It is officially game week as the Michigan Wolverines are prepping for the home opener against Colorado State. Ahead of the competition, head coach Jim Harbaugh hopped on the “In the Trenches” podcast with Jon Jansen.
This comes along with the announcement this past Saturday that the Wolverines will start the incumbent Cade McNamara behind center in Week 1. Then, sophomore quarterback J.J. McCarthy will get the call for Week 2 against Hawaii in a unique quarterback battle that will head into the regular season. You can read more about that battle here.
But what about the rest of the field? Let’s break down Harbaugh's words and how the depth chart shakes out.
- No. 1’s: Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards
- No. 2: C.J. Stokes
- No. 3’s: Taveirre Dunlap, Isaiah Gash
It shouldn’t surprise anyone Corum and Edwards are at the top. The two have a chance to be just as lethal of a combination as Hassan Haskins and Corum were a season ago. Both will earn a much more significant role in 2022.
The surprise is true freshman CJ Stokes is the next in line. Harbaugh said the gameplan for Stokes’ snaps will be “for purely getting in there and running the football.” That’s the short yardage role everyone was wondering who would fill.
Harbaugh said Dunlap is “very close” to catching Stokes, and junior walk-on Isaiah Gash rounds out the depth chart. Harbaugh praised Gash calling him “tremendous in the short yardage running right now and being the third down back.” Those two were labeled as a “third-guy” by Harbaugh in the conversation.
- No. 1’s: Erick All and Luke Schoonmaker
- No. 2’s: Joel Honigford, Max Bredeson, Carter Seltzer, Matthew Hibner
- No. 3’s: Colston Loveland and Hunter Neff
Again, All and Schoonmaker were the obvious choices up at the top. The two of them were pivotal for Michigan’s success in the pass and running game in 2022. Honigford was expected to be right there as well on obvious rushing downs as almost a sixth lineman.
But all of a sudden, Max Bredeson is thrown into the mix in the two-deep. The brother of Michigan standout offensive lineman Ben Bredeson came to Ann Arbor as a walk-on quarterback. But the sophomore is 6-foot-2, 232-pounds and appears to have earned himself some playing time in 2022. Harbaugh’s favorite word in the interview was “surging,” and Bredeson fell into that category. Along with him in the two-deep are Seltzer and Hibner who are “interchangeable” in certain packages.
Then comes Loveland and Neff who are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Neff is a senior who has never seen game action and was a walk-on. Loveland was a highly touted four-star prospect. Even as the seventh and eighth guys named, Harbaugh says “you’ll see those eight tight ends all in the mix this fall.”
- No. 1’s: Ronnie Bell, Cornelius Johnson, Roman Wilson
- No. 2’s: Andrel Anthony and A.J. Henning
- No. 3: Peyton O’Leary
- No. 4: Tyler Morris, Darrius Clemons, Amorion Walker, and Cristian Dixon
Bell is expected to be one of the top receivers in the country after coming off a torn ACL. However, Harbaugh was not willing to call him the No. 1 receiver. Instead, he called both Johnson and Wilson No. 1’s as well. Anthony and Henning will join those three in the starting lineup.
Then, Harbaugh praised the heck out of walk-on Peyton O’Leary, who appeared in one game last season. The 6-foot-3 redshirt freshman is “backing up Cornelius Johnson right now at the X position. He’s had a Cooper Kupp-like training camp. I mean, he’s almost got that nickname around here right now. So that’s been tremendous.”
Last but not least is the bunch of young guys — Morris, Clemons, Walker, and Dixon. Harbaugh added Dixon into the “surging” category and said all 10 of these guys will see time throughout the season.
- LT: Ryan Hayes
- LG: Trevor Keegan
- C: Olu Oluwatimi
- RG: Zak Zinter
- RT: Trente Jones
- Sixth man: Karsen Barnhart
- No. 2 C: Greg Crippen
From left to right, this is what we expected to see. The only fall camp battle was Jones and Barnhart for right tackle. However, Harbaugh told Jansen to “call (Barnhart) a starter. He sits in the front row in the meetings with the other offensive starters because he can play any of those positions as a backup except center.”
