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Three candidates to emerge as WR3 for the Wolverines in 2023

The battle for WR3 is seemingly down to three players.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan Wolverines will have to replace a few key pieces on offense this season.

Michigan’s offensive line — despite replacing two premium positions in left tackle and center — will continue to be a perpetual machine of dominance as long as Sherrone Moore lives in Ann Arbor.

The running back room will be one of the best and biggest in the country and at tight end, Colston Loveland is a burgeoning star on the rise with three players behind him equipped to provide depth and versatility.

But what about the wide receivers? Michigan’s leading receiver from last season, Ronnie Bell, is in the NFL. Michigan’s fourth receiver in terms of snaps in 2022, Andrel Anthony, moved to Oklahoma.

There are several names you will be familiar with, but most of these players are largely unproven in meaningful game action. Here are the three favorites to step up this season and handle the responsibilities as the third and fourth wide receivers.

Sophomore Tyler Morris

Of these three contenders, Morris is the leader in terms of returning production. Granted, that doesn’t mean much because he only hauled in three receptions for 25 yards as a true freshman last season.

Morris is a former high school teammate of J.J. McCarthy’s and was an exceptional multi-sport athlete before coming to Michigan. He is a versatile threat who can high-point a ball against the best cover corners and also take a reverse 50 yards to the house.

As a freshman, Morris showed glimpses, but this was also his first time playing football in over a year. Due to COVID-19, Morris’s junior season took place in the spring of 2021, and in the last game of the season, Morris tore his ACL and missed his chance to play as a senior in the fall.

Now, fully healed and acclimated, Morris is poised to take on a bigger role.

Junior Peyton O’Leary

The standout receiver of the 2022 Michigan spring game, Peyton O’Leary is a 6-foot-3 possession receiver who excels at creating separation in tight spots. A former walk-on, O’Leary has risen up the depth charts at Michigan due to his relentless work ethic and combination of size and physicality.

In a Sherrone Moore/Jim Harbaugh offense, physicality is a must, even from wide receivers. With O’Leary’s lacrosse background, he seems to relish any opportunity to displace a would-be tackler. The former walk-on hasn’t come this far on the depth chart just to come this far.

Sophomore Darrius Clemons

The standout of the 2022 Michigan spring game, Darrius Clemons struggled after his initial breakout last year and never capitalized on the momentum he created. To his credit, Clemons recognized this too.

“At the beginning of season, I practiced very well. When it got to the middle of the season, I was frustrated with myself and I kind of hit a wall. I feel like for me, that was my freshman growing pains. I was like, ‘Oh, I’m practicing but I’m not really playing,’ and I feel like I got lazy.”

“I remember having a conversation with Ronnie (Bell), and he told me he felt that way. I really respect Ronnie — for him to take the time out of his day after practice and say that to me. It inspired me to look myself in the mirror and be like, ‘How bad do I really want this?’”

Clemons is an imposing 6-foot-3, 212 pounds of muscle who should be able to rise above or run through defenders. If Clemons took Bell’s words to heart, he could become Michigan’s next evolution of Nico Collins.