Pro Football Focus (PFF) released its annual “way-too-early” 2023 All-American predictions for the upcoming football season. The Michigan Wolverines were represented by three players — the most of any team in the country.
Running back Blake Corum, center Drake Nugent, and corner Will Johnson were the three Michigan players selected.
Corum was a Heisman front-runner last season before a knee injury against Illinois derailed his best season in maize and blue. Corum finished with 1,463 yards and 19 total touchdowns. While he is expected to split time with the dynamic Donovan Edwards to help preserve his health, Corum will be chasing legend status next season.
Currently, Corum is No. 7 in career rushing touchdowns (31) and is only eight away from the top five (Chris Perry), 10 away from Mike Hart, and 18 away from career leader Anthony Thomas.
If Courm can closely replicate his 2022 season, his name will be mentioned with the likes of Thomas, Hart, Perry, Jamie Morris, and Tyrone Wheatley when he departs for the NFL.
Drake Nugent is a relative unknown to most Michigan fans and will be until the fall. Nugent, a Stanford transfer, is currently recovering from minor surgery and will be limited in the spring.
Nugent was a four-year letterman at Stanford and has only allowed four sacks throughout 993 pass-blocking snaps as a starter. Can Michigan make it two in a row in terms of transfer Rimington/Outland Trophy winners and three-straight Joe Moore Awards?
Lastly, Will Johnson understood the pressure of dawning the No. 2 jersey as a corner at Michigan. Like the great No. 2 before him, even as a freshman, Johnson was impossible to keep off the field.
Once a starter, Johnson drew two of the toughest assignments in college football last season with Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. and Purdue’s Charlie Jones. The young freshman was excellent against both and even hauled in two man-to-man interceptions against Purdue in the Big Ten Championship.
The November rematch between Johnson and Harrison Jr. is one of the most anticipated positional battles in all of college football next season.
Here’s what PFF had to say about the three Wolverines:
RB: Blake Corum
“Corum’s 96.2 grade didn’t just lead all players in the country this past season, it was the best PFF has ever seen from a Power Five player. Corum’s 96 rushing first downs/touchdowns were second-most in the country behind only Minnesota’s Mohamed Ibrahim, who received 72 more carries. The junior should be on the shortlist of favorites for the Heisman Trophy next season.”
Center: Drake Nugent
“Despite losing Outland Trophy winner Olusegun Oluwatimi, Michigan should still have elite play in the middle of its offensive line.
Nugent is the highest-ranked center on this list and is the most valuable returning player at the position in the Power Five according to PFF’s wins above average metric. The Stanford transfer’s 84.1 run-blocking grade ranked third among all centers in the country this past season. Between Nugent creating holes in the middle and two top-10 running backs in Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards, the Wolverines’ ground game should once again be deadly next season.”
Flex-D: Will Johnson
“Johnson entered Ann Arbor as a five-star recruit and showed immediately that he was worth the hype.
He’ll remind many of Patrick Surtain II thanks to his size (6-foot-2) and lockdown ability. As a true freshman, Johnson led all corners in the Power Five with a 91.1 grade in man coverage. His two interceptions in man were also tied for fifth in that same group.”
Check out the complete list of PFF All-Americans here.
Michigan also had several players that weren’t listed as predictive All-Americans, but were ranked by PFF in the top 10 of their position in recent weeks:
- J.J. McCarthy, No. 8 Quarterback
- Donovan Edwards, No. 9 Running Back
- Zak Zinter, No. 3 Guard
- Kris Jenkins, No. 4 Interior Defensive Lineman
- Rod Moore, No. 5 Safety
It is not surprising to see so many Wolverines recognized in some capacity by PFF given Michigan’s returning production from a 13-1 College Football Playoff contender.
Although they weren’t mentioned by PFF, Michigan has a handful of other players you need to keep an eye on this season for potential breakthrough seasons: tight end Colston Loveland, left tackle LaDarius Henderson, interior defensive lineman Mason Graham, and nickel Mikey Sainristil.
Which Wolverines will be All-Americans in 2023?