- No. 1’s: Jaylen Harrell, Mike Morris, Taylor Upshaw
- No. 2’s: Braiden McGregor, TJ Guy, Eyabi Anoma
- No. 3: Derrick Moore
Harbaugh still didn’t want to commit to who of those top three guys will see the first snap against Colorado State, but he said, “those three have had a heck of a camp and there’ll be a rotation there.”
Anoma’s addition was the talk of the town a couple weeks ago. Harbaugh provided some insight on the former five-star prospect saying he’s “doing some really good things.” We will see what that actually means and if he can surpass Guy and McGregor on the depth chart.
Then, Harbaugh sang some praises for true freshman Derrick Moore and put him in some elite company:
“Derrick Moore has been fantastic, we’ve talked about there before, but when that motor becomes like Chase Winovich and Aidan Hutchinson and then he learns a countermove or two, I think he’s gonna be close to unblockable. Now as soon as that happens, may take some time, but he’s ready to play and he’ll be in there.”
Interior Defensive Line
- No. 1’s: Kris Jenkins, Mason Graham, Mazi Smith
- No. 2’s: Rayshaun Benny, Cam Goode, Kenneth Grant, George Rooks
- No. 3’s: Dominick Guidice and Charlie Lovell
Jenkins and Smith were expected, and we had been hearing some really good things about Graham, but to actually see him at the top is certainly intriguing. He’s a 6-foot-3, 317-pound former four-star prospect who had 14 sacks as a senior in high school. He will certainly cut his teeth, but there is plenty of potential there.
Despite not being a starter, Harbaugh still gave Benny plenty of praise saying he is “surging” and “he’s just coming on like gangbusters, every practice is better and better. So I’m really excited about Rayshaun.”
Goode will back up Smith at nose tackle. Harbaugh called him a “surging” player. Kenneth Grant, who is a true freshman, is in the conversation at nose according to Harbaugh, as well. The redshirt freshman Rooks, “who has had a tremendous camp,” will play behind Jenkins.
Guidice and walk-on true freshman Lovell will provide some depth in the room.
There is certainly cause for concern on the defensive interior. Jenkins and Smith will be premier players on this defense, but beyond that, there are some major question marks. Overall, there is very little experienced depth in the room, which could cause some problems if there are any injuries.
- No. 1’s: Kalel Mullings, Junior Colson, Mike Barrett, Nikhai Hill-Green
- No. 2’s: Jimmy Rolder, Deuce Spurlock, Micah Pollard
Mullings saw some work at running back in the spring, but it looks like his return to linebacker is permanent. Harbaugh said he has really surged. Colson is a stud and will see plenty of snaps. Barrett will be the veteran of the bunch. There are some concerns about Nikhai Hill-Green, who Harbaugh wouldn’t commit to playing in Week 1 due to a soft tissue injury. The four of them will rotate as long as they are all healthy with Mullings and Hill-Green fighting for that third spot.
Then, Harbaugh said he really liked the trio of true freshmen in Rolder, Spurlock and Pollard. Rolder and Pollard have made the switch from the outside linebacker spot to the interior.
Redshirt freshman Jaydon Hood, a former four-star prospect, was unmentioned by Harbaugh despite many considering him a backup prior to the season.
- No. 1’s: D.J. Turner, Gemon Green, Mike Sainristil
- No. 2: Will Johnson
Harbaugh said they have “a plan moving forward” at corner, and it starts with Turner and Green being the starters. Sainristil, who made the switch from receiver to nickel corner in the spring, will also get the starting nod.
But where does true freshman Will Johnson fit into this plan? Harbaugh says he is “right there” and he is “maybe our best freshman on the roster.” He will almost certainly see some snaps every game at corner, and maybe even slide into the nickel depending on how well he plays.
- No. 1’s: R.J. Moten, Rod Moore, Makari Paige
- No. 2: Caden Kolesar
Moten and Moore will be every down players while Paige will play in “stronger nickel packages.” He highlighted Paige as someone who has had a really good fall camp following an impressive spring. Then, Kolesar is the fourth safety and the “No. 1 special teams player.”
It’s pretty surprising to not hear about Keon Sabb and Zeke Berry, who were highly praised recruits in the 2022 class. Perhaps we won’t see as much of them as we would have thought, or maybe it was Harbaugh just lacking to talk about them.