The Michigan Wolverines finished a stellar 2022 season on a sour note with a 51-45 loss to the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs in Glendale, Arizona, but the team is expected to return more than enough star power to play for championships in 2023.
The Wolverines will lose talented players including Gemon Green (CB), Jake Moody (K), Olusegun Oluwatimi (C), Mazi Smith (DT), Mike Morris (EDGE), D.J. Turner (CB), Ronnie Bell (WR), Ryan Hayes (OT), Luke Schoonmaker (TE), Eyabi Okie (EDGE), Andrel Anthony (WR), Taylor Upshaw (EDGE), Julius Welschof (EDGE), Deuce Spurlock (LB), and others (see a full list of departures here), but have plenty of returning talent and experience.
Here is an early look at a possible 2023 starting lineup for Michigan as the team prepares to defend its back-to-back Big Ten championships against challengers like the Ohio State Buckeyes, Penn State Nittany Lions, Michigan State Spartans, Iowa Hawkeyes and others next season:
Quarterback- J.J. McCarthy
The 6-foot-3, 196-pound junior will enter next season with lofty expectations.
He threw two costly interceptions against the Horned Frogs in the College Football Playoff, but so did TCU Heisman runner-up Max Duggan.
McCarthy also threw for over 100 yards more than Duggan during that game, adding to his expectations for becoming an even better clutch performer on the biggest stages for next season.
McCarthy’s backup is expected to be former backup Davis Warren, who has shown plenty of poise and leadership skills during his time in Ann Arbor. Indiana transfer A.J. Tuttle could wind up in the number two spot as well by the time fall camp is finished.
Situational running quarterback Alex Orji also could factor into the competition for the backup spot next year as well.
Running Back- Blake Corum
The 2022 Heisman candidate’s impending and recently announced return has Michigan fans buzzing about what could be the best backfield duo in the nation.
Corum brings elusiveness and durability to the position along with incredible production.
With Donovan Edwards sliding to his familiar backup role, the Michigan offense could be even more dangerous next season. Edwards can slide back to his familiar role as a receiving threat out of the backfield, as well as a home run threat as a runner when Corum needs a spell.
One of the big keys for this position next year will be to develop a third running back option behind Corum and Edwards, a glaring problem that reared its ugly head last season when Corum went down.
Running backs C.J. Stokes and Tavierre Dunlap both showed flashes of becoming solid-to-very good players next season, although both must get stronger and cut down on mistakes. Stokes and Dunlap both averaged five-plus yards per carry in limited action last year.
Michigan is also expected to bring in in running backs Cole Cabana, an All-American sprinter, and Benjamin Hall, a 225-pound bruiser, in their 2023 recruiting class.
— Cole Cabana (@colecabana) December 19, 2022
Wide Receiver- Roman Wilson, A.J. Henning, and Darrius Clemons
The competition at this position will be fierce in 2023, as several talented youngsters compete to fill the big shoes left by Ronnie Bell, who’s headed to the NFL, Cornelius Johnson, the hero of the Ohio State game, and Luke Schoonmaker, McCarthy’s safety valve at tight end.
Bell, Johnson and Schoonmaker were Michigan’s top three pass-catchers on the season, but Wilson was poised to become McCarthy’s favorite target earlier in the year before chronic injuries set in.
If Wilson can stay healthy and live up to his potential, Michigan could be even more dynamic and explosive in 2023 compared to last season.
Henning is co-offensive coordinators Sherrone Moore and Matt Weiss’s ace on jet sweep and reverse plays, and he has the talent to make waves in the passing game if he can return to his former healthy state.
Clemons was the star of last year’s spring game, and has the size and jump ball skills to become what Oklahoma transfer Andrel Anthony was expected to be in Ann Arbor.
Sophomores Amorion Walker and Tyler Morris also could factor in next season.
Walker is a long, lanky deep ball threat who caught one pass last season, while Morris has the makings of a dependable slot receiver along the lines of Bell who can move the chains on any given down.
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Tight End- Colston Loveland
Another hero of the Ohio State game, Colston Loveland enters his sophomore season as the odds-on favorite to win the starting tight end job.
Tall and still somewhat lanky, Loveland figures as a top-notch receiving threat next season, perhaps the best Michigan has had since former Mackey Award winner Jake Butt, but he must get stronger to handle the rigors of becoming a full-time tight end.
He also figures to receive lots of targets downfield next year, and adding strength and size will help him stand up to the punishment he is likely to take.
Alongside Loveland, Indiana transfer A.J. Barner should help in the receiving game.
Barner excels at making contested catches, much like Loveland.
Offensive Tackle- Myles Hinton and Trente Jones
Michigan is expected to bring back Jones, who showed promise as a right tackle and could slide into the left tackle position next season.
Hinton is part of a transfer portal class that previously ranked as the nation’s best, although it has slid in the eyes of some analysts.
Hinton allowed just two sacks at the right tackle position for Stanford last season, and has the size and athleticism to play both tackle spots, much like Jones.
At 6-foot-8 and over 300 pounds, Academic All-Big Ten selection Jeffrey Persi could factor into the equation here as well as Arizona State transfer LaDarius Henderson and holdover Karsen Barnhart, both of which can play inside and outside.
Versatility, technique, and strength in numbers will be the keys for this group in 2023.
Guards- Trevor Keegan and Zak Zinter
Key contributors to Michigan’s back-to-back Joe Moore Award (for best offensive line in the nation) winning units, Keegan and Zinter recently announced their returns to Coach Harbaugh’s program.
