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Junior Colson’s path to Michigan, outlook for 2023

The Michigan LB has been impressive in his first two seasons.

Connecticut v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Junior Colson has impressed for the Michigan Wolverines his first two seasons. It’s no accident his progression has coincided with Michigan defense’s, as they have made consecutive College Football Playoff appearances.

Heading into 2023, the defense is expected to be among the best in the country once again. Colson has grown into a leader and has now started 21 games. If this defense is back to championship form, Colson will be one of the main reasons they achieve their goals.

The story so far

Colson came to Michigan from Brentwood, Tennessee as a four-star recruit, a top-100 prospect and the No. 10 linebacker in the class. Obviously, this meant a lot of attention from blue blood programs, as the Wolverines won his commitment over schools like Tennessee, USC, Oklahoma, Oregon and Florida State.

As a true freshman, Colson appeared in all 14 games and made an impact early. He found playing time in a room full of players with more experience like Michael Barrett, Josh Ross and Nikhai Hill-Green. Eventually, he surpassed both Hill-Green and Barrett and became the starter. Michigan fans knew they might have something special when he had 12 tackles and a sack in Happy Valley in the 21-17 win over Penn State.

By the end of the season, Colson was a Freshman All-American and shared the Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.

In 2022, Colson had four games with double-digit tackles, including 15 in the Big Ten Championship. He started all 14 games and led the team with 101 tackles, including two sacks. Colson also shared Defensive Player of the Week honors three times.

At 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, Colson has become an imposing presence on the field for the Wolverines. He’s become more of a sure tackler and continues to improve as a pass rusher as well. Colson is on the right track to taking a large step forward for the 2023 season.

Outlook for 2023

“Next step is to be the best,” Colson said this spring, per On3. “Next step is to be the best out there. The next step is to be an All-American. The next step is to take my game to a whole new level.”

Colson will strive to be the first Michigan defender to record 100 or more tackles in multiple seasons since Jarret Irons in 1994-95-96. If he does achieve the All-American status, Colson will join Devin Bush as the only two true inside linebackers to earn the honor in the Jim Harbaugh era.

Colson has thrived in the Minter/Macdonald defense and continually grown into his role. Minter didn’t hold back on his projections for his star linebacker on the In The Trenches podcast:

Junior has as high of a ceiling of anybody on our defense. We’ve had a lot of talks about that. So I think I think it’s time for him to become not just like, ‘Oh, he’s a good player and he flies around and he makes some plays,’ but he needs to become the guy that everybody knows who he is, where he is, that he can wreck the game. He’s capable of doing that. I’m confident that he’ll continue to progress to that standpoint.

If Colson can get to that level, there is no doubt he will be in contention to be an All-American. Getting that kind of production from him will be extremely important to propelling this defense to a National Championship.