Tuesday, December 1, 2020

How cursed is Michigan's roster in 2020?


Joe Milton (image via Wolverines Wire)

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This may be beating a dead horse if you read this blog regularly, but I wanted to put a spotlight on the wild situation at hand regarding Michigan's roster and starting lineup.

Hit the jump for more.

The following players have all started at least one game on offense for the Wolverines in 2020:

QB: Joe Milton, Cade McNamara
RB: Hassan Haskins, Zach Charbonnet, Blake Corum, Chris Evans
TE: Ben Mason, Nick Eubanks, Erick All
LT: Ryan Hayes, Karsen Barnhart
LG: Chuck Filiaga
C: Andrew Vastardis, Zach Carpenter
RG: Andrew Stueber, Zak Zinter
RT: Jalen Mayfield, Andrew Stueber
WR: Ronnie Bell, Cornelius Johnson
WR: Mike Sainristil, Roman Wilson
WR: Giles Jackson, Jake McCurry

That's a list of 22 different humans (Stueber has started at both RG and RT) through six games of the season. During the wild season that was Rich Rodriguez's inaugural year in 2008, Michigan started 24 different players on offense - in twelve games.

Let's take a look at the defensive starters in 2020:

SDE: Aidan Hutchinson, Carlo Kemp
DT: Carlo Kemp, Chris Hinton
NT: Donovan Jeter
WDE: Kwity Paye, Taylor Upshaw
Viper: Michael Barrett
SAM: Ben VanSumeren
MIKE: Cam McGrone, Adam Shibley
WILL: Josh Ross
CB: Gemon Green
CB: Vincent Gray
S: Dax Hill
S: Brad Hawkins

That's a list of 15 players.

Guess how many defensive players started games in 2008.

Okay, if you guessed 16, you would be right. So Michigan is one player away from reaching that total in 50% of the games.

2008: 40 starters in 12 games
2020: 37 starters in 6 games

If you consider that there are 22 starters in the first game of a season, then that means the 2008 crew was starting 1.63 new players per game (18/11 = 1.63) for games 2 through 12.

How does that approach work out for 2020?

Since the first game, Michigan is starting 3 new players per game (15/5 = 3).

Also, keep in mind that the kickers (Jake Moody, Quinn Nordin) and punters (Will Hart, Brad Robbins) have rotated at times, and two of Michigan's top players, cornerback Ambry Thomas and wide receiver Nico Collins, both opted out. Collins was Michigan's best returning player on offense, and Thomas was probably in the top three or four on defense (along with Paye, Hutchinson, and Hill).

I understand that the coaches have come into question, and I agree with lots of the criticism, especially when it comes to offensive scheme. Part of the fault for choosing starters also falls on the coaches' shoulders, but the vast majority of new starters have been forced due to injury.

As a lot of vitriol brews and gets spewed at Jim Harbaugh and the coordinators, I think we also have to remember that this is an unprecedented year with all kinds of variables when it comes to illness, injury, conditioning, lack of spring ball, etc. Every team is in the same pandemic situation, but that doesn't mean the pandemic situation is affecting every team the same.


  1. I agree with the injuries

    BUT, how many on D have been in the program for 3 yrs? 4? How is it that they are unable to get off of blocks? How do you forget to tackle? Ross - and. McGrone - look lost

    How many QBs & WRs are no longer around, that could have helped? Henning caught the best pass of the game, and was sidelined thereafter; Haskins disappeared after his big carry. All of that is on the staff, not injury

  2. The question I would have is how Michigan's roster situation compares to other schools. To my eye there are three elements:

    (1) Standard roster depth management
    (2) Injuries
    (3) COVID-related opt-outs and quarantines

    I don't get the impression Michigan has been particularly affected by (3) ... no key players have been quarantined out to my knowledge, unlike Clemson that had to sit Trevor Lawrence because of that.

    It's (1) that I'm wondering is due to poor management: that is, because of recruiting and poor development, Michigan finds itself struggling to plug certain holes in the lineup. I get that Michigan graduated off a bunch, but other teams do that and seem to keep going, more or less. Why did Michigan allow a known thing -- a lot of players leaving to graduation and NFL -- catch them off-guard? Could they have done a better job playing this year's potential starters last year when the situation allowed?

    As for (2) ... injuries are sometimes just the luck of the draw.

    1. It was not a known thing that Thomas, Collins, and McCaffrey would be gone and the Big Ten's schedule management played a part in that.

      I don't know if the distinction between COVID and other injury is all that relevant to the situation on the field.

  3. Good perspective on a lost season. It's more than just Wins and Losses right now.