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Position grades for Michigan’s 35-7 victory over UNLV

It was non-conference business as usual for the Wolverines.

NCAA Football: UNLV at Michigan David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan Wolverines unsurprisingly remain undefeated after running through UNLV like Taco Bell-induced laxative after a long night. Michigan’s lethargically dominant 35-7 victory epitomized the opening to the 2023 season for the Wolverines. This game was never in doubt; this game was never competitive. Michigan barely broke a sweat until the third- and fourth-stringers entered the game.

If every game is a test — even a test where most of the answers are already provided — every game needs some grades. Let’s get to it, but let’s only focus on the starters this week.

Quarterbacks: A+

Starting quarterback J.J. McCarthy played the first half to near perfection, finishing 17-of-18, for 188 yards, and one touchdown, and didn’t let up as long as he was on the field. He finished the game 22-for-25 with 278 yards and two touchdowns. Through two games — and a minimum of 50 attempts — McCarthy is tied for the third-best completion percentage by an FBS quarterback since 2000.

Running backs: B

Blake Corum averaged 5.8 yards per carry and chipped in three touchdowns for a solid afternoon, but Donovan Edwards was disappointing. Edwards finished with only nine yards on six carries, as he struggled to find the same daylight as Corum.

Despite the inconsistencies, the biggest story with these two backs remains health. Twenty-one carries between the two is the lowest combined amount in a game where both players started and finished — breaking last week’s record of 22.

Wide receivers: A

Roman Wilson continues his ridiculous tear to start the season — ending with four catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns. His pair of scores brings his season total up to five, and keeps him on pace to break Desmond Howard’s single-season record of 19.

Cornelius Johnson turned in another strong showing, catching five passes for 82 yards, and true sophomore Tyler Morris seems to be settling into his role as the No. 3. McCarthy deservedly gets a lot of credit for the improved fluidity in Michigan’s passing game, but don’t overlook the growth in this room as well.

Tight ends: C

Colston Loveland and AJ Barner combined for three catches for 18 yards, and Max Bredeson laid some excellent blocks. That’s about it.

Offensive line: C+

Despite the offense averaging 5.4 yards per carry and rushing for 179 yards, Michigan’s offensive line turned in another middle-of-the-road effort. The unit frequently struggled with movement in the front seven and identifying run-through players.

On the positive side, they showed improvement from last week while incorporating a few new concepts — outside zone, reverses, quarterback runs — and showed a malleability in their attack. Is Week 3 the week this unit puts it all together?

Defensive line: A+

The defensive line was the best unit on the field yesterday. In total, Michigan’s front finished with five sacks, 10 tackles for loss and one forced fumble. Of all the standouts in the group, perhaps none stood out more than sophomore Kenneth Grant.

Grant, who is no stranger to standing out standing at 6-foot-3 and 340 pounds, finished the game with 1.5 sacks (tied for the team lead) and a team-leading 2.5 tackles for loss. He played with relentless ferocity and tossed offensive linemen out of his way like they were merely an inconvenience. It’s early, but expectations continue to rise for him.

Linebackers: B+

It was a quiet afternoon for the linebackers, but the unit was solid. Junior Colson, Ernest Hausmann and Michael Barrett only combined for 11 tackles, but were disciplined in their run fits and in pass coverage. UNLV didn’t cross midfield until the 10-minute mark of the third quarter, and that doesn’t happen without solid linebacker play.

Defensive backs: B

UNLV’s starting quarterback only threw for 100 yards, but for most of the game, Michigan’s secondary looked bored. The secondary was rarely tested down the field, and just sat in zone and made sure tackles. A few tackles were missed, but nothing too alarming.

Will Johnson made a very brief appearance, but safety Rod Moore was out along with Makari Paige. Hopefully they are healthy and good to go next week because this unit needs to have its top players tested before conference play begins.

Special Teams: A-

Kicker James Turner seems to have mechanically fixed his kicking woes, knocking all five of his extra points on a straight line through the uprights. The jury is still out on field goals. First-year starting punter Tommy Doman averaged 47.5 yards on a pair of moon shots, and he looks like a veteran in his approach.

Michigan’s return game showed potential with Jake Thaw and Tyler Morris handling punt duties and Kalel Mullings returning kicks, but this side of the ball is still missing a game changer like Jabrill Peppers, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Giles Jackson and AJ Henning.