2023 Michigan Wolverines

Phall

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Since 2005, Michigan has started 8,7,8,9,8,9,9,8,12,11,10,10,8,7,6,5,7, and 5 white players. This year, the team looks like it will bounce back up to 8 starters. Personally, I am pleased with the current trajectory. While the Wolverines will never be an explicitly “white friendly” team, they make for a palatable rooting option among the top tier of playoff hopefuls. Michigan has legitimate stars to support in QB JJ McCarthy and TE Colston Loveland, while edge Braiden McGregor and nose tackle Mason Graham should be two of the best players on a very solid defense. Most incredibly, this team currently has someone to mention in every single position group. I'm particularly happy with the "positional diversity" of the underclassmen and recruits.

Coaching: Jim Harbaugh is staring down the barrel of a 4-game suspension from the NCAA because he is alleged to have taken two recruits out for hamburgers at the Brown Jug. I once fondled a fat girl on a Friday night in the Brown Jug’s men’s bathroom. I’m glad that place is still in business. Anyway, Harbaugh might finally say he’s had enough of these pedantic rules and give the NFL another call next offseason. It's a familiar dance.

Black OC and Offensive Line coach Sherrone Moore has won two consecutive Joe Moore Awards (starting 9 of 10 white players). He gets the title promotion because black quarterback fetishist Mike McDonald got fired for spying on someone’s emails (probably a woman, but the full story never leaked). Harbaugh calls the plays anyway. Jesse Minter returns as DC for a second year; like many on staff, he is upwardly-mobile at age 40.

Recruiting: Michigan brings on a 2023 freshman class with just 5/25 white players. Among them, RB Cole Cabana, LB Hayden Moore, and DL Brooks Bahr are joining mostly black position groups. Signing 4/5 black offensive linemen is certainly a departure from the norm. The 2024 class looks much better and features 12/26 white players, including five defenders (but no backs, of course).

QB: JJ McCarthy won an in-season competition last year with incumbent starter Cade McNamara, who has transferred to Iowa. Without getting into hyperbole, McCarthy has all the tools to play on Sundays. Michigan has always relied heavily on its run game, so if anything, McCarthy doesn’t always get to show his stuff based on the gameplan. This will be a QB-heavy draft, so where he finally ranks might depend on how well the team performs overall.

The backups are Indiana grad transfer Jack Tuttle and capable walk-on Davis Warren, who gets rave reviews in practice but has not seen meaningful snaps. Both are a full rung below McCarthy but would be fine as game managers for most of Michigan’s schedule. Warren may be a reasonable bridge starter next year if McCarthy decides to leave. The three black underclassmen on scholarship don’t seem likely to ever take a snap. Unfortunately, the team has a prized black quarterback lined up in the 2024 class. We'll see what happens next year.

RB: It’s been a long time since the Wolverines have had something to report in this column. True freshman Cole Cabana arrives as a highly-rated 4-star prospect. Although Cole has been an in-state Michigan lean with a strong recruiting profile for awhile, I still give RB coach (and former player) Mike Hart some credit for breaking the stereotype. For those keeping track, this is Michigan’s first white scholarship running back since Sam McGuffie’s lone season with the team in 2008. Cabana is a pass-catching home run threat; the concern with him has been that he’s not (yet) big enough for a full workload. He addressed some of that by showing up to camp weighing 200 lbs.

Michigan has two elite running backs who will probably both go pro after this season. In 2024, competition will be wide open. Harbaugh runs the ball enough that there should be plenty of carries for Cole to show his stuff. The simple comparison is Christian McCaffrey here, and for that reason alone, I wouldn’t be upset if Cabana starts his career returning punts/kicks to maximize early touches.

WR: Here’s another traditionally barren position group with a new player to look for this season. Walk-on Peyton O’Leary opened enough eyes during the spring game by torching scholarship cornerbacks that he’s probably at worst the team’s fourth receiver now. He’s a deep/outside threat (rather than a slot) as a 6’3, 200 redshirt sophomore. Michigan doesn’t have any history with walk-on receivers of any race that I can remember, so O’Leary will have to make the most of his chances early in an offense that isn’t exactly pass-happy.

