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Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . A.J. Henning. Assuming Ronnie Bell is out for a while (hopefully not!), I think Henning is probably the guy who needs to see more touches. Michigan needs a guy who can run through tackles and make something happen after the catch. As much as I like Cornelius Johnson, Roman Wilson, and other guys, I’m not sure that any receiver besides Henning can offer that ability after the catch. Henning had a 74-yard touchdown on an end around and caught 1 pass for 11 yards from J.J. McCarthy.
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.
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.
Name: Ronnie Bell Height: 6’0″ Weight: 192 lbs. High school: Kansas City (MO) Park Hill Position: Wide receiver Class: Senior Jersey number: #8 Last year: I ranked Bell #12 and said he would be a starting wide receiver (LINK). He caught 26 passes for 401 yards and 1 touchdown. TTB Rating: 71
We have reached the point in the countdown where I think any major injury in the top eight could be devastating for Michigan’s season. In this case, I hemmed and hawed about who should be ranked the lowest of the tier, and I finally settled on Bell. Bell still gets a lot of flak for not being good enough, which is odd to me because he has led the team in receiving for two consecutive years. He has also repeatedly shown that he’s the only receiver who can consistently gain yards after the catch. That led to him averaging a respectable 15.8 and 15.9 yards per reception in each of the past two seasons. But when you’re an afterthought as a recruit with no high-level offers, I guess that stigma sticks with you.
The 2020 season saw him make 4 receptions in five games and 6 against Indiana, a game in which he totaled 149 yards and 1 touchdown, including a 52-yard catch and run. Bell has decent hands and isn’t afraid to venture over the middle. He can break tackles and maintain his balance well, but what he lacks is top-end speed. His leadership and toughness have led to him being named a captain for the 2021 season, so I don’t think he’s getting passed up on the depth chart. There’s a chance that another receiver will take over the lead in receptions or yards this fall, but I’m putting my figurative money on Bell to once again lead the team. With other talented receivers on the roster, I don’t think the passing game would fall apart if Bell were to get injured, but I don’t know that any other receiver can take a bubble screen or RPO slant, break a couple tackles, and gain 40-50 yards after the catch.
Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . Jalen Mayfield. Naturally, because it’s 2020 and everything sucks, Michigan had one returning starter on the offensive line and that lone returning starter was the first lineman to get hurt. Mayfield missed the Indiana game, and so did left tackle Ryan Hayes. I said in the lead-up to the game that I thought Michigan would lose the game if Mayfield didn’t play. The Wolverines had 18 rushing attempts for 13 yards (0.7 yards/carry) and the Hoosiers had 3 sacks.