The Wolverine

March 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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6 THE WOLVERINE MARCH 2021 I t happens every year. A fresh, excited, hungry aggregation of new Wol- verines storms the gate, ready to be the crew that gets Michi- gan back to the top. They're going to make it happen, they vow. This is when Michigan becomes Michigan again. The hard truth remains. The Wolverines haven't clawed their way to the top of the Big Ten since the class of 2004 rumbled into town and took over. That group featured present assistant coach Mike Hart and Chad Henne, a quarterback who helped his NFL team to the Super Bowl 17 years later. Both impacted immediately, and became two of the best Wolverines ever at their posi- tions. Henne did what no true freshman in the Big Ten had ever accomplished — led his team to the Big Ten title and the Rose Bowl in year one. There's a natural skepticism creeping into the excitement and hype accompanying any new blue crew. That's okay, the class of 2021 assures. Let the doubters doubt, and the players play. They intend to play like champi- ons. Two of the best of them are al- ready on campus, diligently work- ing toward that breakthrough. Don't try to tell freshman linebacker Junior Colson about a tough climb. The elite defender from Tennessee faced a snowball's chance in Haiti of ever seeing a college football field. He grew up in an orphanage in Port-au-Prince, survived a mas- sive earthquake and never touched a football until he was 9. He's not about to quiver in fear before a flood of obscenities and tobacco juice in Columbus. He's living a dream, and ready to enhance it. "He'll do whatever you ask him to do, and he'll do it as hard as he can," assures former NFL linebacker Ryan Fowler, Colson's position coach and defensive coordinator in high school. "And, by the way, he's going to be the best you've ever seen do it. I don't think there's a hole in his game, honestly. By the time he's done with three or four years of college football, he should be complete. "He's got it all. I wouldn't say he's polished to the degree he will be when he's done and we're watching him get drafted, but he's about as polished as they get at this age." The same can be said for J.J. Mc- Carthy, the crown jewel QB of the class. Illinois-based quarterback guru Greg Holcomb put it as plainly as anyone can. McCarthy will be Michigan's starting quarterback this fall, he insists. "Here's the thing," Holcomb added. "If [redshirt sophomore Joe] Milton, or [redshirt freshman Cade] McNamara, or whoever else, wins the job over him, you're going to see a kid who's on the sidelines sup- porting those guys. That's just how he is. "He wants to be on the field and win the job, but he's going to be their biggest supporter and be a great sideline guy, a good teammate and a good person to have in that quarterback room, no matter if he's on the field or not." When McCarthy wins it, there will be no givebacks, Holcomb assured. "He's going to be their big- gest recruiter, too," Holcomb said. "The '22 and '23 classes coming in will see a kid who will be impactful on the field and doing all the things he needs to do to help Michigan win football games. "You have to attract talent to be able to do that. He is go- ing to be a really good asset for them to get some athletes into that program, who are going to want to play with him." Jim McCarthy, J.J.'s dad, makes no depth chart pre- diction, other than ultimate competitiveness, ferocity and backing down from no one. "He's diving into that play book," the senior McCarthy said. "He's breaking down film. How can we attack this opponent? Where can I find the weakness? His preparation is second to none — it's almost Rain Man-like. "No situation is too big for him, whether he's playing in The Big House, at the Horseshoe or in a Whiteout at Penn State. There's no situation that he will not be able to handle." Hart likely smiles at those words. He remembers. He recalls the swag- ger, the fierce preparation and the all-consuming drive to make an im- pact immediately. He did. Henne did. They and their classmates wore a Big Ten cham- pionship ring the first year they played. So it can happen. The fact that no Wolverine has slipped one on since stands as a sobering challenge. McCarthy, Colson and their class- mates declare: Challenge accepted. ❏ WOLVERINE WATCH   JOHN BORTON Class Of 2021 Aims To Break Through Incoming freshman quarterback J.J. McCarthy possesses the talent and the makeup to lead the Wolverines back to the top of the Big Ten. PHOTO BY EJ HOLLAND Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @JB_Wolverine.

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