There’s a lot of questions in regard to the 2022 Michigan Football team. We already know some of the answers, while other questions will take time to get answered. Here’s a look at one question for every Michigan offensive unit.
How close will the quarterback competition be?
Cade McNamara was more than serviceable last season; he was a winner who did what was asked of him. With McNamara as starter Michigan beat Ohio State, beat Iowa to win a Big Ten Championship, and aided the team in a College Football Playoff berth. As nice as last season was, as admirable as McNamara’s play and leadership was, there’s J.J. McCarthy, the former five-star prospect who is destined to be Michigan’s starter at some point in the future.
McCarthy is nearly back to 100% after lingering arm soreness that kept him from throwing the football during spring practices. In the lead-up to the season the competition between McNamara and McCarthy should heat up in the August sun and both players will push each other. McNamara has gained some muscle in his own right, and he’s tweaked his mechanics a bit with the help of his personal coach Jordan Palmer.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh calls McCarthy like a kid in a candy store with infectious enthusiasm — McCarthy may be younger than McNamara, but he’s a leader on this team as well. Harbaugh said McNamara remained sharp through spring ball and is improving. Harbaugh indicated that the competition is in a healthy place, and both young men aren’t letting their egos get in the way.
Harbaugh said that they could both see the field this year, or that they could roll with just one of the two options. It’s doubtful McCarthy will see the field less than a season ago, the question is how much more action will he see? Michigan has two solid options at quarterback no matter how one tries to slice it or dice it.
Conventional wisdom would say McNamara will be the week one starter, but if McCarthy’s output becomes far superior to McNamara Harbaugh will pull the trigger and make a change. May the best man win.
Corum and Edwards will carry the load, but who will be running back No. 3?
Blake Corum was electric last season in the open field, and Donovan Edwards has a balance of strength and power to his game with top-tier receiving prowess. However, after Corum and Edwards, things are much more up in the air on Michigan’s depth chart.
Linebacker Kalel Mullings appears to be in the running for snaps at running back after a solid spring out of the backfield. Mullings had a couple of memorable runs in Michigan’s spring game in April. The other option is Tavierre Dunlap, a former three-star recruit who carried the ball seven times last season for 51 yards. Harbaugh envisions Mullings as a two-way player who will still play on defense, but if he continues to run with power and confidence, he could become the clear-cut No. 3 back for Michigan. Mullings’s senior year at Milton Academy in Boston shows he has potential as an offensive weapon — he rushed for 371 yards with 22 touchdowns and 18 receptions for 289 yards and four touchdowns.
Will there be more explosiveness from Michigan’s receivers?
“We have so many players, so many guys with skill,” Cade McNamara said in April. “The more that we have, I’m expecting us to be more dynamic”
McNamara’s right, Michigan has a lot of playmakers. Some are speedy, some are tall, some are great route runners, and some are physical.
There’s Ronnie Bell, Andrel Anthony, Cornelius Johnson, A.J. Henning, Roman Wilson, and Mike Sainristil. There’s a trio of freshmen receivers Jim Harbaugh called a freak show because of their combination of size, speed, and strength — Amorion Walker, Darrius Clemons, and Tyler Morris. Co-offensive coordinator Matt Weiss called the amount of playmakers Michigan has “rich people problems”. It’s a good problem to have.
Michigan’s passing attack was efficient last year, and they took some shots down the field when they needed to, but there wasn’t a game where someone would suspect before kickoff that the offense could throw for five touchdowns in a shootout if it had to. That needs to change this year. There will be a game or two this season that Michigan may have to pass out of, that they’ll have to come from behind with the running game being neutralized, and that’s where the number of potent weapons they have on offenses could do wonders.
There was a point last season that only the service academies (Army, Navy, Air Force) rushed the ball at a higher frequency than Michigan. While pounding the rock is a great foundation for an offense, it would be nice to see a little more passing this season if the game plan indicated it’d lead to a better chance at a victory. If Michigan can become a dangerous passing offense on top of a talented rushing offense, the sky is the limit.
Will Erick All and Luke Schoonmaker take the next step?
Speaking of weapons, Michigan has some of those at tight end, too.
Michigan tight ends Erick All and Luke Schoonmaker both had the most productive year of their career in 2021 — All had 38 receptions for 437 yards and two touchdowns, and Schoonmaker tallied 17 receptions for 165 yards and three touchdowns. There’s no reason these numbers can’t go up this fall.
“Really high expectations. They have high expectations for themselves,” Michigan tight ends coach Grant Newsome said in March. “And we have high expectations, myself and the rest of the staff in the building. Our expectations are that Schoony and Erick should be competing against each other to be the best tight end in the country. You want every guy in the building to have that expectation, but I think the reality of it is we have two really talented guys at the top of that room, and obviously other talented guys below them. Those are two guys that have the chance to be really, really special.”
Can Michigan’s offensive line remain elite?
Michigan’s offensive line won the Joe Moore Award in 2021, which goes to the best offensive line in college football. Two linemen from that unit have since graduated in Andrew Stueber and Andrew Vastardis. Ryan Hayes is back, as is Trevor Keegan, Karsen Barnhart, Zak Zinter, and Trente Jones. Then there’s Virginia grad transfer Olu Oluwatimi, who was one of the best centers in college football last season who’s meshing well with the unit and providing immediate leadership. Things are still good along Michigan’s offensive line, and there’s a chance they could be even better in 2022.
Offensive coordinator and offensive lines coach Sherrone Moore was a difference-maker coaching the line last season, they were so good that John Madden (before he passed away a month later) texted Jim Harbaugh saying Michigan’s blocking performance against Ohio State was one of the best o-line performances he’s ever seen. Credit to the players, but certainly a credit to Moore as well. Coaching matters, talent matters, and Michigan happens to have both. Michigan will be a front-runner for the Joe Moore Award in 2022.