Keegan brings leadership, strength, and athleticism to the position while Zinter is a class “road-grader” at the guard position who keeps McCarthy’s pocket clean.
With these two at the guard positions and the return of Corum and Edwards, it’s a safe bet that the Wolverines will have one of one the best running games in the nation yet again in 2023.
Likely backups include 6-foot-7 Andrew Gentry, a former four-star and Virginia commit, and Greg Crippen, a more traditional-sized guard at 6-foot-4 and former four-star recruit.
Center- Drake Nugent
Nugent is a former three-star prospect who arrived to Michigan through the transfer portal from Stanford, and ranks as a three-star caliber transfer as well.
The former Cardinal center and team captain was named to the Rimington Award (for best center) watch list in 2022, and has made 24 consecutive starts in his career.
Crippen is a likely backup at this position, but Zinter and Keegan are both smart enough players to potentially swing over and play the position if needed.
Defensive Tackle- Rayshaun Benny
The junior, Benny, is expected to take over for Mazi Smith, who headed to the NFL after a successful career as one of the strongest and most athletic defensive tackles Michigan has had in years.
Benny, a former four-star prospect from Oak Park, Michigan, held offers from Ohio State, Florida State, Miami (FL), Notre Dame, Texas A&M, and Tennessee out of high school, and has the talent to pick up where Smith left off last season.
Thus far, his career high is just two tackles after two years of game action, but Benny has what it takes to excel next season considering his wealth of talent and experience he possesses heading into his junior season.
Defensive Tackle- Mason Graham
A sophomore and former high school wrestling champion, Graham held up surprisingly well on the defensive line as a freshman last season.
Taking another year to get stronger while adding to his already high level of athleticism could help Graham become an All-Big Ten caliber performer next season.
Defensive Tackle- Kris Jenkins
A possible top-100 NFL Draft pick, Jenkins decided to follow Corum and McCarthy’s lead, coming back for his junior season.
Often lining up on the outside of the defensive line, Jenkins gives Michigan a trio of powerful, athletic players with unique skillsets to help stop the run next season and rush the passer.
Jenkins had two sacks last season, but could see his totals climb with more room to operate along the front line of the defense next season.
Defensive End- Braiden McGregor and Derrick Moore
The former four-star and Port Huron, Michigan native had high expectations for his 2022 season, with talk of following in former number two overall NFL draft pick Aidan Hutchinson’s footsteps.
The 6-foot-6, 260 pound McGregor hasn’t approached Hutchinson’s stellar of player just yet, but he has appeared in 23 games with the maize and blue, and has the talent to take the next step in 2023 as a junior.
McGregor had 2.5 sacks last season, and could triple that number next season if he works to fulfill his potential in the offseason.
One of the top recruits from 2022’s highly underrated recruiting class, Moore is a powerful young player who could become Michigan’s best pass rusher in 2023.
At 6-foot-3, 280 pounds, his combination of pad level, high motor, and sneaky-good athleticism could make him the defense’s breakout player.
Defensive End/EDGE- Jaylen Harrell
Speaking of breakout players, the Tampa, Florida native Harrell became a force off the edge of the Wolverines defense in 2022.
The 6-foot-4, 246 pound linebacker had 3.5 sacks last season, although it felt like he was almost always in the opposing team’s backfield.
Harrell finished the season as an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention selection and figures to match or improve on his performance this season.
MIKE- Junior Colson
Michigan’s best linebacker and one of the best in the Big Ten, Colson excelled in both pass coverage and run support.
The Brentwood, Tennessee native had 101 total tackles and two sacks on the season.
A Second Team All-Big Ten selection, Colson still has plenty of room for improvement in terms of stripping the football, securing interceptions, rushing the passer, and at times maintaining his lanes in the running game.
WILL/OLB- Michael Barrett and Ernest Hausmann
Barrett, a Valdosta, Georgia native, fits the prototype for Jim Harbaugh’s linebacking corps in recent years.
At 6-foot, 233 pounds, he’s solidly builtm exceptionally quick, and relatively low to the ground for his position, capable of disrupting the passing game and the running game.
With four seasons already under his belt, Barrett brings a wealth of experience and know-how to the defense.
He will be flanked by Hausmann, the Nebraska transfer who is expected to add size and playmaking ability to the position.
The Columbus, Nebraska native is 6-foot-2, 220 pounds. A stellar freshman campaign for the former four-star prospect has Michigan fans daydreaming about the possibilities of an All-Big Ten caliber career.
CB- Will Johnson, Ja’Den McBurrows, and Mike Sainristil
Johnson was the highest-rated five-star freshman in the nation in 2022 according to Pro Football Focus, a great cover corner and tackler all in one player.
McBurrows played in four games as a freshman in 2021 but did not play in 2022 either before or after he was injured in a tunnel brawl against Michigan State in Ann Arbor.
The 5-foot-11 McBurrows was a three-star as a recruit, but held offers from Florida State, LSU, Miami (FL) and Ohio State among others.
His size and awareness fits the prototype for recent cornerbacks at Michigan.
The second impact player in this unit is Sainristil, who switched from offense to defense in 2022 and remained one of the Wolverines’ leaders and best players.
An Honorable Mention All-Big Ten performer last season, Sainristil will add much needed depth and leadership to a relatively young secondary.
Other candidates for playing time include Graduate student German Green, sophomore Zeke Berry, and freshmen Jyaire Hill and Cam Calhoun.
Safety- Makari Paige and Rod Moore