The college football season begins this month, and postseason awards are starting to list off their players to watch for the upcoming season. For the Michigan Wolverines, it means a number of players are going to start getting some recognition for what they could in 2023.
On Tuesday, four Wolverines have been named to the Outland Trophy watch list — right guard Zak Zinter, left guard Trevor Keegan, transfer center Drake Nugent and defensive tackle Kris Jenkins. The award is given to the best interior lineman, offensive or defensive, in the country by the Football Writers Association of America.
Nugent has large shoes to fill left by last season’s Outland and Rimington Trophy winner, Olu Oluwatimi. The two-time All-Pac-12 honoree was the head of Stanford’s offensive line and was a captain last season. He’ll start right in between Zinter and Keegan, two of the most accomplished returning offensive linemen. They were both key in the back-to-back Joe Moore Award-winning offensive lines in Ann Arbor.
Zinter has started at right guard for the Wolverines since the COVID-shortened 2020 season. He brings 30 starts of experience into the 2023 campaign and is coming off a consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection last season. He’ll be leaned on heavily in the early season as Nugent gets his feet wet in the Michigan offense.
The same could be said for Keegan, who has 23 starts coming into the fall. He’s the biggest of the three guys at 6-foot-6 and 305 pounds. He’s been an All-Big Ten honoree in both seasons as a starter, and expects to be there again in 2023.
As for Jenkins, he is an expected captain this upcoming season and one of the premier talents on the defense. He was a solid contributor in 2022, compiling 54 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and two quarterback hurries. With another quality campaign, Jenkins could be among the first interior defensive linemen off the board in next spring’s draft.