2023 Season Countdown List

Tag: 2023 season countdown

2Sep 2023
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2023 Season Countdown List

J.J. McCarthy (image via MGoBlue)

Now that the 2023 Season Countdown is in the rear view mirror, here’s the full list so you can see it all in one place.

  1. J.J. McCarthy
  2. Will Johnson
  3. Mike Sainristil
  4. Drake Nugent
  5. Rod Moore
  6. Blake Corum
  7. Roman Wilson
  8. Kris Jenkins
  9. Mason Graham
  10. Zak Zinter
  11. Trevor Keegan
  12. Cornelius Johnson
  13. Donovan Edwards
  14. Junior Colson
  15. James Turner
  16. a) Colston Loveland, b) Josh Wallace
  17. Braiden McGregor
  18. Kenneth Grant
  19. Makari Paige
  20. a) Tommy Doman, b) La’Darius Henderson
  21. Jaylen Harrell
  22. A.J. Barner
  23. Josaiah Stewart
  24. Michael Barrett
  25. Rayshaun Benny
  26. Karsen Barnhart
  27. Derrick Moore
  28. Darrius Clemons
  29. Tyler Morris
  30. Jack Tuttle
  31. Ernest Hausmann
  32. Amorion Walker
  33. Giovanni El-Hadi
  34. Trente Jones
  35. William Wagner
  36. Quinton Johnson
  37. Matt Hibner
  38. Kalel Mullings
  39. Jimmy Rolder
  40. Cam Goode
  41. Ja’den McBurrows
  42. Keon Sabb
  43. Zeke Berry
  44. Jeffrey Persi
  45. Myles Hinton, Hudson Hollenbeck
  46. Max Bredeson
  47. C.J. Stokes
  48. Raheem Anderson II
  49. Peyton O’Leary
  50. Alex Orji
  51. Benjamin Hall
  52. Caden Kolesar
  53. Keshaun Harris
  54. German Green
  55. Jyaire Hill
  56. Greg Crippen
  57. Micah Pollard
  58. Greg Tarr
  59. Cole Cabana
  60. T.J. Guy
  61. Joey Velazquez
  62. Adam Samaha
  63. Reece Atteberry
  64. Evan Boutorwick
  65. Eamonn Dennis
  66. Zach Peterson
  67. Kody Jones
  68. Semaj Morgan
  69. Myles Pollard
  70. Davis Warren
  71. Kechaun Bennett
  72. Andrew Gentry
  73. Fredrick Moore
  74. Jaydon Hood
  75. Cameron Calhoun
  76. Tristan Bounds
  77. Marlin Klein
  78. Tyler McLaurin
  79. Ike Iwunnah
  80. Tavierre Dunlap
  81. Zack Marshall
  82. Enow Etta
  83. Dominick Giudice
  84. Leon Franklin
  85. Semaj Bridgeman
  86. Connor Jones
  87. Joe Taylor
  88. Karmello English
  89. Christian Boivin
  90. Deakon Tonielli
  91. Amir Herring
  92. Cristian Dixon
  93. Brandyn Hillman
  94. Cameron Brandt
  95. Jake Thaw
  96. Jason Hewlett
  97. Jerome Nichols
  98. Roderick Pierce
  99. Empty due to Isaiah Gash’s career-ending surgery
  100. Hayden Moore
  101. Charlie Mentzer
  102. Joshua Nichols
  103. Noah Stewart
  104. Jayden Denegal
  105. Will Rolapp
  106. Hunter Neff
  107. Danny Hughes
  108. Breeon Ishmail
  109. Nathan Efobi
  110. Alessandro Lorenzetti
  111. Sam Staruch
  112. D.J. Waller
  113. Jesse Madden
  114. Joel Metzger
  115. Josh Beetham
  116. Evan Link
  117. Henry Donohue
  118. Christian Bartholomew
  119. Joseph Klunder
  120. Brooks Bahr
  121. Chibi Anwunah
  122. Brandon Mann
  123. Joshua Luther
  124. Noah Howes
  125. Empty due to A.J. Henning’s transfer
  126. Empty due to R.J. Moten’s transfer
  127. Empty due to Nikhai Hill-Green’s transfer
  128. Peter Simmons
  129. Trevor Andrews
  130. Aymeric Koumba
  131. Bryce Wilcox
  132. Damani Dent
  133. Alexander Lidback
  134. Kendrick Bell
  135. Charlie Lovell
  136. Nico Andrighetto
  137. Logan Forbes
  138. Daniel Taraboi
  139. James Kavouklis
  140. Shomari Stone
  141. Declan Byle
31Aug 2023
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2023 Season Countdown: #1 J.J. McCarthy

