Michigan beat Ohio State in 2021, won a Big Ten Championship, made their first College Football Playoff appearance.
As great as last year was, to get back to that level of success or surpass it will be a tall task. The 2022 version of Michigan Football is just starting to come into form as they’re nearing the end of their spring practice schedule.
“Definitely think we’re a work in progress,” new center (Virginia transfer) Olu Oluwatimi said about Michigan’s offensive line. “I mean, nobody’s gonna be a finished product on April 2nd. We got a lot of ball left — we gotta go into training camp, we got the summer cycle, so we’re a work in progress. We’re all eager to continue to get better.”
Oluwatimi’s comments came after Michigan’s spring game, a day in which there were battles in the trenches — it may have just been a scrimmage, but the offense and defense were fully engaged and playing with high effort, much like they were last off-season. The old proverb/cliche “iron sharpens iron” will always have merit.
“It’s a work in progress, but it felt good to be back,” running back Blake Corum said. “I feel like this team is picking up right where we left off, honestly. We put the work in the off-season, this whole spring ball, whole camp, we’ve been putting in the work. We’ve been stacking those bricks.”
Work ethic, stacking the bricks are important parts of the process, but those bricks don’t matter much if the foundation isn’t solid, and luckily for Michigan the foundation is firm.
“I think as far as what the Blake meant I think the mentality of this team is in a really good place,” quarterback Cade McNamara said. “Over the course of spring, we’ve had some bumps, we’ve had some dips, but I think those have leveled out. We’ve addressed those bumps, so I think we’re in a really good place going into the rest of the off-season.”
Part of what Michigan will have to address moving forward is how to properly distribute the football this season, because they have a wide array of weapons at running back, receiver, and tight end with a multitude of skill sets.
Running backs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards have already proven they’re electric playmakers, veteran receiver Ronnie Bell should have a great year if healthy. Tight ends Erick All and Luke Schoonmaker aim to compete to be among the best at their position in the nation. The receiver room is absolutely stacked — with Bell, Andrel Anthony, Cornelius Johnson, A.J. Henning, Roman Wilson. And that’s before mentioning a trio of freshmen receivers Jim Harbaugh recently called a freak show because of their combination of size, speed, and strength — Amorion Walker, Darrius Clemons, and Tyler Morris.
While Michigan will likely still have a run first approach, there’s every reason to believe the passing attack has a shot to ascend from where they were a season ago, a year where they ranked 49th in team passing efficiency and 68th in passing offense. Michigan did rank 15th in rushing offense and 16th in scoring offense, but they can move higher in the passing categories without significant change to where they rank running the ball.
Regardless of the route Michigan takes to score touchdowns, there’s belief they can do it all.
“We can do everything. I know last year a lot of people were like ‘they can only run the ball,’ and then we showed them we could throw. I think we’re an offense that can do really everything,” Corum said.
Michigan’s offensive schematics will look much like last year, but former offensive coordinator Josh Gattis left for Miami and now Michigan quarterbacks coach Matt Weiss and offensive line coach Sherrone Moore are co-offensive coordinators. McNamara said that he’s had a good rapport with Moore and Weiss.
“Overall, the three of us have all just had really good communication as far as what we want to do, how we want to attack the defense and what we need to get better at,” McNamara said.
Part of getting better may simply be attacking more while also fine tuning how to utilize all their playmakers properly. The more playmakers, the higher the goals and expectations are.
“We have so many players, so many guys with skill,” McNamara said. “The more that we have, I’m expecting us to be more dynamic”
Michigan still has a long way until the regular season begins, and what occurred during Michigan’s spring game, a day where Blue beat Maize 20-12, isn’t a reflection of that the team will be in September, it isn’t even completely representative of what the team is presently.
“I think as far as the energy, the competitiveness that this team showed today, that was on display. But as far as what schematically, everything kind of from a football standpoint, this wasn’t,” McNamara said. “We’re not trying to show anything in this game, and I think we’re just trying to get some dudes reps. We’re trying to see what other guys can do.”
Corum had the same thought process as McNamara. The spring game represents the beginning of what’s to come.
“Going into the Spring Game you don’t want to show too, too much, right? It’s just a Spring Game,” Corum said. “I thought it was great what we did. We ran the ball really well, offensive line came off the ball, defensive line did good. Receivers, everyone did good. Today, I think it was another step in our journey.”
Another step, with many steeper ones to come to get to the mountain top.