The 2023 Michigan Wolverines come into the season ranked No. 2 in both the AP Poll and Coaches Poll, and it is national championship or bust. The Wolverines are the two-time defending Big Ten champs and have made the College Football Playoff the last two years. This year, though, they are looking to take the next step.
The Wolverines are loaded with talent, but if they want to make a run, they will have to some players step up into bigger roles. Here are five guys ready to take that jump.
Colston Loveland - TE
Loveland burst on to the scene late in the 2022 season, catching a touchdown against Ohio State and then another in the Big Ten Championship against Purdue. It may have seemed like he had a bigger role last year, but he finished the season with just 16 receptions for 235 yards.
Loveland is primed to become a star, but he will have to take on a bigger role after Erick All transferred to Iowa and Luke Schoonmaker was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. Loveland has all the tools to be one of J.J. McCarthy’s favorite targets. Loveland looked up for the task last year, but this year is his opportunity to take the next step.
Jaydon Hood - LB
Hood came to Michigan as a four-star recruit out of Florida. He has played in just four games in two years, but all reports out of camp is he is ready to take the next step.
“The guy who I’d say who’s asserted himself the most is Jaydon Hood,” said Jim Harbaugh. “As far as where he was last year to where he is now. He is really getting right there in the mix — special teams and defensively.”
Jaylen Harrell - Edge
For the second year in a row, the Wolverines will have to replace a lot of production at edge rusher. In 2022, they had to find a way to replace Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, and Mike Morris did a great job. Morris, though, is gone and they will have to do it again this year.
Harrell is the guy who looks ready to make that jump. He had 19 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 2022 in limited time. He showed a lot of upside with his play in 2022 and could be a key member of the defense this season.
Darrius Clemons and Peyton O’Leary - WR
Yes, this is two players for one, but they play the same position and they are both looking to be more productive this year. The receiving core, as a whole, is needing to step up this year to compliment the rushing attack of Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards, and it looks like Clemons and O’Leary could be ready to help.
Cornelius Johnson and Roman Wilson are the top two receivers, but depth is still a big question mark. If Clemons and O’Leary can step up, the position group could become a strength for the Wolverines.
Josh Wallace - DB
Will Johnson is a young budding star and Mike Sainristil broke out last year after moving to defense, but the Wolverines need someone else to emerge in the defensive backfield.
Wallace is the guy primed to do that. Teams are going to want to avoid throwing Johnson’s way, and Wallace could be the one to lock down the other side. He did a good job last year at UMass with 32 tackles and two interceptions, but he has the chance to make an even bigger impact in 2023.
Should Wallace fill this void at a high level, the Wolverines would have little to no flaws on the defensive side of the ball.