INDIANAPOLIS (WOOD) — There are still a lot of questions to be answered about Michigan’s defense this year and how they’ll step up without NFL draft picks Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo.

Grand Rapids native Mazi Smith is ready take on that role. 

The East Kentwood grad didn’t play much during his first two seasons with the Wolverines, but look a big step last year, starting in all 14 games. He made 37 tackles including 2.5 for loss. The All-Big Ten honorable mention is ready to lead the charge his senior year. 

“Every season has to be better than the last,” Smith said. “There can’t be any regression, you know? So for this season, I just want to be the best person I can be, the best player I can be and maybe I can be the best player in the country.” 

At East Kentwood, Smith led the team to the 2019 MHSAA State Quarterfinals after winning the OK Red Conference Title. He made 81 tackles and 18 tackles for loss during his senior year. He was ranked a four-star prospect by ESPN and a Top-50 national recruit. He said his time at East Kentwood taught him valuable lessons that he’s brought to the next level. 

“To never give up, to never worry about the score. My team my senior year was really good, but before that it had been kind of rough,” Smith said. “To just always play hard no matter what position you in … you third string, you second string, you first string, you a walk on: Play hard. Give it everything you got, because you going to get out of the game what you put into it.” 

The Wolverines open the season on Sept. 3 against Colorado State. 

For the full conversation with Mazi Smith, watch the video in the player above.