News From Michigan Spring Football
Coaching changes and player turnover have left Michigan fans wondering how the Wolverines will look next season. The personnel turnover could be concerning for Michigan as they try to repeat a very successful year. Head coach Jim Harbaugh, however, does not seem concerned at all. Harbaugh has touted this Michigan team as “scary good.” Here is what we have learned so far about Michigan Spring football.
New Faces on the Edge
There is no question that Michigan is looking for some players to make an impact at defensive end. The Wolverines are used to getting heavy pressure on opposing quarterbacks via Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, both of whom have entered the draft. Their presence up front last year generated sacks, created turnovers, and consistently helped Michigan get their opponents behind the chains.
Harbaugh addressed the loss of Hutchinson and Ojabo in a recent interview. He stated that he believes Michigan has playmakers on the edge that can and will step-up. He specifically mentioned Mike Morris and Mazi Smith as leaders on the defensive line. Whoever earns the starting jobs on the edge will certainly have large shoes to fill. Hutchinson and Ojabo lead the nation in sacks last season. Without this pressure, the Wolverines would have had a much harder time coming up with stops against elite offenses. The new defensive coordinator in Ann Arbor, Jesse Minter, will need to identify quickly who will best replace them.
Finding Wide Receiver One
Last year, Michigan lost their top wide receiver to injury very early in the season. Ronnie Bell suffered a torn ACL in Michigan’s beat down of Western Michigan and was out for the rest of the season. This was a huge hit, as Bell was expected to be the leader in the wide receiver room. Throughout the rest of the season, no clear leader emerged. Andrel Anthony, Cornelius Johnson and Roman Wilson did each have games where they made huge impacts. However, there was never one singular receiver that felt reliable game after game. It was unsettling entering each game and not knowing who was going to step up at receiver.
With Bell returning to Ann Arbor for another season, finding a clear wide receiver number one should be a top priority. The offense will be a powerhouse next season and will benefit immensely from having a singular wide receiver who is reliable in tough situations. Bell could be that guy. According to Harbaugh, he is right on track in his ACL recovery. While not quite ready to participate in practice fully, he is still participating in spring practice as a mentor for the younger players.
Some of the other receivers that Harbaugh was excited about included incoming freshmen Amorion Walker and Darius Clemmons, as well as senior Mike Sainristil. Harbaugh referenced the elite athleticism from each of these players, while also touting Sainristil’s potential impact on both offense and defense. Sainristil has spent the last several weeks training at defensive back. It is anticipated that he will see the field primarily on defense in 2022 but Harbaugh has said he expects Sainristil to play on both sides of the ball.
Quarterback Race Updates
Michigan quarterbacks Cade McNamara and JJ McCarthy split time in the backfield last season. McNamara was the clear starter, but McCarthy still got some snaps at critical times. Each quarterback offered something unique to the Michigan offense, and many fans went into the off-season thinking McCarthy would get the starting spot next season.
However, rumors circulated recently about a potential injury to McCarthy’s throwing shoulder. Initially, it was thought that he would need surgery and would not be available to practice until July. Fortunately, further analysis determined that surgery would not be necessary. McCarthy will be able to practice with the team but will limit the use of his throwing shoulder for the first few months of practice. This injury should solidify McNamara as the starting quarterback for now. Still, the race will certainly pick up as the season draws closer.
Harbaugh Looking Forward
Harbaugh has recently seemed uncharacteristically excited about his team’s potential going into next year. He has made it extremely clear that his goal is to win at the highest level of College Football. This should silence the fans who questioned his loyalty to the program after he interviewed for the head coach position with the Minnesota Vikings. Moving forward, everyone involved in this first month of Michigan spring football seems ready and excited to improve upon their 2021 success.