Tuesday, April 16, 2024

2025 Recruiting Update: April 16, 2024

 

Howell (MI) Howell DT Bobby Kanka

OFF THE BOARD

Dallas (TX) Skyline linebacker Elijah Barnes (4-star, #13 LB, #98 overall) committed to Texas.

Denton (TX) Ryan offensive tackle Marcus Garcia (4-star, #29 OT, #308 overall) committed to Texas A&M. Garcia visited Michigan earlier this spring.

Rome (GA) Rome linebacker Jaedon Harmon (4-star, #23 LB, #177 overall) committed to Alabama.

Rabun Gap (GA) Nacoochee offensive guard Justin Hasenhuetl (4-star, #10 IOL, #196 overall) committed to Georgia Tech. He's a teammate of 2025 tight end Marshall Pritchett, who recently picked North Carolina over Michigan, and both attend the alma mater of Michigan tight end Marlin Klein.

Corona (CA) Centennial quarterback Husan Longstreet (4-star, #5 QB, #44 overall) committed to Texas A&M.

Washington (OK) Washington tight end Nate Roberts (4-star, #5 TE, #118 overall) committed to Ohio State.

Bradenton (FL) IMG Academy wide receiver Raiden Vines-Bright (4-star, #43 WR, #318 overall) committed to Washington.

MISCELLANEY

Here's a list of visitors from this past weekend (LINK).

Howell (MI) Howell defensive tackle Bobby Kanka (4-star, #41 DL, #361 overall), a Michigan commit, has set two other official visits to Michigan State and Tennessee. He remains committed to Michigan but is exploring his options.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Transfer Portal Shopping List

Alex Orji

The transfer portal opens up on Tuesday, April 16, and lots of schools are going to be shopping. With spring games out of the way for many programs - and Michigan's coming up this Saturday - we're enough of the way through spring ball to be aware of some roster deficiencies going into the fall.

Here are the top three positions Michigan should be looking for in the transfer portal prior to August camp:

1. QUARTERBACK
I know there are some big Alex Orji fans out there, but . . . I'm not one of them. At least not yet. Orji was a project coming out of high school, and in his second season in a Michigan uniform, he did not attempt a single pass. Yes, he can run at 6'3" and 236 pounds (15 carries, 86 yards, 1 touchdown in 2023), but I'm on the record as a Passing QB Enthusiast. While I'm not a proponent of statuesque quarterbacks, championship teams have good passers and decision-makers, not run-first quarterbacks. I don't think Michigan has the roster to win an FBS championship in 2024, anyway, but I don't think they're going to hit their ceiling without finding a quarterback who can pass the ball efficiently. Some of the big names have already found a new home, but perhaps the Wolverines can find the 2024 version of Jake Rudock, a solid passing quarterback who led Michigan to ten wins back in 2015. Others in the running are seventh-year senior Jack Tuttle and redshirt sophomore Jayden Denegal, but Tuttle had shoulder surgery and Denegal needs some polish since he's not quite as dangerous as a runner as Orji.

Hit the jump for more.

2024 Season Countdown: #122 Shomari Stone II

 

Shomari Stone II (image via Twitter)

Name: Shomari Stone II
Height: 
5'8"
Weight: 
198 lbs.
High school: 
Washington (DC) St. John's
Position: 
Safety
Class: 
Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: 
#37
Last year: 
I ranked Stone #140 and said he would be a backup defensive back (LINK). He was not on the roster during the season.
TTB Rating: 
N/A

One of the problems with counting down such a deep dive into the roster for any season is we have no idea what the roster will look like in the fall. Sometimes there are roster casualties of some sort, and Stone was one of those. A member of the team in 2022, he left the program for the 2023 season and missed the national championship run. Now he's back for a team that probably won't win the natty.

Stone was a solid high school player who's probably more known for being the son of D.C.-area media personality Shomari Stone. At 5'8" and at a position where it's tough to get on the field to play defense, he's unlikely to play much of a role this fall. Perhaps some special teams might be in order, but it will be an uphill battle for Stone to see the field much this fall.

Prediction: Backup defensive back

Sunday, April 14, 2024

2024 Season Countdown: #123 James Kavouklis

 

James Kavouklis (image via MGoBlue)

Name: James Kavouklis
Height: 
6'1"
Weight: 
279 lbs.
High school: 
Tampa (FL) Berkley Prep
Position: 
Center/Long snapper
Class: 
Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: 
#64
Last year: 
I ranked Kavouklis #139 and said he would be a backup center (LINK). He did not see game action.
TTB Rating: 
N/A

NOTE: I skipped a couple spots in the countdown since running back Danny Hughes and tight end Josh Beetham are both in the transfer portal and were originally in the countdown.

Kavouklis played in one game as a true freshman back in 2022, but he did not see any action in 2023. If you want some positive fluff about new strength and conditioning coach Justin Tress, Kavouklis was a scrawny 272 pounds last season but is now up to a whopping 279 this spring.

On the plus side, Kavouklis doubles as a long snapper, so he could play center or long snap, so that might open some opportunities if there's an injury or two. He's not going to elevate to starter in either spot, but sometimes when there's a blowout, the coaches start emptying the bench. The path to long snapper is typically a little shorter, but Kavouklis is probably #4 there behind William Wagner, Greg Tarr, and Evan Boutorwick.

