and the tenacity he has — he has all of those things.”

When Hurst signed with Michigan and coach Brady Hoke in 2013, he was considered the 266th-best prospect in the nation and just the second-best prospect from Massachusetts.

“He is really a great example of somebody who has developed into a — it would be an understatement to say valuable member of the team,” Harbaugh said. “He is a valuable, valuable member of our team and a heck of a good football player.”