Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . a wide receiver catching the ball. Michigan completed just 3 passes to wide receivers on Saturday night, and just 7 in total. Washington has a formidable defense, but wide receivers are going to get frustrated pretty quickly if they don’t start getting the ball once in a while to show off their skills. Cornelius Johnson (1 catch, 33 yards), A.J. Henning (1 catch, 1 yard), and Mike Sainristil (1 catch, -1 yard) got the ball, which means Roman Wilson and Daylen Baldwin didn’t.
Run, run, and run again. Michigan fans on Twitter were getting pretty grumpy about running the ball, but I don’t have a problem with it.* It turns out that despite the rumored good defense that Washington was bringing to Ann Arbor, they couldn’t fit the run properly. Michigan ran 56 times for 343 yards (6.1 yards per carry) and 4 touchdowns. The offensive line didn’t provide a ton of gaping holes, but they provided enough room for slippery backs like Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins to make hay. The last time Michigan ran for more yards was in the rain during the 2017 game against Minnesota, when Chris Evans and Karan Higdon ran wild to the tune of 370 rushing yards. You do what you have to do to win the game, and Michigan was obviously destroying the Huskies with the run.
*Except I do have a problem with it. I know I lied above. And I apologize. I don’t have a problem with running the ball like mad when it’s an attempt to win an individual game, but it’s going to be very hard to recruit good receivers on the edge if you don’t throw the ball. Josh Gattis came in with the “speed in space” mantra and that borrowed some time for the Wolverines, but now they’re reverting to the Jim Harbaugh days of yore. If I’m a good wide receiver, I have zero interest in playing for Michigan. Michigan wide receivers caught just three (3!!!) balls on Saturday night in a comfortable, three-touchdown win. The leading receiver was Blake Corum with 3 catches himself for just 11 yards.
Cade McNamara > Joe Milton. Redshirt sophomore Cade McNamara had a game that Joe Milton could only dream of, and that included completing 9/11 passes for 136 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. It doesn’t matter if you can throw a ball 80 yards if you don’t know where the ball is going. McNamara has the ability to recognize matchups and read defenses, and those skills trump Howitzers for arms. His best two passes of the day were beautiful deep balls to . . .
Ronnie Bell. Bell made a great one-handed catch on the sideline (nullified by a very questionable offensive pass interference call) and a great 76-yard catch-and-run touchdown. That at the end of an exciting 31-yard punt return, he seemed to slump to the ground when getting tackled and was swarmed by medical personnel. When he left the field, he had to be carried and his right leg was just dangling. My fear is that he tore his ACL while making a cut at the end of the run. Bell is a captain, led the team in receiving the past two years, and was bound to lead the team in that category once again in 2021. After losing Aidan Hutchinson, Kwity Paye, and Jalen Mayfield to injury in 2020, it’s frustrating that Michigan couldn’t avoid a serious injury even one game into the season against a MAC opponent.
Name: Aidan Hutchinson Height: 6’6″ Weight: 265 lbs. High school: Dearborn (MI) Divine Child Position: Outside linebacker Class: Senior Jersey number: #97 Last year: I ranked Hutchinson #88 and said he would be the starting strongside end (LINK). He made 15 tackles. TTB Rating: 88
Hutchinson’s solid 2019 season seemed to have him primed for a huge year in 2020, so when he made 15 tackles from his defensive end position in the first two games, it seemed like he was tracking well. Then he got hurt early in the third game against Indiana, and I felt a little bit of life drain out of me. Michigan was already in bad shape, having lost to Michigan State and, in that game, having lost Jalen Mayfield and Ryan Hayes, too. The Wolverines were cursed in 2020.
Hutchinson himself has a relentless motor. Along with those impressive 15 tackles for a defensive lineman across two games, he seemed one or two steps away from making several sacks. I don’t know that I’ve seen another defensive lineman come this close to making as many hits on the quarterback, but still, Hutchinson’s production has just been okay, not stellar.
Going into the 2021 season, Hutchinson is Michigan’s most important player. The team did not perform well at all last season once he got injured, and they were lifeless on defense. Nobody else seemed capable of putting pressure on the quarterback, and teams didn’t have to run away from anyone, either. It was open season on the entire Michigan defense. Hutchinson is an emotional leader on and off the field, which is supported by his naming as captain. Some prognosticators have him going in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, and while I don’t think he will have enough production to be an All-American, that’s not out of the question.
Look below for my bold, sure-to-be-100%-correct predictions for 2021.
LEADING RUSHER It doesn’t get any bolder than picking the guy who has finished #1 or #2 in rushing the past two seasons (and the #1 guy from 2019 is playing for UCLA now). Yes, you guessed it. I’m picking Hassan Haskins. Haskins was a ho-hum recruit who has become a very dependable runner, if lacking great breakaway speed. Last season he took a stranglehold on the job, running 61 times for 375 yards (6.2 yards/carry) and 6 touchdowns. Sophomore Blake Corum should also get a good chunk of carries, but in crunch time, I expect Haskins to be the primary back. Prediction: Hassan Haskins, 900 yards
Hit the jump for the rest of the prognostications.