TE: While Iowa gets the label, the Wolverines have also done a terrific job putting its tight ends into the NFL. Their next star is true sophomore Colston Loveland, who played his way into starting the last five games of the season. Loveland is on a star trajectory, and his ceiling this year is pushing Georgia’s Brock Bowers for some seasonal awards. Grad transfer A.J. Barner arrives from Indiana as a former starter who will see plenty of snaps, including 2-TE sets. Behind them are white athletes Marlin Klein, Matthew Hibner, and true freshman Deakon Tonielli. Max Bredeson, brother of NFL guard Ben, is also in with this group but may play more of an H-back/fullback role with (very) minimal carries.

Offensive Line: Michigan’s team is loaded this year after two straight years of winning the aforementioned Joe Moore Award for best line in the country. Seven players made the Senior Bowl watch list and could all conceivably wind up as pros. The current projection is another 4/5 white starting group led by guards Zak Zenner and Trevor Keegan. Center Drake Nugent transferred from Stanford and will look to stave off fast-rising Greg Crippen. Karsen Barnhart played all over as the sixth lineman last year and will probably assume the right tackle position. Tristan Bounds, Jeffrey Persi, Reece Attebury, Dominic Giudice, and Andrew Gentry are all in queue as successors.

It shouldn’t go unmentioned that the staff brought in six new black scholarship offensive lineman this offseason through recruiting and the transfer portal. The 2024 starting line and beyond could potentially veer away from Michigan’s whiteness trend. However, the 2024 class now includes 5 of 5 white freshman o-line commits, restoring order.

Edge: Braiden McGregor looks to finally fulfill his destiny as the heir to Aiden Hutchinson and Chase Winovich. I’ve written the same preview about him for three years now: high school knee surgery seemed to slow his progress at the college level. He has elite burst and upper body strength but hasn’t added an effective bull rush to skillset. McGregor has another covid year of eligibility but could test the NFL waters with an impressive year. Unfortunately, McGregor’s own heir is not yet on campus.

DT: True sophomore Mason Graham has already made a splash and appears on plenty of pre-season shortlists. At 318 lbs, Graham has this year and next before hitting NFL eligibility but should already be on early-round draft radars. He is one of the very best white DT prospects and not far off the top of the overall list at this point. Apart from Graham, true freshman Brooks Bahr was recruited as an edge but arrived on campus weighing 298 lbs. Sophomore Alessandro Lorenzetti has moved from IOL to DT this offseason. Neither are likely to contribute much this season.

LB: Jimmy Rolder exceeded expectations simply by getting onto the field so much as a true freshman in 2022. He is firmly a contributor but still has upperclassmen above him on the depth chart. Joey Velazquez is a career special-teamer who gets more playing time for Michigan baseball. Hayden Moore will probably redshirt as a freshman.

DB: ‘Special Teams Demon’ Caden Kolesar also plays safety and has appeared in 27 games before losing most of last season to injury. He was initially a legacy preferred walk-on; it’s not clear if he gets put on scholarship each year (scholarships mean a bit less now in the NIL era). Injuries got Kolesar on the field for a bit in 2021, and he acquitted himself well enough, but that ship has probably sailed. Walk-on QB Brandon Mann has moved to safety and walk-on RB Nico Andrighetto has moved to cornerback, presumably just to give Kolesar someone to talk to during practice.

Special Teams: The Wolverines fared very well with their special teams unit in 2022. They poached Louisville kicker James Turner from the transfer portal to replace Jake Moody. Punter Tommy Doman moves into starting duty. Cole Cabana could be in the mix for returns, but that's far from a lock.

Starters:
QB: JJ McCarthy
TE: Colston Loveland, (A.J. Barner)
O-Line: Zak Zinter, Trevor Keegan, Drake Nugent, (Karsen Barnhart)

DT: Mason Graham
Edge: Braiden McGregor

Backups to watch:
QB: Jack Tuttle, Davis Warren
RB: Cole Cabana
TE: Max Bredeson, Matthew Hibner, Marlin Klein, Deakon Tonielli
WR: Peyton O'Leary
O-Line: Greg Crippen, Tristan Bounds, Jeffrey Persi, Reece Atteberry, Dominic Giudice, Andrew Gentry

LB: Jimmy Rolder
S: Caden Kolesar
 

Leonardfan

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Fantastic write-up as always @Phall . UM will certainly be one of the teams with National Championship aspirations to keep our eyes on. Curious to see how McCarthy does - wouldn't hate it if he played well this season and returned to Ann Arbor for 2024. It is also nice to see the transfer portal work out with McNamara going to Iowa. They do not end up playing each other during the regular season so an Iowa-UM Big Ten Championship would be nice to see with the obvious McNamara-McCarthy storyline being one of the main points of focus.
 

white lightning

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Michigan will be worth tuning in to on the tv for the next 3 or 4 years. Let's hope Cole Cabana does what McGuffie should have!
 