Prediction: Backup center and long snapper

Friday, April 12, 2024

2024 Season Countdown: #126 Bryson Kuzdzal

 

Bryson Kuzdzal

Name: Bryson Kuzdzal
Height:
5'11"
Weight:
185 lbs.
High school:
Ada (MI) Forest Hills Eastern
Position:
Running back
Class:
Redshirt freshman
Jersey number:
#41
Last year:
I did not rank Kuzdzal. He redshirted.
TTB Rating:
N/A

Kuzdzal was a preferred walk-on for Michigan in the class of 2023, and he'll be getting a national championship ring for his good taste of choosing the Wolverines over MSU as his walk-on destination. As a high school senior in the fall of 2022, he ran for 1,379 yards and 22 touchdowns, caught 1 touchdown pass, and returned 3 kicks (2 kickoffs, 1 punt) for touchdowns while averaging 10.4 yards per carry. But with a loaded backfield, he was unlikely to play in 2023, and he didn't.

This fall the depth chart doesn't look much better for his chances. Despite the graduation of Blake Corum and the transfer of C.J. Stokes to Charlotte, Michigan returns Donovan Edwards and Kalel Mullings - the #2 and #3 backs from last season - and they added freshmen Jordan Marshall and Micah Ka'apana in the 2024 class. Throw in Tavierre Dunlap, Ben Hall, and Cole Cabana, and it's a pretty full running back room. Kuzdzal could potentially get some garbage time snaps, but Michigan has invested more scholarship spots at running back than a couple seasons ago when a guy like Leon Franklin was getting a fair number of snaps.

Prediction: Redshirt

Visitors: April 12-14, 2024

 

Kissimmee (FL) Osceola linebacker Elijah Melendez (image via 247 Sports)

2025

Mariyon Dye - DE - Elkhart (IN) Elkhart: Dye is a 6'5", 235 lb. prospect with offers from Georgia, Miami, Michigan, Ohio State, and Tennessee, among others. He's a 4-star, the #16 EDGE, and #107 overall. This was a midweek visit.

Elijah Melendez - LB - Kissimmee (FL) Osceola: Melendez is a 6'2", 215-pounder with offers from Alabama, Florida, Michigan, and Ohio State, but he chose the least successful program of his top group - the Miami Hurricanes - to commit to back in December 2023. He's a 4-star, the #16 linebacker, and #138 overall in the class of 2025. On the plus side, he is going against Mario Cristobal's wishes in order to take a three-day visit to Ann Arbor, so there is some hope for Michigan here as linebacker coach Brian Jean-Mary tries to get him to flip.

D.J. Sanders - DT - Bellville (TX) Bellville: Sanders is a 6'4", 290 lb. prospect with offers from Alabama, LSU, Michigan, Oregon, Texas, and Texas A&M, among others. He's a 4-star, the #11 defensive lineman, and #111 overall.

Kainoa Winston - S - Washington (DC) Gonzaga: Winston is a 5'11", 185-pounder with offers from Georgia, LSU, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, Penn State, and others. He's a 4-star, the #9 safety, and #88 overall. He has already set officials for UNC, Oregon, and PSU, and Michigan is trying to get on that list.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

2024 Season Countdown: #127 Manuel Beigel

 

Wallingford (CT) Choate Rosemary Hall DT Manuel Beigel

Name: Manuel Beigel
Height:
6'5"
Weight:
280 lbs.
High school:
Wallingford (CT) Choate Rosemary Hall
Position:
Defensive tackle
Class:
Freshman
Jersey number:
N/A
Last year:
Beigel was a senior in high school. He made 10 tackles and 4 sacks.
TTB Rating:
79

Beigel is a transplant from Germany who is a blank slate. Jim Harbaugh tried to go heavy on international prospects over the past several years, recruiting Beigel, fellow German Julius Welschof, Frenchman Aymeric Koumba, Canadian Luiji Vilain, Canadian Benjamin St-Juste, and several other foreign players who did not end up signing with the Wolverines.

I'm not sure what to think of Beigel so far because his film is so limited, but athletically, he looks to be top-notch when it comes to movement for his size. A soccer player when he was younger, he maintains foot quickness and change-of-direction skills rarely seen in players his size. The real questions are about his technique and strength, both of which seem to have a way to go. Already at 6'5" and 280 pounds, he is likely to end up as a 3-tech defensive tackle, but he looks like a guy who might get pushed around and washed out of the play in the Big Ten. My guess is that he redshirts this season while learning some nuances of big-time college football.

Prediction: Redshirt

Monday, April 8, 2024

2024 Season Countdown: #128 Zach Ludwig

 

Zach Ludwig (image via MGoBlue)

Name: Zach Ludwig
Height:
6'3"
Weight:
202 lbs.
High school:
South Park (PA) South Park
Position:
Linebacker
Class:
Freshman
Jersey number:
N/A
Last year:
Ludwig was a senior in high school.
TTB Rating:
55

Ludwig is one of the most interesting commitments during my time covering Michigan football. The nephew of (former) strength coach Ben Herbert, Ludwig got an offer from the Wolverines and committed, without seeming to have any other schools pursuing him. When scouring his film, it was hard to see where he might fit in - quarterback, tight end, linebacker, long snapper? Nobody really seems to know. Even the status of his "scholarship offer" seems to have been in question.

