I feel really good about my predictions for 2023 and I’m nearly certain they’ll all be correct.
Junior running back Blake Corum had 1,463 yards on the ground in 2022. Unless his surgically repaired knee doesn’t hold up, he’s a good bet to lead the team in rushing again, even with the presence of star running back Donovan Edwards. Edwards should get a lot of rushing attempts and might even top 1,000 yards himself (he had 991 last year), but Corum should still be the #1 guy.
Prediction: Blake Corum, 1400 yards
Hit the jump for the rest of the prognostications.
Ronnie Bell was one of my favorite Michigan players, and when he was healthy, he was assured to be the Michigan quarterbacks’ favorite target. Now that he’s gone (he made the 49ers 53-man roster), someone new has to step up. While I ranked Roman Wilson as the highest receiver in the countdown, I actually have fifth year senior Cornelius Johnson pegged as Michigan’s statistical leader with 48 catches for 700 yards. Last season he caught 32 passes for 499 yards and 6 touchdowns, while Bell had 62 for 889 and 4.
Prediction: Cornelius Johnson, 700 yards
Just a sophomore in 2022, Junior Colson stepped into a consistent starting role and immediately led the team with 101 tackles. It was a solid debut as a starter, but he did have some inconsistencies when it came to his reads. Now up to 247 pounds, he should be even more physical, while hopefully also maintaining the athleticism that allowed him to be a kick returner back when he was in high school three years ago. I think his tackle numbers may drop a little bit just because Michigan has a little more depth this year now that Ernest Hausmann has transferred in from Nebraska, along with some growth from the likes of Jimmy Rolder and Jaydon Hood.
Prediction: Junior Colson, 90 tackles
The last couple seasons, Michigan has had a defensive end come out of nowhere to lead the team in sacks. Aidan Hutchinson in 2021 notched 14 sacks when his previous career high was 4.5. It was Mike Morris’s turn in 2022 when he made 7.5 sacks on the year after his previous career high of, uh, 0.5. This year my prediction for star sacker extraordinaire is Braiden McGregor, who has overcome a nasty knee injury from his senior year of high school. His play seemed to pick up in the second half of 2022, and I have a hunch we’ll see that continue. There are other feasible options like Coastal Carolina transfer Josaiah Stewart and sophomore Derrick Moore, though.
Prediction: Braiden McGregor, 9.0 sacks
Sophomore cornerback Will Johnson had 3 interceptions in the second half of last season after taking over a starting role, including 2 in the Big Ten Championship game against Purdue. Maybe teams won’t throw at him much, but they have to throw at someone. He also has the length and athleticism to make an occasional play on balls that aren’t even targeting him. Safety Rod Moore led the team with 4 picks last season, but I have him dropping off a little bit and Johnson jumping up to nab 4 takeaways.
Prediction: Will Johnson, 4 interceptions
ALL-BIG TEN FIRST TEAM
Prediction: J.J. McCarthy, Trevor Keegan, Zak Zinter, Blake Corum, Kris Jenkins, Rod Moore, Will Johnson
Prediction: Blake Corum, Zak Zinter
LEADING SCORER (NON-KICKER)
Prediction: Blake Corum
BREAKOUT OFFENSIVE PLAYER
Michigan has so much returning on offense that it’s hard to call for much of a breakout. Colston Loveland kind of had his breakout at the end of last season, or else I would choose him as the guy. He will have a huge impact on the team. Newcomer tight end A.J. Barner should also have a solid season, but he’s a starter coming from Indiana, so I can’t really choose him, either. Instead, I’ll go with sophomore Tyler Morris. He caught just 3 passes for 25 yards in seven games last year, but with the departure of Ronnie Bell, Morris is likely to step into that void and eat up some targets.
Prediction: Tyler Morris
BREAKOUT DEFENSIVE PLAYER
Braiden McGregor is a player I mentioned above as my guess for leading pass rusher with 9 sacks. I think he’s going to take that step forward this season, much like Mike Morris did in 2022. Morris went from 0.5 career sacks in his career to 7.5 last year alone. McGregor made 2.5 sacks this year, and I expect that to jump up and for him to lead the team.
