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Predicting who Michigan’s team captains will be this season

Will McCarthy be the second QB ever selected in the Harbaugh era? Will a position group have two representatives?

Michigan v Ohio State Photo by Ben Jackson/Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines have a rich and storied history of team captains. Some of the most famous players in the history of maize and blue have been elected captains by their teammates.

Tight end Jim Mandich, wide receiver Anthony Carter, quarterback Jim Harbaugh, running back Jamie Morris, defensive tackle Mark Messner, offensive lineman Jon Jansen, running back Mike Hart and quarterback Denard Robinson all had the distinguished honor to lead the Wolverines as a captain.

Even Tom Brady — the greatest quarterback to ever throw a football — stated how much being a captain at Michigan meant to him back in 2013:

“And do you know what the greatest honor I’ve ever received as a player is? In my fourth year and my fifth year, I was named team captain. That, to this day, is the single greatest achievement I’ve ever had as a football player.

“Because the men in this room chose me to lead their team. And these were my best friends. These were the guys that knew that I liked to work; that knew that I loved football; that knew that I loved to play; that knew that I wanted to be the quarterback for Michigan.”

Being a captain at Michigan is a tremendous honor, and a few more will add that honor to their legacy this season. So who will it be? And how many team captains will be selected?

Under head coach Jim Harbaugh, the number of captains has changed depending on the season. During Harbaugh’s first three years (2015-2017), only two players were selected as captains. In 2018, 2019 and 2021, four players were chosen. Last season saw five selected and for some unbeknownst reason, seven were selected in 2020.

2022: Cade McNamara, Mazi Smith, Erick All, Ronnie Bell, Mike Sainristil

2021: Aidan Hutchinson, Andrew Vastardis, Josh Ross, Ronnie Bell

2020: Aidan Hutchinson, Andrew Vastardis, Josh Ross, Ben Mason, Nick Eubanks, Carlo Kemp, Kwity Paye

2019: Carlo Kemp, Ben Bredeson, Khaleke Hudson

2018: Ben Bredeson, Devin Bush, Tyree Kinnell, Karan Higdon

2017: Mo Hurst, Mike McCray

2016: Jake Butt, Chris Wormley

2015: Joe Bolden, Joe Kerridge

Here is how it breaks down by position group:

DL: 6 (Chris Wormley, Mo Hurst, Carlo Kemp, Kwity Paye, Aidan Hutchinson, Mazi Smith)

LB: 5 (Joe Bolden, Mike McCray, Devin Bush, Khaleke Hudson, Josh Ross)

TE: 3 (Jake Butt, Nick Eubanks, Erick All)

OL: 2 (Ben Bredeson, Andrew Vastardis)

DB: 2 (Tyree Kinnell, Mikey Sainristil)

FB: 2 (Joe Kerridge, Ben Mason)

QB: 1 (Cade McNamara)

RB: 1 (Karan Higdon)

WR: 1 (Ronnie Bell)

It is safe to assume there will be somewhere between four and five captains this season. If there are seven, it might be time to panic.

Let’s look at the contenders. During Harbaugh’s tenure, only upperclassmen have been elected, so we will start with that pool and work our way down.

Upperclassmen

Ja’Den McBurrows, Josaiah Stewart, Donovan Edwards, J.J. McCarthy, Davis Warren, Tommy Doman, Rod Moore, Tavierre Dunlap, Junior Colson, Rayshaun Benny, Tyler McLaurin, Jaydon Hood, Joe Taylor, Christian Boivin, TJ Guy, Jesse Madden, Max Bredeson, Noah Howes, Alexander Lidback, Henry Donohue, Greg Crippen, Kechaun Bennett, Joel Metzger, Dominick Giudice, Trevor Andrews, Giovanni El-Hadi, Raheem Anderson, Peter Simmons, Tristan Bounds, Peyton O’Leary, Cristian Dixon, Ikechukwu Iwunnah, Charlie Mentzer, Blake Corum, Makari Paige, Roman Wilson, Braiden McGregor, Kalel Mullings, Jake Thaw, Christian Bartholomew, Will Rolapp, Jaylen Harrell, Josh Beetham, Greg Tarr, Jerome Nichols, Noah Stewart, Zak Zinter, Reece Atteberry, Myles Hinton, Jeff Persi, Eamonn Dennis, Sam Staruch, Matthew Hibner, A.J. Barner, Kris Jenkins, Mikey Sainristil, Cornelius Johnson, Jack Tuttle, Michael Barrett, Quinten Johnson, Joey Velazquez, German Green, Leon Franklin, Caden Kolesar, Keshaun Harris, Danny Hughes, Joshua Luther, William Wagner, Karsen Barnhart, Trente Jones, Drake Nugent, Trevor Keegan, Zach Peterson, Mathew Harrison, Cam Goode.

Aside from Kerridge in 2015, every captain (barring injury) started the majority of the season. McNamara was on his way to joining Kerridge last season, but an injury against UConn prematurely ended his season and forced him to move west.

Now, let’s eliminate some of the obvious non-contenders based on starting potential.