Now that Herbert is the strength coach for the Los Angeles Chargers, one has to wonder if Ludwig will stick around in Ann Arbor. Regardless, at a listed 6'3" and 202 pounds, Ludwig is unlikely to play as a freshman. Perhaps when he adds some strength down the road, he can be considered a threat to play some special teams.

Prediction: Redshirt

Sunday, April 7, 2024

2024 Season Countdown: #129 Liam Groulx

 

Liam Groulx (image via Twitter)

Name: Liam Groulx
Height:
6'0"
Weight:
227 lbs.
High school:
Charlotte (NC) Providence Day
Position:
Linebacker
Class:
Redshirt freshman
Jersey number:
#53
Last year:
I did not rank Groulx. He redshirted.
TTB Rating:
N/A

Groulx attended the same high school as freshman quarterback Jadyn Davis and freshman wide receiver Channing Goodwin. He played some outside linebacker in high school, but he lacks the quickness to play in space and currently lacks adequate size to play his current position of inside linebacker. If he wants to see the field in the future, he will likely have to continue bulking up for another year or two. On top of that, Michigan currently has ten scholarship inside linebackers on the roster, and that doesn't include special teams demon Christian Boivin, who has been earning a little bit of praise so far this spring. This will likely be another "redshirt" year for Groulx.

Prediction: Backup linebacker

Thursday, April 4, 2024

2024 Season Countdown: #130 Grayson Dee

 

Grayson Dee (image via Twitter)

Name: Grayson Dee
Height:
6'1"
Weight:
228 lbs.
High school:
Pittsburgh (PA) Mt. Lebanon
Position:
Linebacker
Class:
Redshirt freshman
Jersey number:
#38
Last year:
I did not rank Dee. He redshirted.
TTB Rating:
N/A

Dee was a high school defensive end and tight end who has the body of an old-school Michigan fullback. I get Kevin Dudley vibes when watching his high school Hudl film, and he's now listed at 6'1", 228 lbs. (Dudley was 6'0", 238).

There are too many talented inside linebackers on the roster for Dee to get much playing time consideration, but perhaps some special teams time or - if the coaches want to know what's good for them - a move to fullback could pay off down the line.

Prediction: Backup linebacker

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

The 2023 Season Countdown is Coming!

 

Every year since 2009, I have counted down from the least important player on that year’s roster to the most important player, including starters, scholarship players, preferred walk-ons, special teams players, student body walk-ons, and everyone in between.

In case you want a look back at last year’s list, here it is (LINK). Michigan was very lucky to keep its top players healthy, including #1 overall J.J. McCarthy, who is poised to be a top-10 draft pick here in a few weeks.

YEARLY DISCLAIMER: The countdown is by the player’s importance to the team, not his overall talent. A talented player at a deep position won’t necessarily be missed a lot if he gets injured, but an injury to a moderately talented player at a thin position could be devastating. For example, I had cornerback Ambry Thomas ranked at #2 in 2020 because he was the team's only proven cornerback. Naturally, he opted out of the season and the team as a whole was an unmitigated disaster. Meanwhile, first round pick Kwity Paye was #6 because more talent was returning on the defensive line.

Another thing to note is the transfer portal, which causes players to jump in and out with more frequency than in the past. So despite my having a list already put together, there are going to be guys who enter and leave the program in the interceding months between now and August.

If you appreciate the content here at TTB, please consider making a donation via Paypal. Thanks to Stephen, Ashley, James, and Paul for their recent donations!

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Visitors: March 29-31, 2024

 

Santa Ana (CA) Mater Dei RB Jordon Davison (image via John Bowers)

2025

Spencer Beckeman - OT - Rochester (MI) Stoney Creek: Beckeman is a 6'6", 280 lb. prospect with offers from a handful of MAC and Ivy League teams.

Michael Carroll - OT - Doylestown (PA) Central Bucks East: Carroll is a 6'5", 290-pounder with offers from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Penn State, Texas, and USC, among others. He's a 4-star, the #15 offensive tackle, and #243 overall.

Jordon Davison - RB - Santa Ana (CA) Mater Dei: Davison is a 5'11", 203 lb. prospect with offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Texas, USC, and lots of others. He's a 4-star, the #7 running back, and #83 overall. New running backs coach Tony Alford was recruiting him to Ohio State and now is trying to pull him in for the Wolverines.

Hit the jump for more.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Karmello English, Ex-Wolverine

 

Karmello English

Rising sophomore wide receiver Karmello English is no longer a part of Michigan's football program and is headed to the transfer portal. English played in six games last season. He caught 1 pass for a 4-yard touchdown and returned 1 punt for 8 yards.

English was a 4-star, the #26 wide receiver, and #189 overall in the class of 2023. I gave him a TTB Rating of 82 (LINK).

English was the highest rated of Michigan's three wide receivers in 2023 (four if you include QB-turned-WR Kendrick Bell), but he was very clearly the lowest on the depth chart (except for Bell). Fellow freshman Semaj Morgan became a key component of the offense down the stretch, and classmate Frederick Moore played quite a bit as well. Meanwhile, English played in just six games, none of them after October. Perhaps the depth chart was an issue, and perhaps English just wants to play closer to home.

