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It’s time for these Michigan football players to take a big leap forward

After underdelivering in 2022, it could be a make or break year in 2023 for these familiar names.

Syndication: Arizona Republic Patrick Breen/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

Without question, 2022 was a season of vast improvement for most of every player on Michigan Wolverines football roster. Huge steps forward were had by Michael Barrett, Mike Sainristil, Kris Jenkins and others during what was a pivotal point in their respective careers.

With young, budding talent rapidly making its way up the ranks, it’s tougher than ever for veterans who still have something to prove to maintain their starting minutes. Fortunately for guys like Barrett, these players were able to seize their moment and enter the offseason with an established report at their current position. But who will face a similar challenge this upcoming season?

Similarly to how Sainristil had to prove that he could fill a Daxton Hill-sized hole on defense, here’s who we see entering 2023 with something to prove.

A.J. Henning

The former four-star high school recruit hasn’t exactly lived up to that billing on offense during his time in Ann Arbor. He only had 10 catches for 79 yards in 2021, and followed that up with nine catches for 60 yards last season. His primary contributions have mostly come on special teams, as he did take a punt to the house against UConn last season.

And he won’t get much of a break with Roman Wilson and Cornelius Johnson both back, while second-year receivers Tyler Morris and Darrius Clemons are also expected to take a step forward. Henning needs to find a way to break through offensively, otherwise he will once again be relegated to mostly special teams.

Braiden McGregor

Another polarizing figure who garnered plenty of attention in the previous offseason was Braiden McGregor. Billed as the successor to Aidan Hutchinson, we haven’t seen him take off in the starting capacity we had hoped to see him in during his junior campaign.

The defensive line has plenty of competition heading into this year. Fellow senior Jaylen Harrell is likely to receive a lion's share of snaps, while incoming Coastal Carolina transfer Josaiah Stewart is no pushover as well. McGregor has all the mechanics to be an elite edge defender for the Wolverines, so hopefully he can break through this season.

Nikhai Hill-Green

The veteran linebacker missed all of last season due to an injury, save for a few instances where he attempted pregame warmups. His return this year could prove to be crucial, as the linebacker room is bolstered with the addition of Nebraska transfer Ernest Hausmann and the return of Michael Barrett. He would round out a really strong linebacker room.

Hill-Green was a stud during his second year in 2021, accumulating 50 tackles, two tackles for loss and one pass defended. There’s no telling what’s next for him, but we’ll certainly be hoping he’s rebounded from his injury and can be a solid contributor once again.