Ja’Den McBurrows, Josaiah Stewart, Donovan Edwards, J.J. McCarthy, Davis Warren, Tommy Doman, Rod Moore, Tavierre Dunlap, Junior Colson, Rayshaun Benny, Tyler McLaurin, Jaydon Hood, Joe Taylor, Christian Boivin, TJ Guy, Jesse Madden, Max Bredeson, Noah Howes, Alexander Lidback, Henry Donohue, Greg Crippen, Kechaun Bennett, Joel Metzger, Dominick Giudice, Trevor Andrews, Giovanni El-Hadi, Raheem Anderson, Peter Simmons, Tristan Bounds, Peyton O’Leary, Cristian Dixon, Ikechukwu Iwunnah, Charlie Mentzer, Blake Corum, Makari Paige, Roman Wilson, Braiden McGregor, Kalel Mullings, Jake Thaw, Christian Bartholomew, Will Rolapp, Jaylen Harrell, LaDarius Henderson, Josh Beetham, Greg Tarr, Jerome Nichols, Noah Stewart, Zak Zinter, Reece Atteberry, Myles Hinton, Jeff Persi, Eamonn Dennis, Sam Staruch, Matthew Hibner, A.J. Barner, Kris Jenkins, Mikey Sainristil, Cornelius Johnson, Jack Tuttle, Michael Barrett, Quinten Johnson, Joey Velazquez, German Green, Leon Franklin, Caden Kolesar, Keshaun Harris, Danny Hughes, Joshua Luther, William Wagner, Karsen Barnhart, Trente Jones, Drake Nugent, Trevor Keegan, Zach Peterson, Mathew Harrison, Cam Goode, Josh Wallace.

These are the easiest cuts; mostly special teams aces and reserves. McBurrows, El-Hadi, O’Leary and a handful of defensive ends and tight ends all make it through because of either talent, potential or positional competitions.

This leaves us with a much shallower pool.

Contenders

Ja’Den McBurrows, Josaiah Stewart, Donovan Edwards, JJ McCarthy, Rod Moore, Junior Colson, Rayshaun Benny, Max Bredeson, Giovanni El-Hadi, Peyton O’Leary, Blake Corum, Makari Paige, Roman Wilson, Braiden McGregor, Jaylen Harrell, LaDarius Henderson, Zak Zinter, Myles Hinton, Matthew Hibner, A.J. Barner, Kris Jenkins, Mikey Sainristil, Cornelius Johnson, Michael Barrett, Karsen Barnhart, Trente Jones, Drake Nugent, Trevor Keegan, Josh Wallace

Next, let’s eliminate a few players lacking in-game experience and transfers. No transfer has ever been named a captain, although Olu Oluwatimi was close last season, being named an alternate captain and filling in for McNamara after the UConn game. Also, no offensive tackle has ever been selected as a team captain under Harbaugh, so we will eliminate players at that position as well.

Ja’Den McBurrows, Donovan Edwards, J.J. McCarthy, Rod Moore, Junior Colson, Rayshaun Benny, Max Bredeson, Giovanni El-Hadi, Blake Corum, Makari Paige, Roman Wilson, Braiden McGregor, Jaylen Harrell, LaDarius Henderson, Zak Zinter, Myles Hinton, Matthew Hibner, A.J. Barner, Kris Jenkins, Mikey Sainristil, Cornelius Johnson, Michael Barrett, Karsen Barnhart, Trente Jones, Drake Nugent, Trevor Keegan, Josh Wallace

We lose some key guys here like Barnhart and Jones, and even former team captains at other schools like Henderson, Wallace, Barner and Nugent. If any of these guys are going to break through and prove me wrong, it’s Nugent solely based on the Oluwatimi theory from last year. Let’s keep it rolling!

The Final 15

Donovan Edwards, J.J. McCarthy, Rod Moore, Junior Colson, Blake Corum, Makari Paige, Roman Wilson, Braiden McGregor, Jaylen Harrell, Zak Zinter, Kris Jenkins, Mikey Sainristil, Cornelius Johnson, Michael Barrett, Trevor Keegan

Aside from the seven-captain team in 2020, there are never two team captains from the same position group. Time to eliminate one player from each position group.

Donovan Edwards, J.J. McCarthy, Rod Moore, Junior Colson, Blake Corum, Makari Paige, Roman Wilson, Braiden McGregor, Jaylen Harrell, Zak Zinter, Kris Jenkins, Mikey Sainristil, Cornelius Johnson, Michael Barrett, Trevor Keegan

Barrett’s six-year veteran presence outweighs Colson’s three. McGregor and Harrell miss out on the defensive line behind Jenkins. Sainristil was a team captain last year and probably will be again this year, so that eliminates Moore and Paige in the secondary. Zinter wins out over Keegan, Corum over Edwards, and CJ wins out over Wilson (gut feeling).

FINALISTS

J.J. McCarthy, Blake Corum, Zak Zinter, Kris Jenkins, Mikey Sainristil, Cornelius Johnson, Michael Barrett

Instead of eliminating, let’s talk about locks. Sainristil, Jenkins and Zinter feel like locks. Mikey and Kris are two of the representatives at Big Ten Media Days, and Zak is the most experienced player at the best position group. So that leaves McCarthy, Corum, Johnson and Barrett for the final two spots.

I feel like McCarthy, Corum and Barrett carry more of a leadership role than Johnson, so apologies CJ, but you’re eliminated. I buy into the cliché quarterback leadership hype, and I think this team buys into McCarthy. Let’s make him a lock.

Corum vs. Barrett…I really want to go Barrett, because I love what he brings as a veteran player and an all-around human being, but I think Corum’s lead-by-example nature earns him the final spot. Not to mention, Corum was announced as the third and final Big Ten Media Day attendee, which all but signifies a captain designation.

2023 Team Captain Official Prediction

Mikey Sainristil, Kris Jenkins, Zak Zinter, J.J. McCarthy, Blake Corum

Alternate captain: Michael Barrett

Who do you think will be a team captain this fall?