The Michigan Wolverines offense returns eight starters from last year, making them one of the most experienced units in all of college football. The eight returning starters do not even include the return of playmaking veteran wide receiver Ronnie Bell and Virginia transfer center and Rimington finalist center Olu Oluwatimi, which will only raise the ceiling for this experienced group.
With this many proven commodities, pinpointing a breakout candidate is difficult.
It could be argued wide receivers AJ Henning or Andrel Anthony are breakout candidates. After all, Henning finished last season with only 241 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns, and Anthony only had one game of substance.
But Henning has been a prominent offensive chess piece for some time and Anthony’s monster six catches for 155 yards and two-touchdown performance against Michigan State carries enough weight to make him one of last year’s breakout players.
Other arguments could include tight end Luke Schoonmaker, wide receiver Cristian Dixon, running back Tavierre Dunlap or a few others but of the names along the fringes, here are my breakout candidates for 2022.
OT Trente Jones
Trente Jones is the presumptive starter to replace second team All-American and current New England Patriot Andrew Stueber at right tackle this season. While these are large shoes to fill, I believe in Jones’ athleticism and deceptive amount of experience to make success immediately attainable.
Unlike Stueber, Jones is a natural right tackle who plays with quick feet and great leverage. Jones appeared in all 14 games last season across the Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line and in a special teams capacity for the Wolverines.
Expect Jones to be a force in the running game right away, especially when handling outside zone responsibilities. He will need to gain more experience in pass protection but I think he could be a road-grading run blocker in Week 1.
WR Darrius Clemons
The most difficult issue facing true freshman Darrius Clemons is playing time. Just from last year’s team, Clemons has to compete with Ronnie Bell, Cornelius Johnson, Roman Wilson, AJ Henning, Andrel Anthony and Mikey Sainristil, not to mention sophomore Cristian Dixon and fellow incoming freshmen Amorion Walker and Tyler Morris.
Clemons is a big receiver at 6-foot-3, who made a splash among teammates and coaches his first week in Ann Arbor as an early enrollee. At the spring game, Clemons was a focal point, leading both teams in targets and even hauled in a highlight reel 35-yard touchdown from quarterback Alan Bowman.
With his size and ball skills, much like Anthony last season, Clemons is a player to watch emerge in a big moment toward the middle of the season.
TE Colston Loveland
Colston Loveland comes to Michigan as a massive target (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) with soft hands and fluid route-running skills. Despite joining a room that returns the top five from the position group, Loveland brings a unique set of skills that could help get him on the field.
Loveland is listed as a tight end, but moves more like an old school X-receiver who specializes as a physical possession receiver. While it will take Loveland some time to catch up from a blocking perspective at this level, he is more than ready as a receiver.
The coaching staff seems to value what he brings to the team, as evidenced by the spring game. A trick play was designed just for Loveland to be the beneficiary of an Erick All double pass.
While a small sample size, it’s usually a good sign when coaches have worked with you for less than two months and have already drawn up plays to specifically get you the ball.