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Five Wolverines ready for more prominent roles this season

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They will be working their way into big-time contributor status.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

There is a lot of uncertainty with the Michigan Wolverines ahead of the season opener on Sept. 4 against Western Michigan. The program has been working hard to wash the stink of last season out of their system in an offseason that featured changes everywhere.

The only thing that constantly changes within a college football program is roster turnover. The Wolverines had a decent amount of it this year, which will see numerous players jumping into new or bigger roles.

Here are some of the guys that I am buying stock in ahead of the 2021 campaign.

Tie — Blake Corum, running back and AJ Henning, wide receiver

Ok, so I cheated here. But there is a good reason for it.

Both Corum (5-foot-8) and Henning (5-foot-10) are players that would have been firmly inside the top-100 as recruits if they 1. were a few inches taller and 2. played in more talent-rich states. Each is going to have a chance to make a big impact this year with vacated players above them on the depth chart, as well as being athletic and talented enough to warrant roles on their own. Corum projects to be the team’s “1b” at running back, while Henning should be able to step in and be a gadget player on offense and a burner on special teams.

Zak Zinter, interior offensive line

It could be a big fall for 2020 recruits on offense.

Zinter has been drawing praise during fall camp from the coaching staff for being a player that could potentially be Michigan’s best on that side of the ball. That is pretty high praise for an interior lineman, but we know they love his versatility at both guard and center. He is going to start, but where is still the question that remains.

Mazi Smith, nose tackle

We have been waiting for the light to come on for two years for the former four-star prospect out of Grand Rapids. It seems like year three might be when it happens. Claims of players having the best offseasons of their lives can always be taken with a grain of salt, but Smith’s is a name that constantly comes up first when standouts up front are asked about. He has everything he needs to be a violent space-eater in the middle of Michigan’s defense and will be given a chance to fill that role to start the season.

Nikhai Hill-Green, inside linebacker

Michigan is not particularly deep at linebacker, so the fact that Hill-Green is being discussed as a starter next to Josh Ross feels like positive news for the Michigan defense. Michael Barrett was forced to switch to an inside backer role in the new system but still was seemingly set for the other starting job. Hill-Green has come on like a freight train and is another 2020 recruit set for a big leap forward.

DJ Turner, cornerback

Since spring football, a battle has been going to see who would start at cornerback for the Wolverines this season. Gemon Green has one of the spots locked down, but Vincent Gray and Turner have been doing battle opposite him. Whether or not he wins the job, he almost certainly will be an active member of the rotation without much depth behind the top three guys. Get ready to see a steady dose of the third-year defensive back.