Freethinker

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Great write up! You always makes me care way more about the Wolverines than I should with your detailed comments.
 

Phall

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Walk-on WR Jake Thaw, who had not even been mentioned in media sessions prior to the season and was completely off my radar, is currently the primary punt returner. Michigan has done this previously (two years ago with Caden Kolesar), where a white walk-on starts the year as the "safe" option until the staff trusts a black scholarship receiver to take over and not fumble.

Kolesar played 20 solid snaps last weekend as a backup safety in the blowout win over UNLV. He may have played his way back onto the two-deep and technically has a sixth year of eligibility available next year, if he wants it.

Mason Graham has graded out tremendously so far against overmatched competition. As a nose tackle, he won't necessarily pile up stats, but he still got credit for half a sack and a forced fumble last weekend. Braiden McGregor also performed very well, which is important because he has a younger, highly-rated black player pushing him for playing time at edge.

Karsen Barnhart has started the first two games at left tackle. He's a late-round pro prospect at guard, but Michigan already has two stud guards on its line. Barnhart hasn't graded out all that well early on, which is of interest because he's the only white tackle out of Michigan's current top four. I hope can play well enough to stay on the field.

Backup LB Jimmy Rolder and WR Peyton O'Leary have missed the first two games outright with an undisclosed injury.
 
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Knowing how much the tribe hates Whitey makes me believe this whole hit job on Michigan is to stop JJ McCarthy from winning the heisman. He was the odds on favorite as of week 9 and now he’s 4th
 

Phall

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I'll bump this thread with the same treatment as Washington before tonight's big game.

The Wolverines will start 8 white players in the championship game, one less than normal due to Zack Zinter's broken leg. The team's run-heavy build results in depressed statistics for McCarthy and his two tight ends, AJ Barner and Colson Loveland. McCarthy's draft stock has taken a hit simply because he lacks the gaudy numbers of his peers in the defense-optional conferences.

On the subject of draft stock:
QB JJ McCarthy: 1st-2nd round. To his immense credit, I really don't think he cares at all. He's let his numbers take a back seat to the program's path to success (via risk aversion). I think Bo Nix might be faster on his feet, but McCarthy seems more worthy of receiving the keys to an NFL team's offense than multiple quotas currently mocked ahead of him. Due to NIL (and a comparatively thin draft class next year), there's a reasonable chance he returns to school next year, though probably not if he wins a national title.
OG Zack Zinter: 2nd-3rd round. A broken leg unfortunately knocked Zinter out of Michigan's playoff games. He'll miss combine testing but shouldn't lose much draft capital if he's ready to play by NFL camp.
OG Trevor Keegan: 3rd-5th round. Narrow runner-up to Zinter for team's best lineman. A bit smaller and stronger, IIRC, and probably "meaner."
TE AJ Barner: 3rd-5th round. Despite ostensibly being TE #1b on the team, Barner has forced his way onto draft boards with superlative blocking and making the most of his limited receiving opportunities. He's a big target with sure hands that can turn and run after the catch, and he should be amongst the first ten or twelve tight ends off the board.
EDGE Braiden McGregor: 3rd-6th round. Michigan's front four rotates heavily, which has perhaps limited McGregor's stat profile against his peer group. He will probably test well at the combine (if he declares), which will determine his draft place, although I don't think any NFL team is going to hand him automatic playing time. Closer to Chase Winovich than Aidan Hutchinson.
C Drake Nugent: 6th-UDFA. The Stanford transfer has been a solid if unspectacular cog in Michigan's solid if unspectacular offensive line. Hard to guess where teams will prioritize drafting centers, but Nugent will at least find himself in a training camp.
OG Karsen Barnhart: 6th-UDFA. Barnhart had a bit of a raw deal as Michigan's third best guard, kicking out to right tackle behind two slightly superior guard prospects. His versatility will get him a camp invite and ideally a roster spot. He's playing right guard tonight in place of the injured Zinter and fared very well in that role against Alabama last week.
K James Turner: 7th-UDFA. My rather wild guess is that Turner is a top 5-15 kicker prospect, which should get him a camp invite but is probably not distinguished enough to warrant spending a draft pick.

