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Five big takeaways from Michigan football’s eventful offseason

Michigan football has given us plenty to talk about over the last eight months,

Vrbo Fiesta Bowl - Michigan v TCU Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

Game week is here for the Michigan Wolverines, meaning another offseason is coming to a close. There has been no shortage of headlines over the last eight-plus months, leaving fans with plenty to unpack before this Saturday. Much has gone down since the last time the Wolverines took the field, so if you haven’t been keeping a close eye on the program this offseason, welcome back, and here are a few of the biggest things you may have missed.

Big moves in the transfer portal

Michigan is no stranger to the transfer portal, but this year the Wolverines hauled in a larger class than we’ve seen in recent years. Michigan welcomed in nine transfers this offseason, compared to a total of eight over the last three years. Despite plenty of returning talent on both sides of the ball, Jim Harbaugh and company have recognized the need for depth across the board and the importance of filling a few holes.

Some of these transfers, such as Josaiah Stewart (edge, Coastal Carolina), James Turner (kicker, Louisville), Josh Wallace (cornerback, UMass) and Drake Nugent (center, Stanford) are expected to be immediate starters, or at least key rotational pieces.

We hadn’t yet seen Michigan be this aggressive in the transfer portal era, signaling a greater sense of urgency from the coaching staff. Plenty of talent was brought in to address some of the team’s biggest needs. These new guys should certainly make a positive impact on a run toward a third-straight conference title and College Football Playoff appearance.

Jim Harbaugh vs. the NCAA

It’s a rivalry almost as good as Michigan-Ohio State. For a little over a week, we’ve known that Harbaugh would be suspended for the first three games of the season. The suspension was self-imposed by the University of Michigan, stemming from the NCAA investigation of the football program due to recruiting violations, watching player workouts via Zoom in 2020, and analysts performing on-field coaching duties. In response, Harbaugh and the program announced that different assistant coaches would take turns as the acting head coach over Michigan’s first three games.

We had seen this brewing for a few weeks after news leaked that a potential four-game suspension was looming ahead of media days in July. It is also unclear how the self-imposed suspension will impact any future action from the NCAA.

Additionally, we heard Harbaugh address the NCAA’s handling of NIL and its treatment of college athletes during his pre-ECU press conference on Monday. We haven’t seen the end of this saga yet, and we’ll likely need to continue to keep an eye on it through next offseason.

A more balanced offense?

Michigan has made running the ball its signature style of play over the last two seasons, but it’s possible we could see a more balanced attack this year. The Wolverines ran the ball 62 percent of the time last year, but recently we’ve heard players and coaches express a desire to air it out more.

“In order to get over that hump, in order to push through and wring out the most potential we have on offense, you got to be balanced,” quarterback J.J McCarthy said earlier this month.

Michigan’s duo of Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards, combined with another stout offensive line should enable Michigan to have success on the ground again. However, a talented quarterback such as J.J. McCarthy with a solid group of returning pass catchers makes it hard to ignore this team’s potential through the air.

Recruiting surge

With an eye toward the future, the Wolverines went on a tear on the recruiting trail over the last few months, securing 22 new commits for the 2024 recruiting class and two from the 2025 class since the end of the 2022 season.

The biggest of these recruits came in the form of 2024 quarterback Jadyn Davis, a top-10 quarterback prospect from North Carolina, on March 31. As we saw with the commitment of McCarthy in the 2021 class, blue-chip quarterbacks can pay dividends not only with their own talent, but in their ability to aid in the recruitment of other solid players.

Michigan’s 2024 recruiting class is already up to 27 commits and should continue to grow throughout the season. The class is currently ranked No. 8 nationally according to the 247Sports Composite and was even considered the best in the nation this spring. The Wolverines’ resurgence on the trail won’t be fully recognized until we see these players on the field, but it’s noteworthy nonetheless.

Revamped Big House

Michigan Stadium received some pretty notable upgrades this offseason. The most significant of these comes in the form of new and expanded video boards at the north and south ends of the stadium. The new boards come in at a whopping 152-by-55 feet, compared to 85-by-45 feet previously.

Additionally, a new LED lighting system was installed, which is equipped with color-changing capability allowing for music-synced light shows at night games. A new sound system was also installed. These upgrades signal a desire from the Athletic Department to solidify Michigan Stadium’s place as one of the best atmospheres in all of college football.