The Michigan Wolverines open their 2023 season in less than a month against the East Carolina Pirates at the Big House in Ann Arbor. For Head Coach Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines, the vast majority of the roster is already set in stone.
Meanwhile, Michigan football coaches are keeping an eye on several position battles that could determine backups or even starters heading into the season.
The transfer portal is a big reason why. Michigan picked up a transfer portal class ranked among the best nationally that includes potential superstar linebacker Ernest Hausmann from Big Ten rival Nebraska.
Hausmann is just one of several talented Wolverines with a battle on his hands for a starting position on a loaded 2023 Michigan roster. The following are training camp battles to watch heading into the season:
Incumbent starter Michael Barrett will fight to retain his position with the addition of Hausmann this offseason.
Barrett is a graduate student and leader of the defense. He is excellent in pass coverage and solid against the run. He’s an incredibly smart player who can make big plays in a surprising variety of ways for a linebacker, as shown below.
Remember the last time Michigan played Maryland, Michael Barrett threw a backwards pass to A.J. Henning for an 81 yard kickoff return TD 〽️ pic.twitter.com/jAFqq3M21S
— Swanky Wolverine (@swankywolverine) September 21, 2022
Hausmann brings a different dimension with physicality and playmaking ability at and behind the line of scrimmage.
Prediction: Barrett retains his starting job, but Hausmann ends up with as much or more playing time, oftentimes at other positions along the defense.
Blake Corum’s Heisman-worthy 2023 campaign has him penciled in as the likely starter here. Unofficial co-starter Donovan Edwards will once again play the “lightning” to Corum’s “lightning,” as Blake told it prior to last season.
Edwards won the Ohio State game for Michigan last season with big plays in the running game. With his right hand finally healthy, he will show off his incredible pass catching skills again in 2023.
The backups also have yet to be fully sorted out. Sophomore C.J. Stokes has the talent and mindset to vie for playing time, while freshman Benjamin Hall should compete with Kalel Mullings for short yardage and goal line carries, assuming they don’t all go to Edwards and Corum.
Depth and competition should make this a standout position for Michigan from players one through five on the depth chart and beyond.
Prediction: Corum gets the bulk of the carries and Edwards makes big plays in the passing game and the running game. Hall ends up scoring at least four to five touchdowns as a goal line and short yardage specialist while Mullings factors in on a few gadget plays.
Drake Nugent comes over from Stanford via the transfer portal with a reputation for being a warrior in the weight room. His work ethic and talent should help him win the job, but former four-star Greg Crippen is providing competition.
Prediction: Nugent wins the job and becomes one of the best run-blocking centers in the Big Ten if not the nation.
Paw Paw, Michigan native Karsen Barnhardt is a mauler who has filled in admirably along the offensive line during his time with the Wolverines, and figures to be the starter here. But he is being pushed by Trente Jones, a strong pass protector who can play both the left and right tackle positions.
Prediction: Barnhardt wins the job but Jones sees plenty of playing time at both tackle positions.
Fellow Stanford transfer Myles Hinton has the inside track to a starting job at this position. At 6-foot-6, he has the size to protect J.J. McCarthy’s blind side. He is the brother of former Michigan star Chris Hinton and a former five-star who played with some of the best college players in recent memory like Peter Skoronski and Will Anderson during his high school camp circuit days.
🎥 » @myles_hint75
— Stanford Football (@StanfordFball) December 18, 2019
The Wolverines could try several other players here including Jones and LaDarius Henderson, who at 6-foot-4 is more suited for the interior line. Barnhardt can also play this position if needed.
According to former Michigan lineman and NFL star Jon Jansen, Jones has the most physical talent on the line but must improve in key areas to become the player Harbaugh, offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore and the offense needs.
Prediction: Hinton wins the job and plays well, with Jones his primary backup.