Michigan's two other white starters, TE Colson Loveland and DT Mason Graham, are both true sophomores. Although it's early, they look like they could be 1st to 3rd round picks in 2025, should they play well enough to declare early. Graham won Defensive Player of the Game last week against Alabama. Loveland is a catch-first big-play tight end who suffers a bit from the low usage rate.

In punt return coverage, both freshman "upsider" Semaj (sp?) Morgan and walk-on upperclassman "safe option" Jake Thaw muffed punts against Alabama. Although Thaw recovered his mistake, I'd guess that's the end of his opportunities.

As far as backups: FB/TE Max Bredeson plays a fair amount as a blocker but will not touch the ball. ILB Jimmy Rolder worked his way back onto the field from injury at the end of the year but is likely relegated to special teams for now. RB Cole Cabana, LB Hayden Moore, and DL Brooks Bahr are true freshmen taking redshirts this year and are unlikely to have their names called. TE Matthew Hibner and S Caden Kolesar are special teamers only this season. Although Jack Tuttle is technically the backup QB, Michigan has been running the occasional wildcat package for one of its beefy black quarterbacks. Walk-on WR Peyton O'Leary seems to mostly line up in the slot and go in motion as a decoy in his limited snaps, despite fine speed and good size - maybe next year.
 

Leonardfan

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Great preview for the national championship. It’s safe to say we will all be rooting for Michigan tonight.

Rumors are swirling regarding Harbaugh’s return to the NFL after the game tonight. If he goes McCarthy will probably follow suit although another season in Ann Arbor shouldn’t seem out of the question. He would be the rare 4 year player at the position headed into the 2025 draft.
 

Carolina Speed

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RB Cole Cabana, LB Hayden Moore, and DL Brooks Bahr are true freshmen taking redshirts this year and are unlikely to have their names called.
Yes, great write up. Let's go Michigan. Never thought I would say that by the way as I remember when little ol' Appalachian State from Boone, NC went up to the 'The Big House' and knocked off Michigan 34-32 in 2007. Any of you youngns' remember that?
Pardon my ignorance, but does that mean Cabana and the others still have 4 years eligibility?
 

El Gringo

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I'll bump this thread with the same treatment as Washington before tonight's big game.

The Wolverines will start 8 white players in the championship game, one less than normal due to Zack Zinter's broken leg. The team's run-heavy build results in depressed statistics for McCarthy and his two tight ends, AJ Barner and Colson Loveland. McCarthy's draft stock has taken a hit simply because he lacks the gaudy numbers of his peers in the defense-optional conferences.

On the subject of draft stock:
QB JJ McCarthy: 1st-2nd round. To his immense credit, I really don't think he cares at all. He's let his numbers take a back seat to the program's path to success (via risk aversion). I think Bo Nix might be faster on his feet, but McCarthy seems more worthy of receiving the keys to an NFL team's offense than multiple quotas currently mocked ahead of him. Due to NIL (and a comparatively thin draft class next year), there's a reasonable chance he returns to school next year, though probably not if he wins a national title.
OG Zack Zinter: 2nd-3rd round. A broken leg unfortunately knocked Zinter out of Michigan's playoff games. He'll miss combine testing but shouldn't lose much draft capital if he's ready to play by NFL camp.
OG Trevor Keegan: 3rd-5th round. Narrow runner-up to Zinter for team's best lineman. A bit smaller and stronger, IIRC, and probably "meaner."
TE AJ Barner: 3rd-5th round. Despite ostensibly being TE #1b on the team, Barner has forced his way onto draft boards with superlative blocking and making the most of his limited receiving opportunities. He's a big target with sure hands that can turn and run after the catch, and he should be amongst the first ten or twelve tight ends off the board.
EDGE Braiden McGregor: 3rd-6th round. Michigan's front four rotates heavily, which has perhaps limited McGregor's stat profile against his peer group. He will probably test well at the combine (if he declares), which will determine his draft place, although I don't think any NFL team is going to hand him automatic playing time. Closer to Chase Winovich than Aidan Hutchinson.
C Drake Nugent: 6th-UDFA. The Stanford transfer has been a solid if unspectacular cog in Michigan's solid if unspectacular offensive line. Hard to guess where teams will prioritize drafting centers, but Nugent will at least find himself in a training camp.
OG Karsen Barnhart: 6th-UDFA. Barnhart had a bit of a raw deal as Michigan's third best guard, kicking out to right tackle behind two slightly superior guard prospects. His versatility will get him a camp invite and ideally a roster spot. He's playing right guard tonight in place of the injured Zinter and fared very well in that role against Alabama last week.
K James Turner: 7th-UDFA. My rather wild guess is that Turner is a top 5-15 kicker prospect, which should get him a camp invite but is probably not distinguished enough to warrant spending a draft pick.

