Spring Game 2024: 5 Things to Watch

Tag: Benjamin Hall

19Apr 2024
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Spring Game 2024: 5 Things to Watch

Alex Orji

Here are five things I’ll be watching in the 2024 spring game:

1. How does Alex Orji throw the ball? Third-year quarterback Alex Orji seems to be the most likely [currently rostered and healthy] guy to start behind center this fall. At 6’3″ and 236 lbs., we know he can run. We saw him do it at various times during the championship run in 2023. What we didn’t see at all in 2023 is Orji passing the ball. Footwork, accuracy, and touch are all in question. I don’t expect to see him run the ball a whole lot, because running a QB when they can’t be tackled is kind of unfair and boring. If/when he has time to throw, how does he look? Can he feather the ball or does he just throw it on a line? Does he get his feet lined up properly to throw, or are they all over the place? What we see might indicate whether Michigan needs to dip into the portal for a potential starter in the fall.

2. Who’s the “other” corner? We know Will Johnson has one cornerback spot locked down for this fall. If a currently rostered player wins the job across from him, it will likely be either Jyaire Hill or D.J. Waller. Waller got more playing time in the fall, but when Hill enrolled early last spring and was flying around, I thought he looked like a potential future star. Michigan still might look to the transfer portal to help out at a fairly thin position, but it would still be nice to see progress from Hill and Waller.

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3Mar 2024
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2024 Spring Football Preview: Running Back

Donovan Edwards

2023 Starter: Blake Corum
Losses: Corum, Leon Franklin, C.J. Stokes
Returning players: Kalel Mullings (RS Sr.), Donovan Edwards (Sr.), Tavierre Dunlap (RS Jr.), Cole Cabana (RS Fr.), Benjamin Hall (RS Fr.)
Newcomers: N/A
Projected starter: Edwards

For having lost such a large part of Michigan’s program over the past three years in running back Blake Corum, Michigan’s running game will look pretty familiar in 2024. Corum ran 675 times for 3,737 yards and 58 touchdowns in his career, becoming Michigan’s top career touchdown scorer. But his primary backup, Donovan Edwards, had some huge games at opportune times.

Edwards ran 119 times for 497 yards (4.2 yards/carry) and 5 touchdowns in 2023, and he caught 30 passes for 249 yards (8.3 yards/catch). His entire season was pretty ho-hum . . . except for a 22-yard touchdown in a tight game against Penn State . . . and then two 40+ yard scores against Washington in the national championship game. He goes into the spring as the odds-on favorite to start, but he’s somewhat of a proven commodity. Michigan showed last year that they don’t really want to subject running backs to extra wear and tear, and we even learned that Corum and Edwards basically weren’t tackled all the way through fall camp. We’ll see if the transition to Sherrone Moore as head coach changes that equation at all.

The other intriguing option at running back is former linebacker Kalel Mullings, who has been playing offense since the 2022 postseason. He ran 36 times for 222 yards (6.2 yards/carry) and 1 touchdown, and he even caught 2 passes for 32 yards, including a key 19-yard reception against Alabama in the Rose Bowl. There were times in 2023 when he looked like the more instinctive back, and he’s certainly more adept at breaking tackles.

Second-year player Benjamin Hall was the breakout star of the 2023 spring game, and his one solid showing during the season was a 9-carry, 58-yard performance against Indiana. He’s a bowling ball at 5’11” and 234 pounds, but he’s unlikely to break into the top two at the position. Fellow second-year back Cole Cabana had just 2 carries for 6 yards in 2023 and had some injuries that limited him to one game; at 6’0″ and 198 pounds, he’s a speedster who still has to get his body ready for the college game.

