The Wolverine

Sept 2023

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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26 THE WOLVERINE ❱ SEPTEMBER 2023 BY JOHN BORTON W hat do you get when you combine a "once-in-a-gen- eration-type quarterback," arguably the top tailback tandem in the nation, an offensive line talented enough to equal two straight aggregations voted best in the nation, and a diverse, capable array of wide receivers and tight ends? It remains to be seen, but everyone from Jim Harbaugh to Tibetan monks conceal- ing contraband Michigan underwear are itching to find out. Harbaugh himself labeled junior quar- terback J.J. McCarthy a generational QB at the Big Ten football meetings, before likening his leadership and team-oriented approach to that of NFL stars Patrick Ma- homes and Josh Allen. The head coach knows his offense — and his entire team — is loaded heading into the 2023 season. So does senior offensive guard Zak Zinter, a mauler who stands boldly up front about what this offense plans to ac- complish. "We're just going to keep our identity," Zinter assured. "We're going to run the ball when we want to, and they're going to know when we're going to run it. They're going to stack the box. We're going to throw it over their head. We've got a lot of explosive guys on the outside now. J.J. proved to everyone that he's got the arm to throw the long ball. "I think we're going to be pretty dan- gerous, and we're going to be able to do whatever we want this year." Here's a rundown of Michigan's po- sition groups, and the havoc they could combine to deliver. Quarterbacks McCarthy completed 64.6 percent (208 of 322) of his passes last season, racking up 2,719 yards and 22 touchdowns through the air. He threw only 5 intercep- tions all season, but 2 of them went for TCU touchdowns in the College Football Playoff semifinal. He's determined to in- crease the former and eliminate the latter, especially with Michigan offensive co- ordinator Sherrone Moore making noise about evening out Michigan's passing and running games. "Absolutely," Moore stressed. "We want to be 50-50. There are going to be games where that might not happen. We might see that the defenses solely focus on tak- ing one thing away, and we might do the other. But we want to be as balanced as possible, with sets, with the formations, how we do things, making everything look the same." "I'm always a person that strives for the path of most resistance, but it's been the most fun in my entire life playing football right now," McCarthy said. "Everything's clear. Everyone knows what's going on and everything's effortless right now." Harbaugh indicated there's not a clear No. 2 quarterback yet, but the options are intriguing. Junior Davis Warren returns, a year after appearing in five games last season, going 5-of-9 passing for 89 yards. Michigan supplemented via the transfer portal in the offseason, pulling in Indiana veteran Jack Tuttle as a graduate transfer, following a four-year career in Blooming- ton highlighted by five starts, 901 passing yards and 5 touchdowns. Then there's an imposing figure in 6-3, 236-pound Alex Orji, a sophomore athletic enough to be mentioned as a potential kick returner. Running Backs The combo of senior tailback Blake Co- rum (247 carries, 1,463 yards, 18 touch- downs in 2023) and junior Donovan Ed- wards (140, 991, 7) will be tough to top. In fact, when former Wolverine Taylor Lewan referred to them as "maybe the best running back duo [in the nation]" on his podcast, they immediately and in unison responded, "Maybe?" Moore's job will be finding enough car- ries and catches for each, especially with ARMED & DANGEROUS Michigan's Dynamic Offense Is Ready To Pound On And Pass Over Opponents Receivers Roman Wilson (left) and Cornelius Johnson (center) accounted for 10 of quarterback J.J. McCarthy's 22 touchdown passes a year ago. The Wolverines are counting on increased production in the passing game from all three this season. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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