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Projecting Michigan football’s starting offense for 2021

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Another quarterback battle is looming for the Wolverines.

Penn State v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines are going to look very different the next time they take the field given the changes made to the staff and what will unfold with the roster. As critical as getting the defense turned around is, Michigan’s offense will be looked at to break out in the third year of the Josh Gattis experiment.

He will have help moving forward with Sherrone Moore sliding to offensive line duties as well as picking up a co-coordinator title. What they are tasked with is finally developing an identity that can help this team come ready to score no matter the opponent on the other side of the field.

The accuracy of a starting lineup prediction in February can be taken with a major grain of salt, but let’s take a look at how things might wind up projecting.

Quarterback: Cade McNamara

Others in mix: J.J. McCarthy, Joe Milton

This might be the hardest one to handicap given how the quarterback situation played out in 2020. When at his best, Milton might have the highest upside of anyone in the room. McCarthy projects to be the quarterback of the future. McNamara, before being injured, showed that he could work within the confines of the offense and move the football. That has to give him the edge heading into the offseason, but neither Milton nor McCarthy as a true freshman can be ruled out. The five-star prospect is college-ready and will be waiting for the green light from the coaching staff.

Running Back: Hassan Haskins

Others in the mix: Donovan Edwards, Blake Corum

Haskins emerged as this team’s lead back over the last two seasons, which necessitated a transfer from Zach Charbonnet. The good news is that there is still plenty of young depth there with Edwards coming in and Corum showing some promise as a true freshman during the 2020 season. Edwards might have the goods to push for lead back duties and is a true three-down threat out of the backfield. Fewer cooks in the kitchen this year could make it easier for a distribution of touches. Tavierre Dunlap could have a role as a freshman but might have to wait his turn.

Wide Receivers: Ronnie Bell, Cornelius Johnson, Roman Wilson

Others in the mix: Giles Jackson, AJ Henning, Xavier Worthy, Christian Dixon, Andrel Anthony

Quarterback play has been an issue for the Wolverines recently, but so has its wide receivers getting separation down the field. Gattis is going to get some help in developing the wideouts with Ron Bellamy joining the staff. Bell is as much of a sure thing as it gets and it felt like Michigan was at its best when Johnson and Wilson were in the rotation. There’s still another gear to unlock with Jackson and Henning and Worthy brings another speedy home run threat that could factor in right away. There is a lot to like here, but also a ton of growing up to do.

Tight End: Erick All

Others in the mix: Luke Schoonmaker

Despite having some drop issues last season, it seems like Michigan is married to the idea of letting All go through growing pains. This is going to be a critical offseason for his development entering his third year in the program. Schoonmaker is waiting in the weeds and could have a chance to be a productive member of the passing game with the opportunities he is given, as well.

Offensive line

Left tackle: Ryan Hayes

Hayes is one of the players that seem somewhat etched in stone as a starter after getting first-team reps last season. He made four starts last season and at 6-foot-7, 302 pounds still has some room to add some weight to his frame while maintaining his athleticism.

Left guard: Chuck Filiaga

Filiaga waited a long time to get his opportunity to play but was inconsistent last season. He could be challenged for a job by the likes of Zak Zinter or Trevor Keegan.

Center: Reece Atteberry

It has not been made clear yet if Andrew Vastardis will return for a sixth season and Zach Carpenter transferred out of the program, leaving Atteberry as someone who could be next in line to start at center. Nolan Rumler could factor in here after dealing with injuries early in the lead-up to the 2020 season, which derailed his shot at consistent playing time.

Right guard: Andrew Stueber

Stueber will be back for another go-round in 2020 and will be looked at as a veteran presence along the offensive line. Depending on how things shake out, he could slide back over to right tackle, as well.

Right tackle: Willie Allen (transfer)

The former four-star recruit started his career at LSU before transferring to junior college and then Louisiana Tech, where he started 15 of the 25 games he played in 2018-19. He started all 13 games at left tackle in 2019 and adds some proven beef upfront to a unit that is younger again this season. Look out for Karsen Barnhart here, as well.