Recruiting drastically changed in college athletics with the emergence of the transfer portal. At one time, a down year in recruiting could have a severe impact on a team’s performance. Now that it is easier for players to transfer to a new program without having to sit out for a year, team’s are able to lessen the blow of recruiting misses and more easily fill voids with experienced players.
Last winter, Michigan knocked it out of the park, with players like LaDarius Henderson, Ernest Hausmann, Myles Hinton, Drake Nugent, Josaiah Stewart, AJ Barner and James Turner, just to name a handful, that came in and made an immediate impact.
Looking ahead to 2024, the Wolverines are expected to have several positions to reload at. Let’s take a look at Michigan’s biggest positional needs it can fill via the portal.
A huge unknown at this time is whether or not J.J. McCarthy will return next season. The junior signal-caller has the talent and experience to go to the league and be a starter. His decision may depend on if Michigan wins the National Championship, as well as head coach Jim Harbaugh’s future in Ann Arbor. With the unknowns surrounding McCarthy’s plan, picking up a quarterback in the portal with starting experience may not be a bad idea.
Ideally, McCarthy returns to Ann Arbor for one more year, giving incoming freshman Jadyn Davis the opportunity to be mentored and gain some experience before being relied on to be to go-to guy. If McCarthy does leave, there are plenty of talented quarterbacks in the portal looking for a new home. This includes former five-star Dante Moore, who was a top target for the Wolverines coming out of high school.
Even if Moore — or other highly-touted quarterbacks — decide to transfer elsewhere, the Wolverines should look to get another Jack Tuttle type of quarterback, who brings leadership and experience to the room.
The Wolverines have also been deep and experienced along the offensive line. Following this season, the Wolverines will lose LaDarius Henderson, Trevor Keegan, Zak Zinter and Drake Nugent. There are several other serviceable members on Michigan’s roster, but none with a ton of starting experience.
Michigan has had great success getting star centers in the portal. Olu Oluwatimi won the Rimington Trophy while at Michigan, and Nugent is currently a finalist for the award.
The Wolverines may have to turn to the portal again following this year to see if they can find more talent along the offensive line.
Michigan has been much more balanced on offense this year than in year’s past. Sherrone Moore let McCarthy sling the rock and utilize their experienced wide receivers.
Following the season, Michigan will lose its two best receivers: Roman Wilson and Cornelius Johnson. While freshman Semaj Morgan is rapidly developing and been utilized often, the drop-off in talent and experience from there is sizeable. The Wolverines may want to bring in at least one experienced outside receiver while Morgan attempts to fill the void left by Wilson, allowing Michigan’s recruits and young wideouts more time to develop.
With great talent also comes great challenges. Each year, the Wolverines produce studs along the defensive line who translate into playmakers in the NFL. Unfortunately for Michigan, this means it is regularly looking to develop guys quickly or bring in experienced players from other programs. This will be the same situation heading into next season.
Kris Jenkins and Cam Goode will depart for the NFL after this season. Thankfully, the Wolverines are already looking to get ahead of this by offering Joey Slackman, who entered the portal from the University of Pennsylvania. The Wolverines shouldn’t stop there, as there are plenty of talented defensive linemen entering the portal daily.
With Michigan’s elite play in the trenches this season, Ann Arbor should be a popular landing spot for top talent looking to get recognized on a national level.
The time is coming that all Michigan fans have dread — Mike Sainristil will be departing Ann Arbor after this season. With some question marks as to who will be back in the secondary, it would benefit the Wolverines to pick up an experienced playmaker.
Michigan is already getting ahead of Sainristil’s departure as well by targeting Western Kentucky’s Upton Stout. Landing him would help bolster the defense as the Wolverines look to remain dominant next season.
The Wolverines knocked the transfer portal pickups out of the park last year, so hopefully they can do the same again.