Michigan's two other white starters, TE Colson Loveland and DT Mason Graham, are both true sophomores. Although it's early, they look like they could be 1st to 3rd round picks in 2025, should they play well enough to declare early. Graham won Defensive Player of the Game last week against Alabama. Loveland is a catch-first big-play tight end who suffers a bit from the low usage rate.

In punt return coverage, both freshman "upsider" Semaj (sp?) Morgan and walk-on upperclassman "safe option" Jake Thaw muffed punts against Alabama. Although Thaw recovered his mistake, I'd guess that's the end of his opportunities.

As far as backups: FB/TE Max Bredeson plays a fair amount as a blocker but will not touch the ball. ILB Jimmy Rolder worked his way back onto the field from injury at the end of the year but is likely relegated to special teams for now. RB Cole Cabana, LB Hayden Moore, and DL Brooks Bahr are true freshmen taking redshirts this year and are unlikely to have their names called. TE Matthew Hibner and S Caden Kolesar are special teamers only this season. Although Jack Tuttle is technically the backup QB, Michigan has been running the occasional wildcat package for one of its beefy black quarterbacks. Walk-on WR Peyton O'Leary seems to mostly line up in the slot and go in motion as a decoy in his limited snaps, despite fine speed and good size - maybe next year.
Great stuff Phall thanks a lot! Your Huskie preview was equally excellent. Definitely pulling for the wolverines tonight!!
 

TwentyTwo

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Top Notch stuff Phall!!!
Had been concerned with OG Zack Zinter Out/Injured vs Alabama; but Michigan manned up! Made sure to include him in the O-Line Preview thread....... JJ McCarthy had taken some heat for his play ; but he was battling ankle injury back end of the season; he looked more like himself last week!

Just happened to look at the Wolverines Class of ' 24 and it was encouraging .
Of the 27 New Signees ...12 where White; 13 Black; 2 Poly's
 

Phall

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Thanks, everyone! Extra sweet to have a happy ending!!

Yes, great write up. Let's go Michigan. Never thought I would say that by the way as I remember when little ol' Appalachian State from Boone, NC went up to the 'The Big House' and knocked off Michigan 34-32 in 2007. Any of you youngns' remember that?
Pardon my ignorance, but does that mean Cabana and the others still have 4 years eligibility?

Correct, the current phrase is "five years to play four." Rolder actually redshirted (played in four games or less) this year as a sophomore due to injury, so he will still have three years to play three barring a medical exception. If Cabana isn't getting playing time from whoever the coach is over the next two seasons, he can probably finish his undergraduate degree before transferring to play two full seasons elsewhere in '26 and '27.

And yes @Carolina Speed I certainly remember the 2007 season! That upset was the beginning of the end for Lloyd Carr's tenure (or rather, the end of the end, as he'd failed to adapt to the game's changing trends and never threatened to repeat his ceiling of winning the 1997 Rose Bowl with another coach's players). While that loss was embarrassing, Michigan lost the "Blowout in the Big House" the following week as well, 39-7 against Oregon.

That team culture was awful. Pre-season All-American safety Ernest Shazor ended up undrafted. Superhero-shaped 6'4 linebacker Shawn Crable was an NFL bust. Years later, it was revealed they were among *many* players who smoked weed before those games! While Harbaugh is a weirdo and weed is actually legal now, it's pretty apparent that this roster takes themselves seriously and holds each other accountable.
 
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