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It’s been 101 days since Michigan won the B1G Championship.
The taste of victory hasn’t entirely left my lips, and I’ll admit, this past season was therapeutic. The wounds of recent history were healed, and the hope for Maize and Blue glory was restored.
This was a year that Wolverine fans will talk about for a long time. One we hope is more of the norm and less of an anomaly.
But it’s time to turn the page.
The 21′ season has come and gone. Now the Wolverines must set their sights on the future.
Preparation for 2022 has begun, and the team is already halfway through Spring Ball. The Annual Spring Game will be on April 2nd at the Big House.
As the spring evaluation period concludes, here are five storylines that Wolverine fans should keep an eye on…
Mike Saranstil Starting At Nickel
Saranstil has been a consistent piece to the Michigan Wolverine offense over the last three seasons, but he changed positions this spring.
He’s been working with defensive backs hoping to have a seamless transition from offense to defense in the fall.
Initially, I thought the change was due to players transferring and Dax Hill declaring for the NFL draft. Upon further research, I learned Saranstil originally signed with UM to play defensive back.
“Mike has looked like a potential pro playing in the nickel position,” Chris Balas, Michigan insider, said in a statement. “There won’t be a noticeable drop-off at this position.”
If this is true, Michigan struck gold after what potentially looked like a big hole to fill.
And who knows? Maybe he’ll end up like another student-athlete that Harbaugh converted from wide receiver to defensive back, a guy named Richard Sherman.
Which Early Enrollee Will Make An Impact?
By now, everyone has heard of 5-star legacy recruit Will Johnson. A 6’3, 195 lb cornerback with fluid hips, great instincts, and a high football IQ. This past recruiting cycle, he was this coaching staff’s highest priority, and early observations have proven why.
There has been a rumbling around the program that he can be a day one starter and will undoubtedly live up to the hype.
On the other side of the ball, one of the surprise signings of this class was the No. 75 overall recruit, Derrius Clemons. The 6’3 205 lb wide receiver has been making jaw-dropping plays all offseason.
The wide receiver room is already loaded with Ronnie Bell, Cornelius Johnson, Roman Wilson, Andrel Anthony, and AJ Henning.
But the spring Clemons is having will force coaches to get him on the field in the fall.
Offensive Line Goes From Good To Great
That’s exactly what Michigan did when they landed Virginia transfer Olusegun “Victor” Oluwatimi.
With three out of five starters returning plus the addition of Oluwatimi, this certainly is a front five who can make an extraordinary leap from good to great.
Who Replaces Haskins?
There is no denying that Haskins’ running style was ideal for Harbaugh’s philosophy and a huge part of Michigan’s 2021 success. Who will step up with the “do-it-all” runningback headed to the NFL?
Enter Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards. According to Coach Harbaugh, the dynamic duo has entered spring ball as 1A & 1B, and he expects a big season from both backs.
The 5’8 200 lb Corum reminded fans of Michigan great and current RB coach, Mike Hart. His ability to explode through a hole makes him a home run threat whenever he touches the ball. After knotching four 100-yard games backing up Haskins, look for Corum to take another step forward this season.
Edwards is poised for a breakout year. He showed off his versatility from the backfield with a 10 catch 170 yard 1 TD game against Maryland. Mix that with his ability to run tough between the tackles, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him join the 1,000-yard club this season.
With two different skillsets and more carries to spread around, Michigan is positioned to replicate their dominant rushing attack from 2021.
I’m willing to make a bold prediction that both backs will eclipse 1,000 yards next season.
Can The Defense Pick Up Where It Left Off?
Aiden Hutchinson, David Ojabo, Dax Hill, Brad Hawkins, and Josh Ross accounted for 335 tackles, 26 sacks, and 2 interceptions in 2021. That’s more than a third of defensive production exiting the program.
I’m willing to step out on a limb and say the 2022 defense can be just as good, if not better. Michigan isn’t waltzing two first-round edge rushers out this fall, but they could at least have one potential first-round talent.
Defensive end, Mike Morris, played over a third of the Wolverines’ defensive snaps last season. At 6’6 271 lbs, the coaches say Morris turned a corner and could definitely be an impact player.
Seniors Mazi Smith and Taylor Upshaw should help Morris anchor the defensive line.
Linebackers and Defensive Backs
The other two levels are where Michigan gets better this year.
Junior Colson, the freshman All-American, proved he was every bit of what was advertised. After battling injuries, Michael Barrett came on strong at the end of the season, and Mikhail Hill-Green played significant snaps.
The secondary is where I’m most excited. Even with the loss of Hawkins and Hill, the Wolverines are in a great spot.
Returning starters D.J. Turner, Rod Moore, and critical contributor R.J. Moten have to excite Wolverine nation.
Overall the second and third levels of the defense will be more athletic and faster than a season ago.
There will be scheme continuity with Jesse Minter stepping in after Mike Macdonald’s departure. The Wolverines are poised for another breakout defensive year.
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