The Michigan Wolverines have officially released an updated roster with spring football underway. Quite a few familiar names are sticking around for the 2021 season, while there are other developments to parse through as well.
Let’s take a look at three key takeaways from the roster announcement for practice in the next few weeks.
The Returning Seniors
The Wolverines are going to lean heavily on their veterans in 2021. 18 players that had a significant role on the 2020 team are now seniors or fifth-year players.
Among the fifth-year seniors are Andrew Vastardis, Donovan Jeter, Brad Robbins, Andrew Stueber, Chuck Filiaga, Hunter Reynolds, Brad Hawkins and Josh Ross. Other notable upperclassmen include Aidan Hutchinson, Julius Welschof, Taylor Upshaw, Ryan Hayes, Hassan Haskins, Michael Barrett, Gemon Green, Vincent Gray and Ronnie Bell.
The experience in the trenches on both sides of the ball is notable. Hutchinson will be coming off of injury and should be one of the best edge rushers in the country next season. Welschof, Upshaw and Jeter also project to be solid pieces in the defensive line rotation.
Four of the five potential starting offensive lineman will be Vastardis, Stueber, Filiaga, and Hayes. Grad transfer Willie Allen rounds out the group and could be a sneaky-good get for the program if he can earn a spot up front. Sherrone Moore might have a nice mix of veteran pieces and youth in his first year coaching the offensive line.
The early enrollees
Wide receivers Andrel Anthony and Cristian Dixon, running backs Donovan Edwards and Tavierre Dunlap, quarterback J.J. McCarthy, linebacker Junior Colson, offensive linemen Greg Crippen, Giovanni El-Hadi, Raheem Anderson and Tristan Bounds join in the spring as the early-enrolled prospects that will factor in.
The biggest names from this bunch are McCarthy and Edwards, who could both see significant playing time in 2021 as true freshmen. if things go their way. Edwards has a chance to be the No. 2 or No. 3 back in the offense if the Wolverines continue to use their backs like they did in 2020. As of now, Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins are likely both ahead of him in the depth chart, but he has a chance to make a name for himself early in Ann Arbor.
Keep an eye on Colson and the combo of freshman wide receivers as players that could make a push for an early role as soon as this year.
The quarterback battle
All eyes are on the quarterback position at Michigan yet again. Two names remain that could be the head of the team heading into Harbaugh’s seventh season after another batch of quarterback transfers. Junior Cade McNamara and the aforementioned McCarthy will likely duke it out for the starting role. McNamara has the experience of playing in four games last season and performing admirably when healthy. Unfortunately, most of those moments came in blowout losses or against Rutgers, but there was still a lot to like from what McNamara showed on the field last season.
Fans are rightfully riding the McCarthy hype train heading into this battle. He’s easily the best quarterback prospect that Harbaugh has brought in so far as the No. 2 pro-style QB and the No. 24 overall player in the 2021 recruiting class. The question is whether or not he can live up to those expectations. We have seen countless quarterbacks come in and out of Schembechler Hall over the last few seasons and none have emerged as the great quarterbacks they were touted to be. Can McCarthy be the one that flips the narrative? We’ll have a chance to get an early idea from the coaching staff and players this spring.
It’s doubly important that McCarthy is in spring camp so that he can start to build rapport with some of the young talents that could be in his arsenal for the next few seasons. While the best wide receiver in his class is not on campus yet (Xavier Worthy) he can still start to make connections with guys like Roman Wilson, A.J. Henning, Anthony, Dixon, Corum, Edwards, and others who could be with him for the majority of his tenure. A head start with any of these guys is positive progress in his development.
The 2021 season is still several months away, but the foundation of what this year might bring is being built as we speak. There might not be a ton of answers that come out of spring football, but it will be beneficial nonetheless for all of the players named.