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Ranking Michigan’s transfers from the 2023 Portal Class

How did Michigan’s big portal class stack up this season?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 02 Big Ten Championship Game - Michigan vs Iowa Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

One of the biggest storylines coming out of the offseason was how active Jim Harbaugh and Michigan were in the transfer portal. With their efforts, the Wolverines were able to land nine transfer players to address several team needs in preparation for the 2023 season.

With such a big portal class, it was somewhat of a surprise to see nearly all of the newcomers have an impact on the field right away, but each played an important role and had something to do with Michigan’s 13-0 season. Today we’ll take a look at which five players from the portal made the biggest impact on the field this season.

5. James Turner

When Jake Moody left for the NFL following the 2022 season, everyone knew there were going to be some big shoes to fill. James Turner, a Saline native and former Louisville kicker, stepped in, however, and did an admirable job for the Wolverines in 2023. He finished the season converting 16 of 18 field goals (with a long of 50 yards) and 58 of 59 extra point attempts.

Where Turner made his biggest impact, though, was in the regular season finale against Ohio State. In The Game, he converted all three of his field goal attempts, including a 50-yarder to help Michigan secure the victory. He might not be the same as “Money Moody,” but his services have still been much appreciated.

4. AJ Barner

Coming into the year, there were some lofty expectations for sophomore tight end Colston Loveland. While Loveland is a talented and valuable player, he wasn’t going to be able to carry the entire load for the tight end room. Enter AJ Barner, a former Indiana Hoosier with chops as a pass catcher and blocker.

On the season, Barner finished with 22 receptions for 249 yards and one touchdown. Barner was a piece of the offense from early in the season, giving Michigan two big-bodied threats over the middle of the field. His biggest game came against Michigan State, where he secured eight receptions for 99 yards and a touchdown.

3. LaDarius Henderson

With the departure of Ryan Hayes following the 2022 season, Michigan was going to need reinforcement along the offensive line. Arizona State transfer LaDarius Henderson stepped in to fill the void, making eight starts for the Wolverines at left tackle and appearing in 12 games overall.

While it might have taken some time for Henderson to settle in, he was eventually able to establish himself as a starter, and went on to have a great season. He even earned All-Big Ten Honors for his efforts, as a first-team selection from the coaches and a second-team selection from the media.

2. Josh Wallace

Another spot where Michigan needed help coming into 2023 was the secondary. The departures of D.J. Turner, Gemon Green, and R.J. Moten meant that Michigan was going to need someone with veteran experience to help out. Fortunately, it got that with late portal addition Josh Wallace from UMass.

Wallace made nine starts at corner for Michigan in 2023 and even earned All-Big Ten honorable mentions from the coaches and media for his efforts. He was consistently a headache for opposing receivers by playing some sticky coverage and getting his hands on the ball to break up passes. Without his play and experience, it might have been a much different story for Michigan in the secondary this season.

1. Drake Nugent

Michigan hit the jackpot in the transfer portal entering 2022 with the pickup of Olu Oluwatimi from Virginia. Oluwatimi was the 2022 recipient of the Rimington and Outland awards, and was arguably the best center in college football. The Wolverines went back to the portal for 2023, this time picking up Drake Nugent from Stanford.

Nugent’s performance in 2023 makes it look like Michigan knocked it out of the park again at center. Nugent was a first-team All-Big Ten selection from the coaches and the media, and was also a finalist for the Rimington Award. His play certainly helped solidify an offensive line that underwent some turnover this year, and will continue to be important in the College Football Playoff with Zak Zinter’s absence.