The Michigan Wolverines face their second non-conference opponent to start the season with Hawaii this Saturday.
Like Colorado State, this should be more of a tune-up game than a real contest, which makes picking certain players difficult. There aren’t many interesting matchups with stud players on the other side this weekend. Instead, these are three players that could increase their roles and cement more playing time as the season goes on.
1. QB J.J. McCarthy
Duh. This one seems too obvious to mention, but we know that everyone is going to be watching to see if McCarthy is able to grab the reins and take the QB1 job for good. Allowing at whopping 112 points in its first two games, Hawaii’s defense leaves much to be desired, which will give McCarthy plenty of opportunities to impress if Michigan opens up the playbook.
Even if Michigan doesn’t air it out that much, McCarthy will have the chance to emphasize one of his advantages over Cade McNamara: his legs. In Week 0, Hawaii allowed Vanderbilt quarterback Mike Wright to carry the ball 13 times for 163 yards and two touchdowns. Against Western Kentucky last week, Hilltopper quarterback Austin Reed ran for 43 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Expect McCarthy to keep the ball on a few read options and rack up some yards on the ground this week.
2. Edge Eyabi Anoma
Coming into the season, one of Michigan’s biggest questions was how the defense would replace the pass rush of Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo. While Colorado State’s offensive line is nothing to call home about, putting up seven sacks is the best you can do to show there won’t be a steep drop off.
Anoma contributed one of those sacks, flashing in limited snaps with multiple pressures on the quarterback. That’s even more impressive considering how late Anoma was added to the roster. If he can keep the production up and expand his role as he learns more of the playbook, Michigan will have a lethal weapon on the edge it can deploy in passing situations and help out the secondary. Hawaii’s offensive line won’t be much better than Colorado State’s, so there should be more opportunities to get into the backfield.
3. LB Michael Barrett
Michigan’s linebacker corps does not have a lot of depth, especially with Nikhai Hill-Green’s status still questionable for this game. What they do have are a couple of players with differing skill sets. Against Colorado State, Barrett and Kalel Mullings split snaps almost equally, with Barrett getting 27 and Mullings getting 23.
Facing another air raid team in Hawaii, I would expect the smaller and quicker Barrett to see even more time. Hawaii’s running back Dedrick Parson is on the smaller side at 5-foot-8 and a threat to catch balls out of the backfield, meaning Barrett would be better suited to cover him. Barrett also blitzed effectively last Saturday, so he could have a chance to get some pressures with how terrible Hawaii’s offensive line is.