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Daily Brews: Phil Steele ranks Michigan football’s 2022 position groups

The unofficial czar of college football ranks the Wolverines’ position groups in conference and nationally. Plus, basketball’s home/away schedule announced for 2022.

2021 Big Ten Championship - Iowa v Michigan Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

National sportswriter Phil Steele has begun unveiling his annual college football thoughts, predictions and rankings for the 2022 season. Steele is widely regarded and respected as one of the foremost important voices covering the sport.

Simply, when he talks (and writes), people listen. Steele typically begins releasing content in late spring/early summer every year and in the mind of football die-hard fanatics, it actually marks the first day of fall and a new season.

This week, Steele released his positional group rankings for the entire country and the Wolverines were no lower than No. 36 across each group. Michigan topped the nation in two units and averaged a national position group ranking of 17.75 and a Big Ten ranking of 4.42.

Here’s how Steele saw each group and a quick reaction:

Quarterbacks (Big Ten: 4; Nationally: 28)

The Wolverines are in a win-win situation entering fall camp with Cade McNamara and J.J. McCarthy battling for the starting job. McNamara is a Big Ten Championship-winning quarterback and McCarthy has as high of a ceiling as any player in the country.

But until it’s played out and decided upon, this positioning is tolerable. Oddly enough, Michigan trailed Maryland in this category. Phil might be over-valuing those empty calorie passing stats from Turtle.

Running backs (Big Ten: 4; Nationally: 16)

This one confuses me.

I understand Hassan Haskins is gone, but there is a case to be made Blake Corum is the best running back in the conference and Donovan Edwards is the best backup in the conference.

Steele seems to disagree and has:

- Ohio State at No. 2 in the country (fine)

- Wisconsin at No. 3 (hmmmmm)

-Minnesota at No. 4 (And he puzzled and puzzled ‘till his puzzler was sore)

The injury potential has to be the only reason for this placement.

Receivers/Tight Ends (Big Ten: 4; Nationally: 15)

The Wolverines return their three leading wide receivers from last year (Cornelius Johnson, Roman Wilson, Mikey Sainristil), three leading tight ends (Erick All, Luke Schoonmaker, Joel Honingford), introduce highly touted freshmen at each position (Darrius Clemons, Colston Loveland), and senior captain receiver Ronnie Bell returns from injury.

Phil Steele has this group behind Maryland. Phil Steele is wrong.

Offensive Line (Big Ten: 1; Nationally: 1)

This is a no-brainer. The Wolverines return three starting offensive linemen from last season’s Joe Moore Award-winning group and bring in Virginia transfer center and 2021 Remington Award finalist Olu Oluwatimi.

Trente Jones — who appeared in all 14 games last season — will presumably slide in to the vacant right tackle position. Karsen Barnhart and Reece Atteberry will provide depth for the unit.

Defensive Line (Big Ten: 5; Nationally: 25)

There is a bunch of uncertainty surrounding this position group with the losses of All-Planet defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, defensive tackle Chris Hinton, and edge rushing “linebacker” David Ojabo.

The Wolverines do have talent across the defensive front including potential stars: Mazi Smith, Mike Morris, Kris Jenkins and Jaylen Harrell. Even deeper into the bench. guys like Taylor Upshaw, Braiden McGregor, Cam Goode, TJ Guy, and freshmen Derrick Moore and Mason Graham. The Wolverines have a pool of talented reserves.

However, until the stars shine and the talent pool proves its depth, this ranking is apt.

Linebackers (Big Ten: 7; Nationally: 36)

The biggest question mark here is depth. Freshman All-American Junior Colson will anchor this group with an improving Nikhai Hill-Green and veteran Michael Barrett. However, outside of these three names, it is slim.

Kalel Mullings — who also plays reserve running back now — Joey Velasquez, Tyler McLaurin and freshman Jimmy Rolder, are the next men up, but there a vast number of questions surrounding each of them.

Secondary (Big Ten: 5; Nationally: 20)

This unit is my lock to over-achieve this season. On paper, things appear rough with the departures of starting cornerback Vincent Gray, and starting safeties Dax Hill and Brad Hawkins.

However, on further examination, the Wolverines return their best corner (DJ Turner), two HIGHLY experienced and proven safeties (RJ Moten, Rod Moore) and bring in one of their best freshman classes ever (Will Johnson, Zeke Berry, Keon Sabb).

Not to mention, Michigan also returns Gemon Green and Makari Paige on the back end for depth.

Special Teams (Big Ten: 1; Nationally: 1)

An even bigger no-brainer than the offensive line since everyone is back from the best special teams unit in the country last season.

The rundown:

-Michigan’s first-ever Lou Groza Award winner, kicker Jake Moody, is back in Ann Arbor.

-Punter and senior leader Brad Robbins also returns. Robbins flew under the radar last year due to lack of use (because of a great offense), but when called upon, he was reliable.

-Talented punt returner AJ Henning will be back fielding punts and Michigan has a plethora of explosive options to return kicks, especially if they want to preserve Blake Corum.

-Jay Harbaugh — the best damn special teams coordinator in the country — is still here.


U-M basketball home/away splits announced

The men’s basketball home and away schedule was announced for the 2022-23 season.

The Michigan Wolverines will play:

HOME & AWAY: Michigan State, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State, Wisconsin

HOME ONLY: Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue

AWAY ONLY: Illinois, Iowa, Rutgers