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Michigan’s most underrated players at each offensive position group

Who are the offensive players not being talked about enough?

NCAA Football: Northern Illinois at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan Wolverines offense is full of familiarity at every position. The unit returns eight starters, wide receiver Ronnie Bell is back from injury, soon-to-be star running back Donovan Edwards enters the two-deep rotation, transfer center and 2021 Rimington finalist Olu Oluwatimi will anchor the offensive line, and new right tackle Trente Jones played in every game last season as the sixth option for the frequently used power formations.

You know the stars, the headliners, and even the excitement-injecting freshmen who only represent untapped future greatness at the moment. Naturally, a few players will always slip between the cracks of the old guard and the new guard and fly under the radar entering a new season.

Whether they be journeymen still looking for an expanded role, underappreciated veterans or quickly forgotten-about sophomores, these underrated players will have an impact on the 2022 season.

Quarterback - Freshman Alex Orji

The only freshman to make this list, presumptive fourth- or fifth-string quarterback Alex Orji is a UNIT listed at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds. He is a talented and fearless runner with the ball in his hands, and his play-making abilities will allow him to jump the line at his position to see meaningful minutes over more traditional pocket passers Alan Bowman.

Between all the quarterbacks — Cade McNamara, J.J. McCarthy, Bowman, Davis Warren, Orji — and much like Alex’s last name, this position will be a group effort.

Running Back - Sophomore Tavierre Dunlap

Maybe it’s the jersey number, maybe it’s the running style, but Tavierre Dunlap is eerily reminiscent of recent Wolverine running back Karan Higdon. Even further, much like Higdon’s sophomore season, Dunlap is starting in the middle of the depth chart a year after having a minimal workload.

Dunlap’s role this season will be to provide depth and spell the 1-A and 1-B combo of Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards. In every full season since 2015, the third running back in a Jim Harbaugh-led offense has at least accrued 51 touches during the season. Dunlap will see plenty of work as the third back and will be more essential to the health and longevity of Edwards and Corum than cryotherapy.

Wide Receiver - Senior Cornelius Johnson

This will be the most controversial selection by far. How can a soon-to-be three-year starter and the 2021 team’s leader or co-leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns be underrated?

Cornelius Johnson (CJ) has received more than his fair share of criticisms for being the team’s good, not great top receiving option, but now the pendulum has swung too far against him.

With the return of Ronnie Bell, glimpsed, but unrealized talent of Andrel Anthony, game-breaking ability of AJ Henning, burning speed of Roman Wilson, and freshman sensation Darrius Clemons, CJ has unfairly fallen into the fan tier of, “Oh yeah, he’s still here. That’s nice. Man, I’m so excited for Andrel Anthony to take that next step!”

Johnson is vastly better than an afterthought and should still be considered a threat to lead this team in any of the three major receiving categories.

Tight End - Senior Carter Selzer

All of the positional hype is appropriately focused on Erick All and Luke Schoonmaker who comprise one of the most lethal tight end duos in the country. Even freshman newcomer Colston Loveland has a lot of buzz surrounding him as the next “guy” at the position. But until his coronation is earned, two more tight ends are going to have a chance to make some noise in their final year of eligibility: Joel Honigford and Carter Selzer.

Either has a case for being the most underrated, but I am going with The Sheriff. Seltzer has progressed from walk-on, to a scholarship player, to contributor, and to team favorite who has earned the endearing moniker of Sheriff inside of Schembechler Hall.

Seltzer is a team-first player who was more known for his burning hatred of Michigan’s rivals before making his first career reception last season. After gaining 15 more pounds in the offseason (currently listed at 257 pounds), the receiver-first Seltzer is a rare player with rare size looking to take one more step as a Wolverine.

Listed at 6-foot-8 ( “YOU CAN’T TEACH THAT!”), if Selzer can learn how to properly utilize his frame and positioning given his basketball background, he could become a red zone mismatch. Or more than likely, at least a red zone diversion.

Offensive Line - Senior Karsen Barnhart

Karsen Barnhart appeared in 10 games last season and even started two at left guard. Barnhart is a versatile player who can play on either side of the offensive line at guard or tackle. Currently locked in a positional battle with Trente Jones for the starting right tackle job, it appears Barnhart is going to lose out.

Jones has never played an interior offensive snap at Michigan and if Jones were to be the reserve, he could only back-up the tackles. With Jones being the starter, Barnhart can effectively become the first reserve across four positions on the offensive line, as well as the sixth linemen used in power formations.

Because of Barnhart’s versatility, he has the dubious honor of hearing what too many of us do at work: “You are just too valuable to promote.”

However, Barnhart is perhaps the most valuable non-starter on the entire team.