Prediction: Braiden McGregor
MOST DISAPPOINTING OFFENSIVE PLAYER
I don’t know who’s making me pick this category, because it’s truly tortuous considering how good the offense is expected to be in 2023. But if I have to pick someone, I’m just going to choose a guy whose role will be smaller than some people think. I have seen some people projecting Darrius Clemons to be the third receiver, to go along with Roman Wilson and Cornelius Johnson. I picked Tyler Morris to be the breakout guy as the #3 receiver, so I’ll just go with Clemons as the most disappointing for probably getting on the field less than some expect.
Prediction: Darrius Clemons
MOST DISAPPOINTING DEFENSIVE PLAYER
This off-season began with Jim Harbaugh singling out Amorion Walker as being “considered a starter” at cornerback, and then the spring game came along. The spring game was not kind to Walker. I think he’s still a year away from being a functional starting cornerback. He needs to put on some weight and keep learning the technique of the position. I do think he can be good down the road, but not until late in the year, or more likely not until 2024.
Prediction: Amorion Walker
THE BIG FINISH
September 2 vs. East Carolina: WIN. East Carolina was 8-5 last year but lost a lot of its production.
September 9 vs. UNLV: WIN. The Runnin’ Rebels were 5-7 last year and Bobby Petrino left them in the dust to be the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M.
September 16 vs. Bowling Green: WIN. This would be a battle between former Michigan quarterbacks, but Jim Harbaugh will be suspended for the contest against BGSU head coach Scot Loeffler. Loeffler has not been impressive as a head coach, but he got the Falcons to 6-7 last season. Still, Michigan will dominate.
September 23 vs. Rutgers: WIN. I actually believe in Greg Schiano as a coach. He might be the best possible coach for Rutgers, and he gets those players believing in what he preaches. But their roster doesn’t compare to the one in Ann Arbor.
September 30 @ Nebraska: WIN. Matt Ruhle has a tough rebuilding job in Lincoln after the Cornhuskers went 4-8 last season.
October 7 @ Minnesota: WIN. Despite a little bit of off-season controversy, P.J. Fleck is another coach who gets his players to buy in. He should field a competitive team, but the skill talent doesn’t match up with the Wolverines’.
October 14 vs. Indiana: WIN. There are some people questioning whether Tom Allen can rebuild this program after a temporary peak with Michael Penix at quarterback a couple seasons ago. This is probably going to be a rough year in Bloomington.
October 21 @ Michigan State: WIN. Michigan State has depth problems all over the place, and they lost their starting quarterback and their star receiver to the transfer portal. Also, I hate Michigan State and Mel Tucker is a booger.
November 4 vs. Purdue: WIN. Purdue had to hire a new head coach after Jeff Brohm dipped for Louisville. I’m interested to see how a defensive head coach with an Air Raid offensive coordinator will do, but they don’t have the horses Michigan has.
November 11 @ Penn State: WIN. I hate Penn State and I think they’re overrated by many, but this is a dangerous squad. Playing in Happy Valley is always a tough environment, but since it’s not a night game, that should make it a little less intimidating. I expect a competitive game.
November 18 @ Maryland: WIN. Maryland with an experienced Taulia Tagovailoa is a little bit dangerous, but Maryland’s downfall has always been its offensive line. I expect Michigan’s defensive line to be able to harass Tagovailoa and keep a lid on the running game.
November 25 vs. Ohio State: WIN. Ohio State has long had superior quarterback play in this rivalry, even during Michigan’s wins over the past two years. This season confidence doesn’t seem to be very high in the quarterbacks. Head coach Ryan Day should have a decent QB by game twelve, but if even C.J. Stroud couldn’t pull off a win, I’m not sure how things will go with Kyle McCord or Devin Brown.
What did I get right, and what did I get wrong? (Hint: I got nothing wrong.)
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