As the offseason nears the end, the Michigan football program is full steam ahead as it prepares for the matchup Sept. 3 against Colorado State. As reigning Big Ten Champions, how the Wolverines respond to having an even larger target on their backs will go a long way in determining the successes or failures of the 2022 season.
The pressure is always high for a Michigan football player to perform well. Today we’ll be focusing on three individual contributors with the most to prove this upcoming season.
QB Cade McNamara
The quarterback battle in Ann Arbor has been discussed ad nauseum, and for good reason. McNamara is a Big Ten Championship winning quarterback who took down the Buckeyes and led Michigan to its first College Football Playoff appearance. In his first full season as starting quarterback, he threw for 2,576 yards with 15 touchdowns, six interceptions and a 64.2% completion percentage.
The eye test tells a slightly different story. McNamara may have already hit his athletic ceiling, as he isn’t a threat to run, and doesn’t have a huge arm or pinpoint accuracy. He is solid in every department without truly being elite at any one aspect.
Let’s be transparent here: McNamara appears on this list because of who his backup is. If he doesn’t prove his worth continually throughout the season, J.J. McCarthy could very well take the reigns. The former five-star recruit possesses some of the elite traits McNamara lacks, though he has yet to put it all together. With another year of seasoning under his belt, McCarthy could usurp McNamara once trouble arises.
WR Ronnie Bell
Ronnie Bell is on this list for entirely separate reasons than McNamara. Bell isn’t at risk of losing his position. He’s also undoubtedly a leader and captain of this Michigan team. What Bell has to prove is he’s fully healthy.
In the first game of the season in 2021, Bell put up an all around great performance that included a 76-yard touchdown catch and a 31-yard punt return. The hype train was full speed ahead until he tore his ACL on the aforementioned punt return. Now back to practicing, Bell looks to prove he is once again an All-American caliber receiver.
Injuries such as his have become more of a norm than an exception in major college football, so coming back from a torn ACL isn’t as tough as it used to be. If Bell can remain healthy and produce as well as he is widely expected to do, he should be hearing his name called in the first two days of the 2023 NFL Draft.
DE Mike Morris
I could have listed the entire Michigan defense here, as replacing Aidan Hutchinson, David Ojabo, and Daxton Hill (just to name a few) is an incredibly daunting task.
But Mike Morris is the frontrunner to get the unenviable job of replacing Hutchinson. The redshirt junior out of Belle Glade, Florida certainly looks the part at 6-foot-6, 278 pounds. The production just hasn’t quite followed yet, though part of that may be due to playing time as Michigan has been loaded on the edge.
With dominant showings on the defensive line the past few years, Morris will need to prove to be the next in line in order for the revamped defense to slow down Big Ten offenses this fall. The national media expects a dramatic decline from the Michigan defense but Morris has the opportunity to step up, be a leader and terrorize Big Ten quarterbacks. If he fails to capitalize, the Wolverines could have an interesting time stopping CJ Stroud this November.