The Michigan Wolverines are still a bit away from kicking off spring football, but the offseason conditioning program is underway and the page has turned to preparing for the 2020 season.
There will be a ton of change in key spots all over the roster. Here’s a quick rundown of the battles that will headline spring and fall camps.
Quarterback: Dylan McCaffrey vs. Joe Milton
This is the one that everybody has circled and by far is the most interesting. The dynamic athlete who finally gets his shot vs. the kid with the rocket arm who might be ready to put it together. Michigan’s ceiling is dependent on just how good one of these guys end up being. The floor is probably around what they have already been as a 9-10 win team. McCaffrey likely is given the early lead here and will have to hold onto it throughout the offseason, but Milton is ready to make the push.
Running Back: Zach Charbonnet vs. Hassan Haskins and then everyone else
Charbonnet is the best all-around rusher on Michigan’s roster, but given workload concerns he may never completely be a Johnathan Taylor-type back that the Wolverines just lean on. The good news is they do not need him to be with Haskins breaking out this year and Chris Evans set to return. Add a true freshman to the mix in Blake Corum and this is probably Jim Harbaugh’s most talented backfield at Michigan.
Wide Receiver: The guys behind Nico Collins and Ronnie Bell
Donovan Peoples-Jones (NFL Draft) and Tarik Black (transfer) are gone, but the biggest win of the offseason so far is retaining Collins. He is Michigan’s most talented offensive player and has a chance to be a true No. 1 option next year with the depth chart clearing out a bit. Ronnie Bell returns as Michigan’s most productive wideout and someone that can do damage over the middle of the field. Then, a bunch of young, talented wideouts will fight for snaps in Mike Sainristil, Giles Jackson, Cornelius Johnson and true freshmen AJ Henning and Roman Wilson, to name a few.
Offensive Line: *Gestures at everything except Jalen Mayfield*
Jalen Mayfield is locked in to the starting lineup. That much is for certain. From there, we will have to see how it goes in replacing four starters from the offensive line. Factoring into the other four spots are Ryan Hayes, Chuck Filiaga, Nolan Rumler, Zach Carpenter and Andrew Stueber, who returns from an ACL tear. This is as good as Michigan has felt about its offensive line depth in quite some time, but it will now be put to the test with so many spots to fill. Ed Warinner is one of the best offensive line coaches in the country and deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Defensive Tackle: Everyone not named Carlo Kemp
Michael Dwumfour is gone and Kemp returns. That’s about all we know as it pertains to the defensive tackle position. Chris Hinton and Mazi Smith will push for time there, as well as Jess Speight. It feels likely they add a grad transfer to the mix here, as well. Given the current makeup of the roster, it seems reasonable to suggest we may see some more three-man fronts again next year, but this group still needs to find a way to improve from last season.
Linebacker: Where Josh Ross, Mike Barrett factor in
Ross’ injury gave way last season to Cam McGrone, who not only emerged as one of the best players on the defense but also a guy who should be on plenty of 2021 NFL Draft boards. Where Ross factors in to all of this is fascinating to me, as well as if it may be the time we start to see Mike Barrett. He has been mentioned as someone who could potentially replace Khaleke Hudson at VIPER. We’ll keep an eye on this one.
Secondary: Depth at corner behind Ambry Thomas and Vincent Gray
Don’t be surprised to see guys like Andre Seldon and Darion Green-Warren get some run here as true freshmen. Gemon Green, DJ Turner and Jalen Perry will be factors here as well.
Special Teams: Jake Moody vs. Quinn Nordin once more
Michigan will probably use two kickers again and ride the hot hand. It’s not all that entertaining, but it did come to mind.
Anyway, there are more position battles than this to go through, and we will get to them as the offseason rolls around. But these ones stand out to me as the most interesting (okay, maybe everything except the kicking battle).
Which position group battle are you looking forward to the most?