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Jim Harbaugh believes QB Alex Orji has chance to be an all-time great kick returner

A creative way to utilize this Michigan QB and his athleticism.

Connecticut v Michigan Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

It’s been no secret that Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh thinks dual-threat quarterback Alex Orji is a freak athlete. Harbaugh once said looking at Orji is “like looking at Herschel Walker playing quarterback.”

And there could be a plan in motion where Orji’s athleticism is used at a position other than QB.

“A secret plan for Alex Orji. He’s got a chance to be maybe one of the greatest kick-returners of all time,” Harbaugh told the media on Tuesday. “Big 235-pound guy — he just started doing it, we’ll see how it goes. He’s also excelling at quarterback, so there will be some decisions that have to be made.”

As a high school senior in 2021, Orji threw for 2,064 yards and 28 passing touchdowns while rushing for 1,187 yards and 24 rushing touchdowns. Orji then went on to score two rushing touchdowns as a true freshman at Michigan last year.

While Harbaugh made it clear Orji is playing well at quarterback, J.J. McCarthy is locked in as Michigan’s QB1 and it would be wise to find creative ways to get the ball into Orji’s hands as a runner, and doing so on kick returns may be the best plan this fall. However, there’s a major caveat, blocking on kickoffs has to get better.

“We have to improve in our kickoff return blocking before I would agree to have Alex Orji returning the kick,” Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh said it’s made for excitement and enthusiasm but that it’s also been a bit of a challenge. Orji, although he just started returning kickoffs, is holding up to his end of the bargain.

“Our kickoff return blockers have seen what Alex can do as a kick returner, but the challenge is on them to get better. Get better at their fundamentals and techniques, and give him a chance,” Harbaugh said. “Because if we can make it happen, it would be really special.”

Harbaugh also mentioned other players that could return kicks including Kalel Mullings, Roman Wilson and Eamonn Dennis. As long as the blocking on returns gets better, it would be a surprise not to see Orji as a kickoff returner during Michigan’s non-conference schedule at the start of the season.