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Five things to watch for in Michigan’s spring game

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Five of many things to watch for.

Michigan v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Michigan Football’s spring game is just a day away — it’s free to the public and will also be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network. The spring game represents the last of 15 spring scrimmages and the first major glimpse fans and media get of the 2022 team.

Here are five things to watch for in Michigan’s spring game.

A steady dose of McNamara with Bowman and Warren as well

Starting quarterback Cade McNamara will be throwing the pigskin for the Maize and Blue teams during the spring game, this is because J.J. McCarthy won’t be suiting up due to linger arm soreness.

McNamara has reportedly been consistent and efficient in practice — he claims he has fine-tuned his diet and has made some mechanical tweaks with his personal quarterbacks coach Jordan Palmer. A lights out day from McNamara would be a positive sign, but he’s not the only quarterback to keep an eye on.

Walk-on redshirt freshman Davis Warren has impressed in spring practices, and redshirt junior Alan Bowman, who transferred to Michigan after starting at quarterback for Texas Tech, will be handling more reps with McCarthy out of the spring game equation.

Young playmakers

Early enrolee, cornerback Will Johnson has been turning heads, as has receiver Darrius Clemons and defensive end Derrick Moore — all three of these up and comers will likely see the field a good amount during the spring game. All three may have sizable roles once the games start to count, too.

Where will the pass rush come from?

Defensive line coach Mike Elston said he’d like to see more of an inside pass-rush from Michigan this season, which means players like Mazi Smith and Kris Jenkins may be getting to the quarterback more often this season.

Although Michigan lost two rock solid edge rushers to the NFL in Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, the Wolverines still have players who should be able to produce on the outside. Mike Morris and Taylor Upshaw are both veterans know and hungry to ascend up draft boards like Hutchinson and Ojabo. Further, the depth behind Morris and Upshaw has potential, with Jaylen Harrell and Braiden McGregor vying for more playing time.

Sainristil at cornerback

Head coach Jim Harbaugh asked Mike Sainristil if he’d be willing to move from receiver and try to play at nickel cornerback this spring, Sainristil was happy with the opportunity and is making the most of it.

“Mikey has been one of my favorite guys to see throughout the first part of spring,” defensive coordinator Jesse Minter said on the In the Trenches podcast. “Just on both sides of the ball, he plays with a level of toughness and maturity. He’s a really good football player. I think he’s a guy you could put anywhere. It shows up on special teams how he plays, shows up on offense, and his ability to block and be a role player — but also make plays when he gets the ball in his hands.”

Sainristil isn’t just attempting to play cornerback, he’s excelling. The spring game will be the first glimpse we get of Sainristil on the other side of the ball, a move that could pay big dividends this fall.

New coordinators, same schematics?

Offensive coordinator Josh Gattis departed to become the OC for the Miami Hurricanes, defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald left to be the Baltimore Ravens DC. Harbaugh opted to fill the offensive vacancies by hiring internally — (offensive line coach) Sherrone Moore and (quarterbacks coach) Matt Weiss are Michigan’s co-offensive coordinators. For new defensive coordinator, Michigan found someone who coached with Macdonald in Baltimore, Jesse Minter and named defensive backs coach Steve Clinkscale co-defensive coordinator.

Minter and Clinkscale have both referred to this as year two of Michigan’s scheme — meaning the system that Macdonald put in place will remain intact. There will be different nuances, but the guts of the schematics will remain the same. In fact, Clinkscale hopes the defense is even better this year. His reasoning is at this time last year the scheme was still being installed, heading into this fall the players are acclimated with the system and are comfortable in it.

Offensively there likely won’t be much of an overhaul, Weiss and Moore had a lot of input last year and have a firm grasp of how to properly utilize Michigan’s playmakers.

The differences in scheme and football philosophy will likely be negligible during the spring game — no need to change all the things that worked and helped Michigan win a Big Ten Championship in 2022.