Michigan lost two receivers to the NFL this off-season (Roman Wilson and Cornelius Johnson) and isn't bringing in any game-ready prospects in 2024, so I assume the Wolverines will be in the market for a receiver or two via the transfer portal. Channing Goodwin and I'Marion Stewart are both solid prospects, but neither one is expected to be an immediate star. While Tyler Morris and Morgan have both shown promise, the receiving corps is made up of mostly small wideouts who are short and intermediate targets, but the downfield speed and size are somewhat lacking with this roster.

English is the second member of the 2023 class to depart, following cornerback Cam Calhoun, who transferred to Utah.

2025 Recruiting Update: March 24, 2024

 

Quitman (MS) Quitman RB Akylin Dear (image via 247 Sports)

ADDED TO THE BOARD: 2025

Vero Beach (FL) Vero Beach linebacker Tarvos "T.J." Alford (4-star, #8 LB, #63 overall) was offered by Michigan. Florida State, Miami, and Ohio State are all in line to get official visits, and his lone crystal ball pick is in favor of the home state Florida Gators. But Brian Jean-Mary extended an offer for Michigan shortly after being hired, and with the new rule that players can take as many officials as they want, there's still plenty of room for Michigan to make a move. Alford is planning to announce his decision on March 30, but all three of his scheduled officials are for after that date.

Quitman (MS) Quitman running back Akylin Dear (4-star, #2 RB, #32 overall) was offered by brand new running backs coach Tony Alford, who had been recruiting Dear to Ohio State. He's a 6'1", 200 lb. back with offers from virtually every big-time program across the country, including Alabama, Georgia, Oregon, and Texas. He also holds offers from the two in-state schools in Mississippi State and Ole Miss.

Loxahatchee (FL) Seminole Ridge linebacker Ty Jackson (4-star, #15 LB, #105 overall) was offered by Michigan. Another Jean-Mary attempt, Jackson also has offers from Florida State, Georgia, Penn State, and Tennessee, among others; FSU, PSU, and UT are all supposed to get officials. Jackson has totaled 378 tackles in his three-year varsity career, along with 15 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, and 4 interceptions.

Hit the jump for more.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

2024 Spring Football Preview: Linebacker

 

Jaishawn Barham

2023 Starters: MLB Junior Colson, WLB Michael Barrett
Losses: Colson (NFL), Barrett (NFL)
Returning players: Jaydon Hood (RS Jr.), Ernest Hausmann (Jr.), Micah Pollard (Jr.), Jimmy Rolder (RS So.), Semaj Bridgeman (RS Fr.), Jason Hewlett (RS Fr.), Hayden Moore (RS Fr.)
Newcomers: Jaishawn Barham (Jr.), Jeremiah Beasley (Fr.), Cole Sullivan (Fr.)
Projected starters: MLB Barham, WLB Hausmann

With the prevalence of the nickel position, linebacker has been somewhat de-emphasized in recent years. A position group that used to play three guys is now primarily whittled down to two. Michigan had a very good two in 2023 in Junior Colson and Michael Barrett, but both are off to the NFL. Both have had very different paths, with Colson playing three years - two as a starter - and Barrett bouncing around between running back, slot receiver, Viper, and weakside linebacker.

Michigan will have two new starting faces at linebacker in 2024, and both of them are transfers who previously wore red. Barham is a two-year starter at Maryland whom the Wolverines poached this off-season. Hausmann started as a freshman at Nebraska in 2022 before joining the Wolverines in 2023, rotating heavily with Colson and Barrett as basically a third starter. So while both will be new starters at Michigan, they have three combined years of starting and another year of heavily involvement out of four college seasons. That's a ton of experience for two "new" starters and should help Michigan's defense succeed in 2024.

The backup situation is a little murkier, especially with a new defensive coordinator (Wink Martindale) and a new linebackers coach (Brian Jean-Mary). Jimmy Rolder got a lot of experience in 2022 before playing sparingly in 2023 in the hopes of preserving his redshirt, which was a successful endeavor. Rolder seems like the most likely guy to emerge as a rotational guy or primary backup in 2024. Meanwhile, Jaydon Hood is a fourth-year player who was recruited by Jean-Mary to Michigan out of high school; some suspected Hood would have left by now with no clear path to playing time, but he's still wearing a winged helmet.

Junior Micah Pollard has played a ton of special teams and some in a backup role, but the rest of the guys are total unknowns on the college level. Semaj Bridgeman, Jason Hewlett, and Hayden Moore all redshirted in 2023, and Michigan gets two early enrollees involved this spring with in-state product Jeremiah Beasley and Pennsylvanian Cole Sullivan. There are way too many players (10) in the linebacker room to support just two starting spots, so this is a position group that will certainly be thinned out by transfers within the next couple years. But for now, it will be interesting to see who could eventually step in, because both Barham and Hausmann could conceivably jump to the NFL with solid seasons in 2024.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Visitors: March 22-24, 2024

 

Indianapolis (IN) Warren Central DE Damien Shanklin (image via Hudl)

If you feel like supporting TTB, please use the Amazon links here (LINK):

2025

Andrew Babalola - OT - Overland Park (KS) Blue Valley Northwest: Babalola is a 6'6", 280 lb. prospect with offers from Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, and Oregon, among others. He's a 5-star, the #5 offensive tackle, and #26 overall. The only official visit he has scheduled so far has been to Oklahoma.

