Two weeks ago Athlon Sports released their 2021 All-Big Ten football honors. While these definitely fall in the “absurdly early” category of all-conference rankings, they provide some nice food for thought. Today, we’ll choose one player from each of the other 13 Big Ten schools that we’d want to play for Michigan this upcoming season.
DE George Karlaftis, Purdue
Karlaftis was an easy choice for me as he burst onto the scene in 2019 with 54 tackles, 17 TFL, and 7.5 sacks. In 2020, his season was cut very short due to an injury and Covid-19. He still somehow found a way to get 2nd Team All-Big Ten honors despite only playing in three games all season. If he’s able to stay healthy, look for Karlaftis to explode this year.
K Matt Coghlin, Michigan State
There aren’t many positions that I believe would upgrade by taking a player from Michigan State which seems odd to say given that the Spartans beat Michigan last year. However, Coghlin fits the bill as he is a perfect 107-107 on extra points, has made 75.3% of his career field goals, and hit a career-long 51 yarder last year against the Wolverines.
OL Jaelyn Duncan, Maryland
The 6’6”, 315-pound junior has been a staple at left tackle for the Terrapins the last two years. While I believe that Ryan Hayes has the left tackle job locked up, for now, adding Duncan to the 2021 Michigan squad would provide an experience, veteran presence who could compete for the right tackle spot.
CB Cam Taylor-Britt, Nebraska
Athlon has Taylor-Britt as a potential 2021 1st-Team cornerback and 4th-team punt returner. While that might be a bit of a stretch, the hard-hitting corner would provide instant punch in a secondary that appears to be a weak spot from the outside looking in. In eight games last year, Taylor-Britt posted 28 tackles, four pass deflections, and two interceptions.
OL Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
When Rashawn Slater opted out of the 2020 season to focus on the NFL draft, all appeared lost for the Northwestern offensive line. Then Peter Skoronski stepped up and earned 2nd-team all-conference honors as a true freshman. This is an astounding accomplishment as an offensive lineman. I will take an accomplished, positionally flexible offensive lineman any day of the week.
LB Jake Hansen, Illinois
The linebacker spot lacks experience this year at Michigan, so Hansen was a relatively easy choice. Returning for his sixth season at Illinois, Hansen has cracked the all-Big Ten teams two seasons in a row, was a Butkus award semi-finalist in 2019 and has amassed 127 tackles over his career. You may remember him from the Illini’s stunning 2019 upset over Wisconsin in which he forced two fumbles.
RB Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota
Ibrahim was quietly a 1,000-yard rusher in 2020. It’s hard to believe that the 140 yards he put up in the season opener against Michigan were Ibrahim’s third-fewest yards in any game all season last year. As a returning first-team all-conference player (by both the coaches and the media), Ibrahim is looked at as the best running back in the conference by many so of course, I’ll take him here.
LB Olakunle Fatukasi, Rutgers
As a first-team all-conference representative by the media in 2020, Fatukasi was a rare bright spot on the Rutgers defense. However, he earned his way to end up a Butkus award semi-finalist. Fatukasi amassed 101 tackles and three sacks, two of which being against Michigan. Similar to the Jake Hansen selection, I have a hard time saying no to experienced linebackers.
QB Michael Penix, Indiana
The Big Ten as a whole has a relatively weak returning crop of quarterbacks for the 2021 season. However, Michael Penix is the known commodity having almost led the Hoosiers to the Big Ten title game. He also produced one of the legendary plays in college football history against Penn State. While most Michigan fans are cautiously optimistic about Cade McNamara and JJ McCarthy, it would be impossible to pass up a season with Penix at the helm.
WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State
In just nine games last year Dotson caught 52 passes for 884 yards and eight touchdowns. The 5’11” speedster also managed to score three of those touchdowns against Ohio State. While Michigan has quite a few young, speedy receivers, Dotson would be the perfect addition to add experience to the receiver room.
C Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
Linderbaum can be and should be a household name by the end of the 2021 season. As a finalist for the Rimington Trophy in 2020, Tyler was fighting for All-American honors, not simply all-Big Ten. While I don’t necessarily consider the offensive line a weakness at Michigan, adding Linderbaum would give the Wolverines star-power, a punishing presence, and the flexibility to move Andrew Vastardis around the offensive line.
LB Jack Sanborn, Wisconsin
In all honesty, it was tough not to take Jake Ferguson as the selection from Wisconsin. The Harbaugh regime of old would have absolutely taken him. However, with tight ends becoming much more involved in the passing game and less involved in blocking, I went with Sanborn, a senior inside linebacker from Deer Park, Illinois. The third-team all-conference selection looks to anchor another solid Badger linebacker group that will undoubtedly be physical at the point of attack.
DT Haskell Garrett, Ohio State
There were tons of good options to choose from when looking at the Buckeyes. I could have gone wide receiver by taking either Chris Olave or Garrett Wilson. I also could have gone with an offensive lineman as both Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere were available in this hypothetical experiment. At the end of the day, Michigan needs immediate talent at defensive tackle and Haskell Garrett was too good to pass up. He would provide an immediate, immense upgrade to the Michigan defense that so sorely needs help stopping the run.