Michigan Football typically gets a decent contribution from its freshmen classes under Jim Harbaugh and 11 of those players made their debuts with the program on Saturday night in the win over Middle Tennessee State.
Here are the first-year players that suited up and played for Michigan in the 40-21 victory:
RB Zach Charbonnet
WR Giles Jackson
WR Mike Sainristil
WR Cornelius Johnson
TE Erick All
OL Karsen Barnhart
DL Chris Hinton
LB Anthony Solomon
LB Charles Thomas
CB DJ Turner
S Daxton Hill
Now, some thoughts.
Keep in mind that under recent NCAA rules, players can get into four games in a given season and maintain their redshirt status and year of eligibility. Given that non-conference play generally yields games that get out of hand, that is when we generally see a lot of freshmen and unproven players on the field.
Despite this, Michigan has a handful of guys here who absolutely are factors this season. The biggest one is Charbonnet, who got the start at running back and totaled 99 yards on the evening. He physically looks the part and displayed the patience and versatility out of the backfield that we were hoping to see. Michigan appears to have a future star there.
Jackson is another player here that sticks out having won the starting kick returner job. He’s got a ton of speed and playmaking ability and eventually we should see that translate to the offensive side of the ball. If Michigan wants to make an effort to get Dylan McCaffrey on the field because of how athletic he is, then they certainly should be looking into working him in at some point, too.
Sainristil had a ton of hype coming out of both spring and fall camp, but it was surprising to not see much of him, especially with Donovan Peoples-Jones out with the injury. Johnson appears to be ahead of him on the depth chart as of now with two catches on two targets in his debut.
Both Hill and Turner, who are still working their way up the depth chart in the secondary, played and flashed a bit as well, especially Hill on special teams.
Another aspect that was somewhat surprising is that Hinton, who reportedly had a great camp, was unable to crack the defensive tackle rotation much given the injuries there for this game. Even more surprising was that fellow freshman Mazi Smith did not play at all in this game. Both had received a decent amount of hype heading into the season.
From there, everyone else that played (All, Barnhart, Solomon, Thomas) seem like candidates for the redshirt year and were getting one of their four games in. We will continue to monitor their progress, as well as if any other freshmen hit the field in the next couple of weeks.
Harbaugh has never been shy about burning a redshirt if it means the best player is on the field and this season should be no exception to that. Overall, it was a pretty encouraging debut for some of the projected stars of the 2019 recruiting class.