JaDon Blair - S - Winston Salem (NC) Mount Tabor: Blair is a 6'4", 190-pounder with offers from Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State, South Carolina, and Virginia Tech, all of whom have scheduled official visits coming. Michigan's official is set for June 14. Blair is a 4-star, the #13 safety, and #143 overall.

Jamauri Brice - WR - Cartersville (GA) Cartersville: Brice is a 5'9", 180 lb. prospect with offers from Georgia, Michigan, and Oregon, among others. He's a 3-star, the #49 athlete, and #616 overall.

Hit the jump for more.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Way Too Early 2024 Depth Chart: March 2024

 

Colston Loveland (image via MLive)

The following depth chart has removed these listed players from the depth chart:

  • RB C.J. Stokes (transfer to Charlotte)
  • WR Darrius Clemons (transfer to Oregon State)
  • WR Eamonn Dennis (transfer)
  • TE Matt Hibner (transfer)
  • DL Reece Atteberry (transfer)
  • LB Joey Velazquez (transfer to Ohio State)
  • CB Cam Calhoun (transfer to Utah)
  • CB Amorion Walker (transfer to Ole Miss)
  • S Keon Sabb (transfer to Alabama)

Also, I re-added QB Jack Tuttle and S Quinten Johnson, both of whom have come back to the program; Tuttle got a seventh year of eligibility, and Johnson pulled out of the NFL Draft.

It also assumes that every currently rostered player and every currently committed prospect will be here in the fall of 2024, which is obviously not true.

Hit the jump for the depth chart.

Monday, March 18, 2024

2024 Spring Football Preview: Defensive Line

 

Kenneth Grant (#78, image via Yahoo!)

2023 Starters: OLB Jaylen Harrell, DT Mason Graham, DT Kris Jenkins, DE Braiden McGregor
Losses: Reece Atteberry (transfer), Cam Goode (NFL), Harrell (NFL), McGregor (NFL)
Returning players: Josaiah Stewart (Sr.), Kechaun Bennett (RS Jr.), Rayshaun Benny (RS Jr.), T.J. Guy (RS Jr.), Ike Iwunnah (RS Jr.), Tyler McLaurin (RS Jr.), Graham (Jr.), Grant (Jr.), Derrick Moore (Jr.), Alessandro Lorenzetti (RS So.), Breeon Ishmail (So.), Cameron Brandt (So.), Roderick Pierce (So.), Brooks Bahr (RS Fr.), Enow Etta (RS Fr.), Aymeric Koumba (RS Fr.)
Newcomer: DE Dominic Nichols (Fr.)
Projected starters: OLB Stewart, DT Graham, DT Grant, DE Moore

Michigan had an excellent defensive line in 2023, and it might have been the best position group on the national championship squad. The biggest differential in the national championship game against Washington was Michigan's defensive line against the offensive line of the Huskies. Washington had a couple potential high draft picks in that group, and the Wolverines tossed them around like rag dolls.

Whereas Michigan had dynamic edge rushers in 2021 with David Ojabo and Aidan Hutchinson, the interior of the defensive line has been the strength the past two years. That should be the case once again in 2024, though I'm expecting a little more pass rush from the edge guys this season. Mason Graham and Kenneth Grant are entrenched as the starters at defensive tackle, and they should be the #1 defensive tackle combo in the nation. Grant is 6'3" and 340 pounds but is fast enough to chase down Penn State running backs from behind. Graham is 6'4", 310 and plays with both explosion and technique.

Michigan needs someone to emerge from the backup ranks, as starter Kris Jenkins, Jr. and frequently used backup Cam Goode have both moved on. Rayshaun Benny broke his foot late in the season, too, and will probably not be full strength until the fall. This spring look for Roderick Pierce to get some heavy rotation after playing a decent amount as the fourth nose tackle a year ago. Ike Iwunnah is a fourth-year player who has yet to see the field, so it's tough to see him breaking out at this point, and Alessandro Lorenzetti is another player with decent size (6'5", 301) who has yet to see the field. Michigan will either have to play one of those inexperienced older guys or give a shot to some young guys who really needed to bulk up from "strongside defensive end" vibes to playing tackle, such as Cameron Brandt or Brooks Bahr.

On the edges, Josaiah Stewart - who spent his first two seasons at Coastal Carolina - and Derrick Moore seem like very good bets to start. Stewart should step in capably for Harrell, and Moore should slide in smoothly for McGregor. They both rotated heavily last year and received a ton of playing time, and Stewart in particular showed a lot of growth throughout the year as he adjusted to playing in the Big Ten.

Once again, the big questions come from the backup ranks. Who will step up to rotate into the game frequently? And will anyone turn into an elite pass rusher? T.J. Guy is a fourth-year player with a good bit of experience, and he could be a solid backup option. He's probably not a game-changer at this point, so the guys fans really want to see are the likes of Breeon Ishmail and Enow Etta. Both had excellent potential coming out of high school, and Etta was a highly valued recruit who was absolutely dominant in high school (20+ sacks in each of his final two seasons) but played against inferior competition.

