With college football so close that you could practically reach out and deliver a sweet high-five to it, the presumed pecking order of the Michigan Wolverines depth chart has all but solidified itself in the minds of most. And with such a capable returning roster, who could blame them? The confidence behind knowing which players may or may not start is a luxury that has not been known by those that follow the Maize and Blue for quite some time.
What I’m curious about, however, is where the unforeseen heroes will come from in 2023. Moreover, who are the likeliest subjects to take that next step and become household names?
Excluding any prominent returning starters or transfers expected to start, we take our best guesses at some less-obvious Wolverines that may be lighting it up this fall.
The former three-star recruit from Jacksonville was recruited as an edge/SAM linebacker, but transitioned to inside linebacker last fall. Pollard has since flipped that script — gaining 15 pounds ahead of fall camp. We’ll be seeing the second-year man playing closer to 220 this time around.
Despite the transition inside, Pollard was more than impressive during his first season in Ann Arbor. As a freshman, he appeared in 12 games on special teams. Four of those contests included actual playing time at linebacker, in which he made eight tackles.
Given Jim Harbaugh’s decision to burn the Florida native’s redshirt and play him in 12 games last season, Pollard should be considered a dead giveaway for an extended role in 2023. The now-sophomore’s 123 snaps that were played last season will come as a major relief to a position group that was razor thin in 2022.
The Michigan defense, as talent-rich as at is, will still provide its fair share of opportunities for candidates to breakout at certain positions — the edge position being one.
Enter sleeper candidate TJ Guy. He has played a TON of ball for the Wolverines, including eight appearances at defensive end, and 12 total when considering his special teams snap contributions.
Held back by a foot injury during the spring, Guy appears ready to lay it all out on the field in 2023. During a recent interview with The Michigan Insider, Guy shared he was 100 percent healthy heading into the team’s summer workouts. His focus heading into his third season? Becoming a better all-around player.
“The little details and how they focus on those things to use into their game,” Guy said. “Little routines or regiments, just being a pro about things, even when you don’t have to be a pro about things.”
Whispers out of fall camp appear to indicate Jaydon Hood has continued his momentum from a spectacular spring game performance. The 6-foot-1, 225-pounder could have been easily mistaken for positional counterpart Junior Colson on that day — zipping around the field for a total of seven tackles (one for a loss).
You love to see Hood delivering upon his high school hype. The former four-star out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School ranked as the No. 247 overall player in the country per the 247Sports composite and will only add to a laundry-list of successes from the Wolverines’ 2021 recruiting class.
When asked recently about the offseason success of his fellow linebackers, team veteran Michael Barrett offered this bit of feedback on Hood.
“Jaydon Hood — I feel like he’s made a big step from last year,” Barrett said. “He’s coming along I feel — like really fast. Learning and being able to help us step into that next spot.”
We round our list off with a bit of young blood in true freshman Semaj Morgan. Momentum appears to have been slowly building for the former three-star wideout from West Bloomfield, and that narrative has only continued through fall camp.
Looks like freshman wide receiver Semaj Morgan is wearing No. 82 in camp. He’s listed as No. 12 on the team roster. pic.twitter.com/rq86s9lpyc— Brock Heilig (@brockheilig) August 9, 2023
First of all, is the kid not wearing the hell out of that No. 82? Absolute heat. This pick almost feels like a bit of a cheat to mention, as the freshman is already garnering plenty of praise, but following A.J. Henning’s departure to Northwestern, the Wolverines’ need for a speedster of Morgan’s caliber can’t be understated enough.
We did see the Michigan native featured as a punt returner during the spring game, and while that battle will likely take time to sort out, it’s clear Morgan likes where he stands in the competition.
“I feel real good about it,” Morgan told The Michigan Insider. “It’s nothing new to me or anything like that, or nerve-wracking. It’s like, ‘All right. Bet. I’ve got y’all.’”