J.J. McCarthy (image via Yahoo! Sports)

Name: J.J. McCarthy
202 lbs.
High school: 
Bradenton (FL) IMG Academy
Jersey number: 
Last year: 
I ranked McCarthy #20 and said he would be a backup quarterback (LINK). He started thirteen games and completed 208/322 passes (64.6%) for 2,719 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions; he also ran 70 times for 306 yards and 5 touchdowns.
TTB Rating:

I’m almost always usually positively right about everything, but last year I thought McCarthy would be the backup quarterback and that turned out to be the case. Coming off of a CFP appearance in 2021, I thought it would be too difficult to replace Cade McNamara with a somewhat unproven sophomore in McCarthy. But early on it was obvious that McNamara lost some of his mojo, and that mojo had found its way to McCarthy’s locker. McNamara started game one and didn’t look good. McCarthy started game two and looked really good. By the end of game three, McNamara had a knee injury that knocked him out for the rest of the season, so the positional battle didn’t really matter.

Statistically, McCarthy had a very good year. He had a higher completion percentage than any other QB in the Jim Harbaugh era, more yards than anyone except Shea Patterson (2019) and Jake Rudock (2015), and more touchdowns than everyone except Patterson (2019). He also had more rushing yards than any QB since Harbaugh was hired. For the first half of the season, McCarthy was leading the nation in completion percentage . . .

. . . and then things tailed off a little bit. In games nine through twelve, he didn’t top 60% completions in any game. Even against Ohio State, he completed just 50% of his passes on 12/24 throws, but 3 of those completions went for touchdowns. His season ended with 2 ugly pick-sixes against TCU, which really cost the team in a 51-45 loss.

But now he has had an entire off-season as the unquestioned starter, and it’s probably significant for his development that he has not had to split first team reps with another quarterback. No performance this season is going to have anyone but the dumbest Michigan fans calling for the backup. McCarthy is The Guy.

I have seen some people hyping him up to be a Heisman contender, and I do think that talk is a little premature. So far no Michigan quarterback under Harbaugh has topped 3,061 yards or 23 touchdowns. Last year’s Heisman winner, USC’s Caleb Williams, threw for 23 touchdowns in just his first eight games, and finished with 42 total passing scores (not to mention 383 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground). He’s not going to throw for 4,500 yards and 40+ touchdowns when Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards are running for a combined 2,000+ yards and scoring 25+ touchdowns on the ground. What would it take for McCarthy to win the Heisman, realistically? Michigan would probably have to be 13-0 with McCarthy completing 72% or more of his passes for 35+ touchdowns with just a couple interceptions.

Possible? Eh, maybe. Likely? Not really.

Michigan should have great protection up front to keep McCarthy safe, which is great because the backup options are questionable. Jack Tuttle is the primary backup, but he has struggled during his time at Indiana and looks like a better leader than an actual quarterback. After that there’s a walk-on in Davis Warren and a couple projects in Jayden Denegal and Alex Orji. If McCarthy goes down for any stretch of time, Michigan will have to grind it out in the running game, and their chances of winning when it comes to CFP time probably drop to zero.

This should be a great season for McCarthy, and he might even be First Team All-Big Ten, especially if Michigan goes 12-0. He’s the most talented starting quarterback in the conference, even if a couple guys on more pass-happy teams put up bigger numbers. (Side note: Wisconsin OC Phil Longo’s quarterbacks put up big numbers, Purdue is going to the Air Raid, and Ryan Day usually has Ohio State’s QBs humming, etc.) I expect McCarthy to end up with 3,000+ yards and about 30 touchdowns, which would have put him at #4 and #2, respectively, in those categories within the Big Ten last year.

Prediction: Starting quarterback; 3,200 yards, 31 touchdowns, 5 interceptions

30Aug 2023
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2023 Season Countdown: #2 Will Johnson

Will Johnson (image via Michigan Daily)

Name: Will Johnson
202 lbs.
High school: 
Grosse Pointe (MI) South
Jersey number: 
Last year: 
I ranked Johnson #34 and said he would be a backup cornerback (LINK). He started five games and made 27 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, and 6 pass breakups.
TTB Rating:

Will Johnson was Michigan’s most anticipated freshman enrollee since way back in . . . oh, 2021, when J.J. McCarthy first arrived on campus.

Okay, that might not be the best angle.

But still, Michigan fans – and coaches – were really looking forward to getting the 5-star corner on campus. The son of a former Michigan defensive back, Johnson had the size, athleticism, and local upbringing that made him a legend before he ever ran out to touch the banner. It took him some time to get that on-field performance on par with the hype, but he made it happen in the Big Ten Championship game.