Aymeric Koumba is a second-year Frenchman, and Dominic Nichols is an early enrollee freshman. Both have potential but it seems a little early for them to make much of an impact.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

2024 Spring Football Preview: Offensive Line

 

Myles Hinton (image via MLive)

2023 Starters: LT La'Darius Henderson, LG Trevor Keegan, C Drake Nugent, RG Zak Zinter, RT Karsen Barnhart
Losses: Barnhart (NFL), Henderson (NFL), Trente Jones (NFL), Keegan (NFL), Nugent (NFL), Zinter (NFL)
Returning players: Myles Hinton (RS Sr.), Jeffrey Persi (RS Sr.), Raheem Anderson (RS Jr.), Tristan Bounds (RS Jr.), Greg Crippen (RS Jr.), Giovanni El-Hadi (RS Jr.), Dominic Giudice (RS Jr.), Andrew Gentry (RS So.), Connor Jones (RS So.), Nathan Efobi (RS Fr.), Amir Herring (RS Fr.), Evan Link (RS Fr.)
Newcomers: Josh Priebe (RS Sr.), Blake Frazier (Fr.), Jake Guarnera (Fr.)
Projected starters: LT Hinton, LG El-Hadi, C Crippen, RG Priebe, RT Persi

Michigan went from having a terrible offensive line under Brady Hoke to a decent offensive line at the beginning of the Harbaugh era to one of the best in the country at the end of Harbaugh's tenure. In two of Harbaugh's final three seasons, Michigan won the Joe Moore Award for the best offensive line in the country; in the third season, they lost the award but won a national championship. And now most of the key pieces to those awards and accomplishments are either in the NFL or heading there soon.

Much like the quarterback position, nobody really has a great idea of how the position group will shake out. Will it be as good as it was in 2021-2023? That's unlikely. Could it still be a solid conglomeration? Sure. Four of the starters above (Hinton, El-Hadi, Crippen, and Persi) were 4-star prospects or better, and the only 3-star (Priebe) is a multi-year starter coming from Northwestern. Furthermore, they are all veteran players in at least their fourth year of college.

At offensive tackle, Hinton started one-third of the season before ceding his spot to Barnhart in 2023, so he seems like the most likely to start. On the right side, it could be a battle between Persi and Gentry. Both have looked somewhat rough in limited time, but Persi has two years of experience on Gentry, whose footwork still looked pretty sloppy in 2023.

At the guard positions, El-Hadi is another player who has some starting experience a couple seasons ago as an injury fill-in, so he seems likely to slide right in this season. Priebe is a veteran starting presence who should be able to fend off most contenders, if not all of them.

Word coming out of Ann Arbor about Crippen has been that he's a potential All-American, but he's just been blocked by two really good players in Olu Oluwatimi and Nugent over the past couple years. I have some doubts because I'm not sure why the coaching staff would recruit over him if he was that good, but he's also two years older now than he was when Oluwatimi swooped in, so perhaps his improvement in that time has been significant.

Despite losing six offensive linemen to the draft, Michigan goes into spring with 15 other scholarship linemen on the roster. That's somewhat mind-boggling to consider, since a team might have carried just 13 linemen a few years ago. In that bygone era of like 2019, we would be looking at 7 returning players and 6 true freshmen arriving sporadically in January and then June. Instead, there are 12 returning players, a transfer, and 2 early enrollee freshmen available for the spring, not to mention further reinforcements arriving this summer.

Some projected backups to keep an eye on are Raheem Anderson, who was reportedly ahead of Crippen early in their careers but has since appeared to be more of a factor at guard; Gentry, who could potentially start at tackle over Persi; and Herring, who's a powerful offensive guard option that looked good in the spring game in 2023. Aside from Gentry possibly starting, Anderson and Herring are almost certainly backups for this season. Another players I'll also be watching closely is Tristan Bounds, a behemoth of a player whose balance has been questionable in limited field time.

Visitors: March 15-17, 2024

 

Shawnee (KS) Mill Valley DE Jayden Woods (image via SI)

2025

Luke Metz - LB - Hoschton (GA) Mill Creek: Metz is a 6'3", 220-pounder who was recently offered by Michigan. New linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary offered Metz at Tennessee, and now he extended an offer for the Wolverines. Metz is a 4-star, the #48 linebacker, and #420 overall. Metz plans to make an unofficial visit this weekend, and the hope is to get him back on campus for an official visit, since he plans to make a college commitment later this spring. Metz also has offers

Jayden Woods - DE - Shawnee (KS) Mill Valley: Woods is a 6'3", 240 lb. edge prospect with offers from Alabama, Florida, Kansas State, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, and others. I mention Kansas State because his father played for KSU back in the 2000s. He's a 4-star, the #19 EDGE, and #212 overall. He took an official visit to Ann Arbor on March 14.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Mike Hart, Ex-Wolverine

 

Mike Hart (image via Yahoo! Sports)

This seems like old-ish news considering it happened a few days ago and Michigan has already found a replacement, but former star running back Mike Hart will not return as Michigan's running backs coach in 2024. He had been with the program since 2021. Michigan has since replaced him with Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford (more on that in another post).

