Building a college football roster has completely transformed in the age of the transfer portal. Just this offseason, the Michigan Wolverines added seven players to help fill holes in the roster. But most College Football Playoff contending teams still build most of their team from traditional high school recruiting.
Heading into the 2024 cycle, there are a few positions that will need to be addressed to keep the Wolverines competing for the Big Ten and National Championships. Here is every position ranked in order of need.
There’s no question quarterback is the top priority in the 2024 class. After landing J.J. McCarthy in the class of 2021 as a five-star, Michigan had to take two project types the next year in three-stars Jayden Denegal and Alex Orji. This past year, Michigan punted on quarterback completely after top in-state five-star target Dante Moore fled to the West Coast.
Going two cycles in a row without a top quarterback prospect is bad enough, and the Wolverines won’t be able to survive three straight. They’ve put all their eggs in the Jadyn Davis basket and it looked poised to work but it’s not known how the NFL rumors with Jim Harbaugh will affect him.
2. Offensive Line
You would think winning back-to-back Joe Moore Awards would have top offensive linemen knocking down the door to play at Michigan. But in the last two cycles, Michigan has only taken five total. It has bolstered depth through the transfer portal but out of the three additions, only Myles Hinton has more than one year of eligibility left.
Michigan will have to take a group of at least five offensive linemen in 2024 to replenish depth and get some bodies to develop for the future. A true left tackle with length should be at the top of that list with most guys on the roster looking more like swing tackles.
Michigan’s defense was able to survive the loss of Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo this season, but having elite pass rushers cover a lot of defensive mistakes. Derrick Moore flashed as a freshman at times and will likely develop into a stud, but Michigan only has one year of Eyabi Anoma left and Braiden McGregor hasn’t broken out yet.
Luckily, the top signee in Michigan’s 2023 class, Enow Etta, should be able to contribute but the other potential edges are pure projects in Frenchman Aymeric Koumba and current linebacker Breeon Ishmail. Like offensive line, this is a position Michigan has a strong recruiting pitch and should be able to reel in some talent.
4. Running Back
The Illinois game last season showed the importance of a game-changing running back, especially when your entire offensive system is built around pounding the rock. Michigan should have another year of quality rushing when Donovan Edwards returns as the top guy next year, but after that are a lot of question marks.
CJ Stokes had some good moments as a true freshman, but the staff did not trust him enough to put him in big spots and he lost playing time as the season went on. The Wolverines landed a top-10 guy at the position in 2023 in Cole Cabana, but he may not be an every-down player. Mike Hart needs to land an elite talent in 2024 who can see the field early since there will be a wide open spot in the starting lineup.
Linebacker was the relative weak spot on the defense this past season, especially with Nikhai Hill-Green missing the entire season. Junior Colson improved a lot but it doesn’t look like he’ll be ready to leave early for the NFL.
Behind them though is all unproven talent. Jimmy Rolder got in a little bit as a true freshman but didn’t stand out a ton. Micah Pollard didn’t play much outside of special teams, and Deuce Spurlock just entered the transfer portal. Michigan flipped Hayden Moore late in the cycle and he has some promise, but he’s still a middle of the road three-star to the services. Getting a top-end player here would help boost the room greatly.
Michigan has one corner spot locked down with Will Johnson for the next two seasons at the very least. But with Gemon Green and DJ Turner either leaving this year or next, there will not be a lot of experience at the position on the roster.
For most of the 2023 cycle the Wolverines didn’t even have a cornerback commit but pulled a 180 by landing Cameron Calhoun and Jyaire Hill late. They’ll need to keep stacking talent to give them the best chance at finding two quality guys.
Michigan’s starting safeties all have multiple years of eligibility left and have a strong freshman class developing behind them in four-stars Keon Sabb and Zeke Berry, and three-star Damani Dent.
There are no true safeties in Michigan’s 2023 class but guys like D’Juan Waller and Jason Hewlett could turn into one down the line. Michigan could afford to take some high upside guys in 2023, but should get a true safety or two in the 2024 class.
8. Wide Receiver
Michigan’s wide receivers didn’t play up to their potential in 2022, but there will be a good group of talented young guys pushing for more playing time next season. Last year’s wide receiver group was excellent with four-stars Tyler Morris and Darrius Clemons, and three-star Amorion Walker.
Michigan added three more solid receivers in the 2023 class, so the room will be pretty crowded when the 2024 guys show up. Michigan can probably focus on one or two top-tier prospects to try and round out the room.
9. Tight End
There are always quality tight ends on Michigan’s roster, but Erick All, Luke Schoonmaker, Joel Honigford, Carter Selzer and Louis Hansen all will not be in Ann Arbor next year for various reasons.
The Wolverines have taken two tight ends each the last two cycles, though, and it looks like they’ve found a star in Colston Loveland as a true freshman. Four-star Hogan Hansen is already committed in 2024, and they could potentially take two more in the class.
10. Defensive Line
Contributing at defensive tackle as a true freshman is very difficult, but the Wolverines had two guys play legitimate snaps this season in Mason Graham and Kenneth Grant. They loaded up again in the 2023 class with Roderick Pierce, Brooks Bahr, and potentially Jamel Howard if he commits and signs in February.
Defensive line is always a position that needs depth because these big guys get tired quickly, but Michigan has a good group of young players who should be solid over the next few years.