The Wolverine

December 2022

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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DECEMBER 2022 THE WOLVERINE 61 M ichigan football has come a long way in the last 20 months. Since the dismal 2020 season ended with a 2-4 record, the Maize and Blue have won 22 of their last 24 games — the program's best 24-game stretch since 1973-75 — won the 2021 Big Ten champi- onship, appeared in the College Football Playoff and got off to a 10-0 start this year for the first time since 2006. They've won 12 straight Big Ten games, Michigan's most since 1996-98, a run that included a national championship. They've been that good. In his book, "Fight Club," New York Times bestselling author Chuck Palahn- iuk wrote, "Only after disaster can we be resurrected." That's true of the Michigan program and its recent renaissance. Following a "gross" 2020 season, ev- eryone who remained looked themselves in the mirror and aimed to make the changes necessary to turn things around, graduate wide receiver Ronnie Bell said on a podcast last year. "Nobody was going to come and save Michigan," he added. By sheer force of will, head coach Jim Harbaugh has said, the Wolverines saw a train that was heading the wrong way down the tracks, lifted it up, turned it around and started pushing. Harbaugh himself tweaked his ways, hired new coaches and was re-energized. The leadership from the top down, in- cluding senior leaders, has been out- standing. As a result, so has the product on the field physical, smart, precise and dominant. Graduate tight end Joel Honigford, a sixth-year player, has seen the culture change firsthand. He was part of a young and banged up team that underachieved in 2017, a 2018 squad that won 10-straight games but fizzled out at the end and a 2019 crew that was favored to win the Big Ten but didn't, before the transformation from 2020 to now. "I would say it feels more like a whole family," Honigford said of the difference. "Everyone loves everybody, and every- body's playing for everybody else. It's not as many individual egos, but it's a lot of guys understanding that with team suc- cess comes individual success. Everyone is bought into that, and it's obviously led to our success." That's been the Michigan way for de- cades. Take care of the team first, and the rest will come. Just win, and everything else will take care of itself. "It means a lot," Honigford, a converted offensive lineman who's now a blocking tight end with only 1 career reception but has played in all 10 games this season, said of being a leader during such a pivotal time for the program. "It's been special to see." Michigan hasn't come this far just to come this far, though. Honigford and oth- ers returned for 2022 to reach even greater heights. With two games remaining, one against Big Ten West contender Illinois and a rematch of sorts versus Ohio State, plus whatever comes next (potentially the Big Ten Championship game and the College Football Playoff), they still have a ways to go. To that, the Wolverines say, "Bring it on." * * * H E I S M A N F RO N T- RU N N E R : Blake Corum is a prime example of team success translating into individual ac- complishments. The junior running back bided his time a year ago, playing second fiddle to Hassan Haskins, who set Michi- gan's single-season program record with 20 rushing touchdowns. Corum had 952 rushing yards and 11 scores himself. Questions about his ability to be an every-down back persisted all offseason, but the stocky workhorse answered those questions quickly and now leads all FBS players with 91 first-down runs, ranks third with 1,349 rushing yards and is tied for second with 17 rushing touchdowns. "I want it as many times as they're go- ing to give it to me," he said with a smile. For the season, Corum has touched the ball on 236 of Michigan's 706 of- fensive plays (33.4 percent), recording 1,390 of the team's 4,603 total offensive yards (30.2 percent), 18 of its 47 offensive touchdowns (38.2 percent) and 94 of its 250 first downs (37.6 percent). It's hard to argue there's a player in college football who means more to his team than Corum does to the Maize and Blue. "There was a time there maybe four or five games ago where I would've thought he deserves to be in New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. Now, I think he's the front-runner for it," Harbaugh said on the "Inside Michigan Football" radio show Nov. 14. At that time per the DraftKings Sportsbook, Corum had the third- best odds to win the Heisman Trophy (+550), behind Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud (+140) and Tennessee signal- caller Hendon Hooker (+350). Corum is tied with North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye. Corum and Stroud have signature moments to be had in front of the en- tire country in what could be a top-3 matchup Nov. 26 in Columbus. Win that, and the Big Ten championship game will provide for a big stage, too. If Corum and Co. take home another conference crown, the Heisman is his to lose. ❏ SAYFIE BLITZ   CLAYTON SAYFIE Culture Change Started A Renaissance Staff writer Clayton Sayfie has covered Michigan athletics for The Wolverine since 2019. Contact him at Clayton.Sayfie@on3. com and follow him on Twitter @CSayf23. Graduate student tight end Joel Honigford, a sixth-year player, has seen the U-M football culture change firsthand. "It's a lot of guys understanding that with team success comes individual success," Honigford said of the transformation during the past two seasons. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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