Hart is Michigan's all-time leading rusher after playing for the Wolverines from 2004-2007. After a brief NFL career, he then went on to coach for Eastern Michigan, Syracuse, and Indiana before returning to Ann Arbor from 2021-2023. While at Michigan, he won three Big Ten championships and a national championship. He also seemed to have a very positive effect on Michigan's running backs, fostering the development of Hassan Haskins, Blake Corum, and Donovan Edwards, among others. Haskins (2021) and Corum (2022, 2023) each had 1,000-yard rushing seasons under his tutelage, and he nearly had a second 1,000-yard rusher in 2021 (Corum had 952 yards) and 2022 (Edwards had 991).

Hart had recently been on a "leave of absence" attending to a personal matter, but the writing seemed to be on the wall that he would not return to Michigan's staff under new head coach Sherrone Moore. It appears Hart has - or at least had - hopes of being Michigan's head coach someday, but he was passed up for offensive coordinator (by Moore), interim head coach in 2023 (Moore again), and eventually head coach (Moore once more). I'm not saying that had anything to do with Hart's departure, but from Hart's perspective, that probably caused some hurt feelings; and from Moore's perspective, he may feel some concern about whether Hart can buy into the new regime.

On a personal level, I have never been a huge fan of Hart. While yes, I do recognize him as a Michigan great - and he was a lot of fun to watch as a pinball running back - his personality rubbed me the wrong way. I didn't appreciate his "Little Brother" comments toward Michigan State near the end of his playing career. I didn't appreciate when he said Jim Harbaugh wasn't a Michigan Man back in the day when Harbaugh was challenging Michigan to raise its standards, even before Harbaugh was head coach. And I also participated in a coaching clinic where I was not impressed by Hart's attitude and participation.

Overall, I think Hart is a very good developer of talent. I think he understands ball security, pass protection, mental and physical toughness, reading defenses, etc. But my belief is - and this is, let's say, educated speculation - that Hart is not exactly the easiest guy to get along with behind closed doors. So when it comes to putting together a staff, I'm not too awfully surprised that Hart and the new coaching regime are going in separate directions.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

2024 Spring Football Preview: Tight End

 

Colston Loveland

2023 Starters: Colston Loveland, A.J. Barner
Losses: Barner (NFL), Matt Hibner (transfer)
Returning players: Max Bredeson (RS Jr.), Loveland (Jr.), Marlin Klein (RS So.), Zack Marshall (RS Fr.), Deakon Tonielli (RS Fr.)
Newcomer: Brady Prieskorn (Fr.)
Projected starters: Klein, Loveland

The tight end position is the one that has perhaps separated Michigan from so many other teams over the past several years. Not only has Michigan had some quality players in the role, but the number, usage, and motion of the tight ends have become staples of Michigan's offensive approach.

Probably the best tight end to come along during Jim Harbaugh's tenure was Colston Loveland (45 catches, 649 yards, 4 touchdowns), a rising junior who has the athleticism of some of the elite tight ends playing in the NFL. He's good enough that this is probably his last season in Ann Arbor before getting drafted in 2025.

One-time Indiana transfer A.J. Barner (22 catches, 249 yards, 1 touchdown) was an excellent blocker and underrated pass catcher, but he's headed to the NFL in next month's draft. It appears the next guy in line to play a bunch of snaps in Barner's place is Marlin Klein, a 6'6", 250-pounder who had just 1 catch for 8 yards last fall. He needed to put on some weight early in his career, but he seems to finally be reaching a good playing weight to handle some of the blocking duties.

It's also important to mention quasi-starting tight end Max Bredeson, who plays more of a fullback position but nonetheless started four games last season. He caught 2 passes for 19 yards altogether, but he's a bruising blocker. At 6'2" and 240 lbs., he's unlikely to move into a true tight end role and will probably carry on as a fullback.

Redshirt freshman Zack Marshall (6'4", 232) played in two games last year while redshirting, and classmate Deakon Tonielli (6'5", 251) has some decent size already but did not get any experience. The most likely returning player to step into Klein's role as the #3 tight end seems to be Marshall, who should be a little bigger this spring (and fall).

One of the most intriguing names, though, is freshman early enrollee Brady Prieskorn (6'6", 220), who was a 4-star and the #129 overall player in the class of 2024. He's an all-around tight end somewhat in the mold of Loveland in that he's a good athlete who's not afraid of contact. His physical development is going to be key in determining how ready he is to step on the field this fall. But if he's even borderline ready from a physical standpoint, we could see him begin to emerge this spring as someone who could jump over Marshall and Tonielli to become that #3 tight end.

Friday, March 8, 2024

2024 Spring Football Preview: Wide Receiver

 

Semaj Morgan (image via MGoBlue)

2023 Starters: Cornelius Johnson, Roman Wilson
Losses: Darrius Clemons (Oregon State), Johnson (NFL), Wilson (NFL)
Returning players: Eamonn Dennis (RS Sr.), Peyton O'Leary (RS Jr.), Tyler Morris (RS So.), Karmello English (So.), Frederick Moore (So.), Semaj Morgan (So.), Kendrick Bell (RS Fr.)
Newcomer: Channing Goodwin (Fr.)
Projected starters: Morris, Morgan

For some teams who play three and four wide receivers on every down, losing two senior wide receivers might not seem like a huge deal. So in the context of college football, the departures of Cornelius Johnson (47 catches, 604 yards, 1 touchdown) and Roman Wilson (48, 789, 12) might not seem like a huge deal. Johnson was the large-ish possession receiver, and Wilson was the speedy deep and intermediate threat. And then there were usually a couple tight ends roaming all over the place. Altogether, Michigan got just 47 other receptions from receivers not named Johnson or Wilson, and 3 of those came from Clemons, who is now plying his trade for the Beavers.

