The Wolverine

2021 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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4 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2021 FOOTBALL PREVIEW T hey laughed at Noah, until it started raining. Galileo endured scorn and house arrest for insisting the earth revolves around the sun. Most figured Tom Brady would be noth- ing without the New England Patriots. Bottom line — it doesn't matter what they say, as long as you're right and can back it up. In the case of Michigan football these days, that's a good piece of driftwood to latch onto. The experts — whether cynical media wags or snarky social media intelligentsia — aren't arguing whether the Wolverines will be facing Alabama or Clemson in the national title game this year. For that matter, they're not debating who Jim Harbaugh's team will battle for the Big Ten crown in Indianapolis. No, far more humble projections bubble up everywhere. Will they get to 6-6? How about 7-5? Dare they dream of 8-4? So goes the refrain, which isn't altogether irrational. An injury-riddled crew of Wolverines went 2-4 last season. They started late, ended early and languished in between. Afterward, they stared down a crisis, and reacted with dramatic change. Change doesn't buy instant credibility. Critics wonder how a defense with pockets of personnel questions will react to an al- most all-new defensive staff. They wonder about a talented-but-still-unproven quarter- back situation. They point to a .500 record against Michi- gan State over the past six years, and no wins versus the Buckeyes. They fold their arms and insist: show me. A defiant crew of Wolverines sounds ready to take the challenge. They're bold. They're angry. And they're putting in the work to make a change. "Looking at last year, we've been given a great opportunity to bounce back from that," junior defensive end Aidan Hutchinson ob- served. "That's what we've been preparing for. That's what we've been training for. We've been practicing like it. Dudes are just attacking it, every day. "It's really good to see. Dudes are just motivated. We want to be the best defense in the country. We want it all next year." Doubters smile and nod. Hutchinson knows that, too. "I've seen Twitter," he said. "I've seen In- stagram. Not many fans are liking Michigan football right now. Personally, I don't really care, because I know what we've got. "At the end of the day, people are going to write on Twitter, they're going to write on social media whatever they want to say about us. We're the ones working. We're the ones who are going to bring Michigan football back." The captain embodies the sort of orneri- ness the Wolverines figure to employ in a bounce-back season. Others simply refuse to listen at all. "I try to stay away from all that social me- dia stuff and just focus on my team," redshirt sophomore tailback Hassan Haskins insisted. "I stay away, and focus on us. "We know what we're doing. The outsiders don't. They have no clue what's going on." Cade McNamara, the redshirt freshman quarterback named the team's No. 1 coming out of spring ball, takes a similar outlook. He senses a tremendous spirit rising out of the fed-up players on this team. The only words he cares about involve the ones that form his crew's goals and dreams. "I don't see myself as a big social media guy," McNamara stressed. "I tend to not re- ally look at articles. I keep that part of my life private. I don't look at social media. I don't care what social media has to say, to be honest. I don't care what they have to say in the media. "Some guys are able to use it as fuel. As for me, us beating Ohio State, us winning a Big Ten championship, us winning a na- tional championship is all the fuel I need." Michigan looked further away from all that in 2020 than at any point since Jim Har- baugh settled in. One of McNamara's chief protectors says don't believe it. "I don't ever pay attention or read about it, but it definitely pushes me in the gym, or doing field work," second-year freshman interior lineman Zak Zinter said. "They're going to hate on you 'til you make it. Once you make it big, everyone wants to be your friend." He's backing down from no one, including the Buckeyes. "We're going to be the team to beat them," Zinter declared. "Our team's going to be a household name — the team that finally broke the streak and was able to beat those guys." Wait, what? There's a statement worthy of the opportunity to reel it back in. Zinter didn't. You're going to be the team that gets it done? "Yes, sir." In your career, or THIS year? "Oh, this year. For sure." You possess the same bravery as your head coach, when he was playing. "Good!" There it is — the gap between doubt and determination. Recent history remains on the side of the former. Defiance and motivated muscle are pushing back. Zinter, the throwback mauler up front, delivered one last thought. "Don't count us out," he said. ❏ WOLVERINE WATCH JOHN BORTON It's Full-Steam Ahead Inside Schembechler Hall Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @JB_Wolverine. Junior defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and his teammates are determined to help Michigan become a championship-caliber program once again. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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