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Ranking potential breakout candidates for the Michigan Wolverines

Which rising players will finally take that next step this season?

Michigan Spring Football Game Photo by Jaime Crawford/Getty Images

You already know the stars and the headliners for Team 144 of the Michigan Wolverines. Honestly, if you’re like me, you probably know the four-deep of every position and have gone through endless scenarios of how your dark horse playmaker is going to crack the starting rotation by Week 7.

While we all appreciate a good Tyler McLaurin hypothetical, let’s focus on the players who have a greater chance of emerging from the pack. Let’s focus on the top breakout candidates for the 2023 season.

So how does a player qualify as a breakout candidate? A breakout candidate is a player who hasn’t seen a high volume of non-special teams snaps in their Michigan tenure. Usually, a sophomore or a redshirt junior, a breakout player announces his presence in an emphatic fashion after a year or two of learning the ropes.

Think of Khaleke Hudson and Devin Bush in 2017, David Ojabo and DJ Turner in 2021, or think of true freshman Will Johnson who waited only weeks instead of years to establish himself in 2022.

But first, let’s disqualify a few players. Mason Graham, Derrick Moore, Rayshaun Benny and the transfers are eliminated. All four named players established themselves as key pieces last season and their next step to stardom is expected if not guaranteed.

As for the transfers, all of them have attained a certain level of success at their previous stop to be disqualified from this discussion. That said, I will gladly eat my words if Jack Tuttle becomes the next Joe Burrow.

With that, here are the top four most likely breakout candidates for the Wolverines this season.

DL Kenneth Grant

Should Kenneth Grant be disqualified, maybe? But that’s no fun.

Grant enters his second season in Ann Arbor at a lean 339 pounds. What an absurd, but true sentence. Grant is built like a pre-hibernation grizzly bear with a quicker first step.

Last year, Grant played at 356 pounds and struggled down-to-down with conditioning, all while trying to adjust to the speed of the college game. But after an offseason with Ben Herbert and learning from Mazi Smith and Kris Jenkins, the top pick in the spring game is ready to heavily enter the rotation and make an impact this season.

WR Tyler Morris

Tyler Morris was fighting an uphill battle last season and still reached the summit by even playing. As a junior in high school, his football season was moved to the spring of 2021 due to COVID-19. In the last game of the spring season, Morris tore his ACL and missed his senior season in the fall of 2021.

After roughly an 18-month layoff, Morris still managed to lead all freshmen receivers last year with three catches for 25 yards. With a year under his belt and confidence in his knee, the former national champion high jumper is poised for an imminent breakout.

But don’t just take it from me, take it from quarterback J.J. McCarthy.

“Tyler Morris, he’s gonna make a big name for himself this year,” McCarthy told the media this week. “Have had that connection built since my sophomore year in high school. He’s gonna do great things.”

WR Peyton O’Leary


Competing with Morris for wide receiver touches is one of the standouts of the spring game Peyton O’Leary. The Banshee was most recently seen trapping Amorion Walker in a torture chamber in the team’s scrimmage but has yet to put it all together in a live game.

With the departures of Ronnie Bell to the NFL and Andrel Anthony moving to Oklahoma, the opportunities will be there for the big-bodied receiver to carve out a role in this offense.

RB Benjamin Hall

Speaking of the spring game, everyone’s favorite three-star running back Benjamin Hall has to be listed as a candidate. Hall rushed for more than 100 yards and one score in the scrimmage, and displayed the poise, balance and vision of a much older player.

Hall is currently in a positional battle with several other viable contenders, but as Donovan Edwards proved in 2021, a third-string freshman running back can become an impact player in this offense.

Honorable Mention

Darrius Clemons, Kechaun Bennett, Jimmy Rolder, Amorion Walker, Keon Sabb, Cole Cabana