Rankings week continues!
The Michigan Wolverines are expected to have one of the top offenses in college football this season. Team 144 returns seven offensive starters from a unit that averaged over 40 points per game and is the only team that finished in the top seven of the final AP Poll to return its starting quarterback.
Furthermore, the Wolverines return three starters from the back-to-back Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line to once again block for the best running back duo in the country.
But the talent doesn’t stop with the starters.
Michigan’s two-deep is loaded with depth-providing rotational players that would start for 99 percent of teams across the country. With all of this in mind, let’s try to rank Michigan’s top 15 offensive players entering the 2023 season.
Of course, this is an impossible task and there is no better way to spark hateful engagement, but it will at least provide a unique snapshot of how talented this team really is. There is an argument for almost every player on the list to move up or down, but for now, this is how I see it.
15. Tight End AJ Barner
Despite never having a 200-yard receiving season, expectations are swirling around Indiana transfer AJ Barner. Earlier in fall camp, offensive coordinator shared a glowing review of the fifth-year player:
“He’s been outstanding,” Moore said. “First of all, he’s huge. He’s a giant human being. Phenomenal kid, phenomenal person, does everything right. When you’re on the edge and you’re blocking Jaylen Harrell and Kris Jenkins and all those other guys, whoever’s out there, it’s like, ‘you can hold up.’ It’s pretty impressive.”
“In the pass game, he’s so big. He’s so fluid and so agile,” Moore explained. “He gives you another threat in the passing game that you can’t say, ‘Yeah, he’s in the game, you’re gonna run the ball.’ He’s been extremely valuable. He’s gonna allow very multiple things with him. Very excited about that.”
14. Left Guard Giovanni El-Hadi
A back-up guard?! Yes, Giovanni El-Hadi is that good. Gio starts at every program in the country outside of Ann Arbor and will be a valuable piece to this team when the injury bug inevitably bites.
Buy your stock now because El-Hadi will be a star next season.
13. Right Tackle Myles Hinton
At 6’6, 340 pounds, Myles Hinton is an imposing force that almost blocks out the sun on the right side of the line. With 16 career starts at right tackle while at Stanford, Hinton was expected to win the job out-right at Michigan, until he found himself deadlocked in competition with...
12. Right Tackle Trente Jones
Trente Jones is one of the most talented athletes across Michigan’s line of scrimmage and at 6’4, 325 pounds, he brings an ecliptic presence in his own right. These two could flip-flop in the rankings depending on who wins the job, but for now, gut feeling, it feels like Jones is ahead.
11. Wide Receiver Cornelius Johnson
If CJ can bring consistency to his game this season, he will be the biggest riser of anyone on this list. “Ohio State game Cornelius Johnson” has proven to be a top three offensive player on this team over the last two seasons and if he shows up week in and week out in 2023, there will be no ceiling on his potential.
10. Left Guard Trevor Keegan
Michigan’s right guard steals the headlines, but the left guard is a force in his own right. Trevor Keegan is poised to rebound after a roller coaster of a season last year battling through injuries and playing too light. Now, up to a solid 320 pounds and finally healthy, Keegan is ready to prove that Jason isn’t the only unrelenting force to come from Crystal Lake.
9. Wide Receiver Roman Wilson
The fastest player on the team and Michigan’s big-play specialist, Roman Wilson has become the consensus pick to take over as WR-1 this season. If Wilson can get on the same page as quarterback J.J. McCarthy, he is a threat to become Michigan’s first 1,000-yard receiver in 10 years.
8. Left Tackle LaDarius Henderson
LaDarius Henderson started 29 career games (19 at left guard, 10 at left tackle) for Arizona State and was expected to be a shoo-in for the vacant left tackle position. When Henderson entertained entering the 2023 NFL Draft (as an interior prospect), Pro Football Network described his talent and potential succinctly: “No guard in the 2023 NFL Draft class has the full combination of physical tools that Henderson has.”
But despite his talent and experience, Henderson – like Hinton – has stumbled into a positional battle and is trailing at the moment to...
7. Left Tackle Karsen Barnhart
Karsen Barnhart is the reason Henderson might be relegated to the bench. Michigan’s most versatile offensive lineman is finally home at this natural position and has dominated in fall camp thus far. According to head coach Jim Harbaugh, Barnhart is having the best camp of any Michigan offensive lineman.
“If I had to pick the best one right now so far through 12, 13 days through camp, Karsen Barnhart is having the best camp so far,” Harbaugh said.
The Pride of Paw Paw has embraced competition every step of his career and is doing so once again to anchor the blind side of Michigan’s offensive line.
6. Tight End Colston Loveland
Colston Loveland is one of the most naturally talented players on Michigan’s entire roster. Loveland already has as many career touchdowns as former Michigan tight end and multi-year starter Erick All but has yet to even scratch the surface of his potential.
Loveland is the only sophomore to make these rankings and could be at the top of the list as a junior.
5. Center Drake Nugent
Drake Nugent is currently locked in a positional battle with Greg Crippen, but I feel comfortable betting on the Stanford transfer. Nugent was one of the three best run-blocking centers last season and was also a wall in pass protection. He was injured in the spring, but once Nugent is up to speed, he will be a force on the interior.
New Michigan C Drake Nugent over the past two seasons:— PFF College (@PFF_College) December 19, 2022
993 Pass Block Snaps
2 QB Hits Allowed pic.twitter.com/FLBIzp0pl7
4. Quarterback J.J. McCarthy
Entering his second year as the starting quarterback, J.J. McCarthy is positioned to take a massive leap forward. Last season, McCarthy displayed a poise, confidence, and efficiency rare for a first-year player and now, with the trust of the coaching staff and chemistry with his pass catchers, J.J. could rewrite the single-season program record books this season.
3. Running Back Donovan Edwards
How good can Donovan Edwards be with four functioning limbs? The super-sized reincarnation of Jamie Morris has the potential to be the most dynamic back in the country and will rotate close to 50/50 with Blake Corum.
2. Right Guard Zak Zinter
Zak Zinter is the best offensive lineman on the best offensive line in college football. The senior’s physicality is only matched by his football IQ and the scariest thing is that he still has another level to ascend to.
1. Running Back Blake Corum
Blake Corum is hands-down the best player on the entire Michigan roster and one of the five best players in all of college football. Last season, he recorded the highest Pro Football Focus (PFF) score ever given to a running back and was a Heisman frontrunner until his Week 11 injury.
All indications are that he is 100 percent recovered and is prepared to help carry this offense for 15 games. By the end of 2023, Corum could go down as one of the top running backs in U-M program history.
Top graded seasons by a RB in the PFF era pic.twitter.com/3ULnIqzv8E— PFF College (@PFF_College) January 25, 2023
Just outside the Top 15:
Wide Receiver Tyler Morris
Center Greg Crippen