Based on playing time and targets last season, the two front-runners for starting roles in 2024 should be Morris and Morgan. Morris started four games - so he's kind of a returning starter, I guess - and made 13 catches for 197 yards and 1 touchdown. But that one touchdown was a huge, key play when he got matched up against a linebacker against Alabama in the Rose Bowl and caught a crossing route for a 38-yard touchdown. Meanwhile, Morgan caught 22 passes for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns, and he also had an 87-yard punt return against Iowa in the Big Ten Championship game. He showed some downfield receiving chops in high school, but so far he's been more of a catch-and-run guy with jitterbug moves - witness his screen catch for a TD against Washington - and adding in 4 carries for 67 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Last year's spring game star was walk-on Peyton O'Leary (2 catches, 13 yards, 1 touchdown), who could factor in more this season if Michigan needs a big possession guy at 6'4" and 190 lbs. Frederick Moore (4 catches, 32 yards) and Karmello English (1 catch, 6 yards, 1 touchdown) will also factor in somehow. Some people think Moore could be the fastest player on the team.

Players with less of a chance to make an impact include fifth year senior Eamonn Dennis (who has yet to make a catch in his career but plays a lot of special teams), Kendrick Bell (who was a high school quarterback until making the position switch last year), and early enrollee freshman Channing Goodwin. Bell's brother Ronnie is now a wide receiver in the NFL with the 49ers, and Goodwin has some good bloodlines, as his father was a lineman for Michigan and in the NFL. But it's unlikely that any of them play a huge role in 2024. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

2024 NFL Combine Results: Michigan

 

Cornelius Johnson (image via WolverinesWire)

Here's a summary of how Michigan players measured in and performed at the Combine last week:

TE A.J. Barner
Height: 6'6"
Weight: 251
Arm: 33 3/8"
Hand: 9"

OL Karsen Barnhart
Height: 6'4.5"
Weight: 306
Arm: 33 3/8"
Hand: 9 7/8"
40: 5.21
Vertical: 29.5"
5-10-5: 4.7
3-cone: 7.83
Broad jump: 9'3"

LB Mike Barrett
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 233
Arm: 32 1/8"
Hand: 8 1/2"

LB Junior Colson
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 238
Arm: 32 1/2"
Hand: 9 3/8"

RB Blake Corum
Height: 5'8"
Weight: 205
Arm: 28 7/8"
Hand: 9"
40: 4.53
Vertical: 35.5"
5-10-5: 4.12
Bench: 27
3-cone: 6.82

EDGE Jaylen Harrell
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 250
Arm: 33 1/4"
Hand: 9 3/4"
Vertical: 37"
Broad jump: 9'7"

OL La'Darius Henderson
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 309
Arm: 35"
Hand: 10 5/8"
Bench: 20

DL Kris Jenkins
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 299
Arm: 34"
Hand: 9 3/8"
40: 4.91
Vertical: 30"
5-10-5: 4.78
Bench: 29
Broad jump: 9'7"

WR Cornelius Johnson
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 212
Arm: 31 7/8"
Hand: 8 5/8"
40: 4.44
Vertical: 37.5"
Broad jump: 10'7"

OL Trente Jones
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 305
Arm: 33"
Hand: 10 1/8"
40: 5.17
Vertical: 27"
5-10-5: 4.87
3-cone: 7.78
Broad jump: 9'1"

OG Trevor Keegan
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 310
Arm: 32 3/8"
Hand: 10"
40: 5.24
Vertical: 30.5"
Broad jump: 8'11"

QB J.J. McCarthy
Height: 6'2.5"
Weight: 219
Hand: 9"
Arm: 31 5/8"
3-cone drill: 6.82
5-10-5: 4.23

EDGE Braiden McGregor
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 257
Arm: 33 1/8"
Hand: 10"

C Drake Nugent
Height: 6'1.5"
Weight: 298
Arm: 33"
Hand: 9"
40: 5.23
Vertical: 29.5"
5-10-5: 4.5
Bench: 25
3-cone: 7.33
Broad jump: 8.5"

CB Mike Sainristil
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 182
Arm: 30 7/8"
Hand: 8 1/2"
40: 4.47
Vertical: 40"
5-10-5: 4.01
Bench: 14
3-cone: 6.99
Broad jump: 10'11"

CB Josh Wallace
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 185
Arm: 31 3/8"
Hand: 8 7/8"
Vertical: 34.5"
5-10-5: 4.35
Bench: 13
Broad jump: 10'

WR Roman Wilson
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 185
Arm: 30 3/8"
Hand: 9 3/8"
40: 4.39
Bench: 12

OG Zak Zinter
Height: 6'6"
Weight: 309
Arm: 33 1/2"
Hand: 9 3/8"