The build-up to that game really started with his first career start, which took place against Rutgers in early November, peaking with his first career interception, which he returned 29 yards. It culminated with him following around Purdue wide receiver Charlie Jones, who had a decent game, but Boilermakers quarterback Aidan O’Connell also threw 2 picks to Johnson. Johnson’s reactions and physicality really seemed to shine in that game and perhaps propelled expectations for him in 2023 to All-American levels.

I’m not so sure that Johnson will be an All-American in 2023, considering sometimes it takes ridiculous – and impossible to predict – interception numbers to earn that honor. Johnson could have an excellent season, but some kid from North Carolina State could make 10 interceptions and totally steal his thunder. Johnson will certainly be Michigan’s #1 corner and he should be one of the best in the Big Ten, if not the best.

It’s not only his talent that puts him at #2 in the countdown, though. There’s also the uncomfortable fact that Michigan does not have much proven depth at the position. The coaching staff brought in UMass transfer Josh Wallace, but there was also a time in the spring where Jim Harbaugh anointed Amorion Walker a starter . . . before Walker looked kinda bad in the spring game. While Michigan has quality backups at almost every single position, the one spot on defense that gets shaky immediately is cornerback, so the hope is that Johnson stays healthy throughout the year.

Prediction: Starting cornerback; 50 tackles, 4 interceptions

30Aug 2023
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2023 Season Countdown: #3 Mike Sainristil

Mike Sainristil (image via SI)

Name: Mike Sainristil
182 lbs.
High school: 
Everett (MA) Everett
Wide receiver
Fifth year senior
Jersey number: 
Last year: 
I ranked Sainristil #25 and said he would be a backup wide receiver and defensive back (LINK). He made 58 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 interception, and 8 pass breakups.
TTB Rating:

As you can see above with my prediction from last year, Sainristil’s prominence in Michigan’s defense caught us by surprise. He was talked about by Jim Harbaugh as someone who could be a two-way player, and that hasn’t been uncommon with Harbaugh. Guys like Kalel Mullings, Ben Mason, and Amorion Walker have all played some on both sides of the ball during his tenure.

What no one seemed to expect was his turning into an all-conference caliber player, one who won Defensive Player of the Week two times (against Colorado State and, more importantly, Ohio State). He was a fixture in the starting lineup, a deft tackler, and a good cover guy. The toughness he had shown as a receiver over the previous couple seasons also showed up on defense, so in his first year playing D, he was second among defensive backs in tackles and fourth on the team overall. But surely his most memorable play was when he knocked a pass away from OSU tight end Cade Stover at the last second, preserving a two-score lead.

This season I expect Sainristil to reprise his role as Michigan’s starting nickel corner. There had been talk that he could slide to outside corner if nobody stepped up there, but it seems like Josh Wallace is the starter opposite Will Johnson at cornerback. Last year there was a surprise with Sainristil, so I won’t write him off altogether as a starting outside corner. He should be even better with a year of experience under his belt and a full off-season of focusing on defense.

Prediction: Starting nickel corner; 65 tackles, 2 interceptions

30Aug 2023
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2023 Season Countdown: #4 Drake Nugent

Drake Nugent

Name: Drake Nugent
301 lbs.
High school:
Lone Tree (CO) Highlands Ranch
Fifth year senior
Jersey number: 
Last year: 
Nugent played at Stanford. He was a team captain and named Honorable Mention All-Pac 12.
TTB Rating:

Nugent appeared in just three games during his first two years on campus in Palo Alto, and then he became a full-time starter in 2021 for the Cardinal. He was named Honorable Mention All-Pac 12 both seasons and even became a Rimington finalist last year. Unfortunately, his team was terrible and didn’t get much respect. When head coach David Shaw resigned, a bunch of players hit the transfer portal, including Nugent and offensive tackle Myles Hinton, both of whom ended up in Ann Arbor.

Michigan lost Rimington Award winner Olu Oluwatimi, but reports out of practice suggest the drop-off won’t be that noticeable with Nugent snapping the ball. He’s a fire hydrant in the middle of the offensive line, and he can move a little bit, too. (Which kind of ruins my fire hydrant metaphor, I guess.) He has good leverage at just 6’2″, and he reportedly has proven to be tough and stout in fall practices after missing time in the spring due to injury. Nugent should start and be backed up by Greg Crippen. Jim Harbaugh has said both players could be All-Americans, but it seems for the second straight year that Crippen will be blocked by a transfer. There’s a good chance that Nugent will at least be an All-Big Ten player, if not in line for even higher honors.

Prediction: Starting center