After winning two consecutive Big Ten titles the last two seasons, it’s clear the 2023 Michigan Wolverines have their sights set on the National Championship.
But there are questions that must be answered first before we even begin to think about that. For today, we take a look at the biggest questions facing each offensive position as the Wolverines aim for greater heights.
QB: How much more does J.J. McCarthy have to give?
Last year, McCarthy was steady, if not show-stopping by averaging 194.2 passing yards per game, completing 65 percent of his passes with only five interceptions. Two of those interceptions came at the worst possible time, with McCarthy throwing two pick-sixes against TCU in the College Football Playoff.
McCarthy also shined at some of the best times, showing off the arm strength that made him a five-star recruit with three touchdown passes against Ohio State. He is already a good quarterback and even if he comes into the new season and puts up a similar performance to last year, Michigan will be in a good spot.
But man, if we see more of this next year? It could be a special season.
RB: How many reps will Donovan Edwards get as a pass catcher?
Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards will almost certainly be among the best running backs in all of college football. The two of them give Michigan versatility on the back end that few teams can match. Both of them are big assets to the team that it’s a waste of their talent to only be able to have one on the field at a time.
That’s where Edwards’ pass catching abilities come in. He caught 18 passes for 200 yards last year and has the speed to be a two-way threat. Using him more frequently as a receiving threat in packages alongside Corum would add dimension to the offense.
Of course, Edwards should and will still get significant reps as a running back, but keeping him on the field as much as possible and not just using him as a secondary option for Corum will be key.
WR: Is Cornelius Johnson the No. 1 option?
Since Donovan Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins left Michigan, the Wolverines really haven’t had a No. 1 receiver emerge. So is this the year someone like Johnson steps up to the plate?
Ronnie Bell, last year’s leading receiver with 889 yards on 62 receptions, is now in the NFL. Johnson was last year’s second-leading receiver, with 499 yards on 32 receptions. He’s the most experienced returning receiver and will get a large percentage of the targets, but his biggest competition might not come from his fellow receivers at all.
Depending on usage, Edwards and tight end Colston Loveland may also become the No. 1 pass-catching option for McCarthy. And with the strength of the running backs, does this team need a No. 1 receiving option? Is Johnson capable of doing more than he’s done? Will a newcomer like Darrius Clemons or another veteran like Roman Wilson take the next step?
Of all of Michigan’s offensive position groups, receiver is where it still has the most questions.
TE: What is Colston Loveland’s ceiling?
Loveland, a true freshman in 2022, showed massive growth throughout the year. He made his first career start against Penn State and continued to establish himself as a strong pass-blocker and receiver. He caught his first career touchdown against Ohio State and his second in the Big Ten Championship against Purdue.
Now, with Erick All at Iowa and Luke Schoonmaker in the NFL, Loveland is the top option. Under offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore, pass-blocking skill was to be expected, but his big touchdown plays at the end of the season show he likely has more to give as a pass-catcher. He is just a sophomore, and based on the skill we’ve seen so far, he has the potential to be one of the best tight ends in the conference. His development will be key to the success of the Michigan offense.
OL: How will the new transfers fit in?
Michigan is coming off back-to-back Joe Moore award victories. Sherrone Moore has led this position group to perhaps the best it has been in the history of the program, and made Michigan one of the most attractive transfer destinations for linemen in the portal.
Last year, Virginia transfer center Olu Oluwatimi fit like a glove and won the Rimington Award and the Outland Trophy. This season, Michigan brought in Arizona State lineman LaDarius Henderson, and Stanford linemen Drake Nugent and Myles Hinton via the portal. Nugent is expected to start at center with Oluwatimi graduating, while Henderson and Hinton will both compete for starting roles as well at left and right tackle, respectively.
Not everyone can be expected to slide in as seamlessly as Oluwatimi, and with Zak Zinter and Trevor Keegan returning, and Karsen Barnhart and Trente Jones also competing for starting roles, there may not be room for all three transfers to get starting reps. But having too many good linemen is a good problem to have, and the depth in the unit should spark confidence in whoever Moore decides to put out there every week.