The Wolverines lost C.J. Stokes (transfer to Charlotte) and walk-on Leon Franklin (transfer to Tennessee Tech), so along with Cabana and Hall, expect to see a good-sized dose of guys like walk-ons Henry Donohue (career: 3 carries for 9 yards) and Bryson Kudzal (career: 0 carries) toting the ball to keep Edwards and Mullings fresh for the fall. Kudzal’s high school profile touts a 4.41 forty and a 40″ vertical, but he’s an in-state, small-school product who was a little bit stiff and upright as a runner in high school.

15Oct 2023
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Michigan 52, Indiana 7

Colston Loveland (image via Yahoo! Sports)

Run the damn ball. Coming into the game, Indiana was ranked #91 in rushing defense. And it was raining. So naturally, Michigan decided to come out throwing, with four pass plays and two rushes in the first six plays. Two of those pass plays resulted in sacks, and one was a drop by Colston Loveland. Meanwhile, the two carries by Corum averaged 4.5 yards per rush. Michigan wasn’t necessarily going to obliterate Indiana on the ground with huge runs, but they could have just taken over the game physically instead of trying to throw in those conditions.

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29Jul 2023
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2023 Season Countdown: #51 Benjamin Hall

Benjamin Hall (image via 247 Sports)

Name: Benjamin Hall
235 lbs.
High school: 
Kennesaw (GA) North Cobb
Running back
Jersey number: 
Last year: 
Hall was a senior in high school (LINK). He ran 61 times for 324 yards and 4 touchdowns, and he caught 9 passes for 93 yards and 2 touchdowns.
TTB Rating:

Hall is one of the most interesting recruits in the 2023 class. It’s baffling to me that he played second fiddle to someone else, but that represents the embarrassment of riches North Cobb had at running back this past season. They had a running back going to the Big Ten champion Michigan Wolverines on a scholarship, but their primary running back was Clemson commit David Eziomume (4-star, #30 RB, #366 overall in 2024). Hall was a 3-star, the #55 running back, and #787 overall in 2023.

(In case you think I’m jealous as a coach of North Cobb having two FBS players at one position . . . you’re right. I am jealous.)

When Michigan accepted Hall’s commitment, it was a little bit underwhelming and left a lot of people scratching their heads. Why were the Big Ten champions accepting a commitment from a little known player when the Wolverines were on a run of landing Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards, among others, and producing the likes of Hassan Haskins?

Well, Hall was one of the stars of Michigan’s spring game and showed some excellent vision and toughness. Despite being 235 pounds, he has quick feet and good lateral agility. Perhaps he won’t ever be a superstar because he lacks great speed, but he can be a productive running back at the FBS level. The only thing holding him back right now is that pesky Corum-Edwards combination. Both of them could be picked in the first couple rounds of the 2024 NFL Draft, and both of them could be All-Big Ten in 2023. Hall will likely be battling with sophomore C.J. Stokes for the #3 running back role. I think it’s a toss-up between the two, but Michigan needs to be ready for the 2024 season when Michigan fans could be looking at a competition between Hall, Stokes, and Cole Cabana as the top backs on the roster.

Prediction: Backup running back

2Apr 2023
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Thoughts on 2023 Spring Game

Benjamin Hall (image via Detroit Free Press)

Okay, it’s time to put some thoughts about the spring game on paper.

QUARTERBACK: We know what J.J. McCarthy brings to the table, and Michigan was never going to let him factor into the run game, so whatever. This comes down to thoughts on the backups. After watching Michigan have a good 1-2 punch the past two years with McCarthy and Cade McNamara, there is a big question mark at the #2 quarterback spot in 2023. I thought redshirt sophomore Davis Warren once again outplayed the competition, which comes from Alex Orji and Indiana transfer Jack Tuttle. Tuttle had a couple decent throws and showed some decent athleticism on the run, but Warren is more accurate and probably a better decision maker, despite the fact that Tuttle is a sixth-year player. Orji has decent arm strength but leaves something to be desired when it comes to his timing and accuracy; running is the best part of his game, and he’s a change-up guy. I would put him at #4 on the depth chart.

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