The Wolverine

Sept 2023

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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10 THE WOLVERINE ❱ SEPTEMBER 2023 ❱ INSIDE MICHIGAN ATHLETICS Senior receiver Roman Wilson has emerged as one of Michigan's top of- fensive players in both spring and fall camps, earning praise from coaches and teammates alike. He's still working on being a more vocal leader, but he's making strides. The Hawai'i native met the media for a question-and-answer session two weeks into fall camp — here are his responses. The Wolverine: The wildfires in Maui [that destroyed Lahaina and killed more than 100 people] — how has that affected you, and was that close to your home? Roman Wilson: "Just coming out of prac- tice, checking my phone, people are texting me saying, 'Are you OK? Is your family OK?' It's awful. People I grew up with, their homes are gone. People are asking what they can do to help … what do they need? Everything. Their car is gone, their house is gone, all their belongings. A place I grew up in, I can't go back to visit. It's gone. There's nothing there. "I've had a lot of bad stuff happen in my life, but this is hard to deal with. I don't think it's going to really hit me until I go back and see how it's changed." The Wolverine: You've missed a lot of time the last couple of years. How much has that hindered your progress or your ability to show what you can do? Wilson: "It's more just being unlucky. I can't really do anything about breaking a bone or getting sick. … I do everything I can to stay healthy, and I've kind of taken an extra step this year to go even further. It's not really frustrating … just unlucky. God's plan. "If you watch my game, you'd [say] I'm a fast guy, but I'm not just a fast guy. I can play backfield, wideout, slot. I am fast, can go up and get the ball, run out the catch. I've got great hands. That's who I am." The Wolverine: How much do you and the other receivers talk about op- portunities that may or may not come your way in the [run heavy] offense? Wilson: "[The offense] … it just is what it is. We're very good at running the ball, so this is how it works. We don't talk about [opportunities], but it's definitely in the back of my head. If I come out there, I feel I'm the best receiver on the field at all times. I don't care who's out there. I know what I can do, what I bring to this team. "When they need me, I'm going to show up. I've proven it; CJ's [Corne- lius Johnson] proven it to show up when it's big time. That's just our mentality. We know we're the best. Our team may not always need us, but when it's time, we're going to be there and we're going to show out." The Wolverine: There hasn't been one re- ceiver who had a huge year here in a while. How can that change with [quarterback] J.J. McCarthy's emergence? Wilson: "I feel like that's going to take me to the next level. You can say Ronnie [Bell] was his go-to receiver last year just reception- wise, but that's the key to every team. Every great QB has a great receiver with him. "That's just going to come down to how elite our passing game is going to be. Who can be that go-to receiver … who is going to be dependable? I've got to be there, make plays when he wants me to. Even if I'm not open, I've got to make a play. That's what it comes down to." The Wolverine: What have you seen from J.J. over the last several months that gets you excited about the passing offense this year? Wilson: "He's special. He's different. He stepped up big time this year. I've seen him in the facility a lot more stepping into that QB1 role. He's really embraced that. "Just having that spring with him, the offseason … just getting that chem- istry together, him figuring out how fast I'm really moving, what routes I'm running, where he's got to put the ball. It's all timing, chemistry. We just needed some more reps at it." — Chris Balas Wilson had 25 receptions for 376 yards (15.0 per catch) and 4 touchdowns a year ago. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN ❱ Sitting Down With Michigan Senior Wide Receiver Roman Wilson Michigan football checked in at No. 2 in the preseason Associated Press poll, behind only two-time defending national champion Georgia. It is the Wolverines' highest placement to begin a year since 1991, when they also were No. 2 before finishing No. 6 at the end of the season. The last time the Wolverines began a season ranked higher was in 1989, when they started out as the nation's No. 1 team before eventually finishing the year at No. 7. U-M was also No. 2 in the preseason rankings in 1986 (finished No. 8), No. 1 in 1981 (No. 12), No. 2 in 1977 (No. 9) and No. 2 in 1976 (No. 3). The Wolverines have been ranked in the top 25 to begin all but one season under ninth-year head coach Jim Harbaugh. That was 2021, when Michigan became the first to go from unranked in the preseason to earning a spot in the College Football Playoff. This is the first year under Harbaugh, who's won 74 games during his tenure, in which the Maize and Blue have checked in among the top five and the fourth season entering the top 10. Harbaugh's teams have outperformed their preseason ranking three times — in 2015 (No. 22 to No. 12), 2021 (unranked to No. 3) and 2022 (No. 8 to No. 3). Once, in 2018, the Wolverines concluded where they started, at No. 14. While Michigan begins the season in the top two, it's challenging to end the year so high. In fact, only 11 of the 26 teams to start the last 13 college football seasons (since 2010) in the top two have ended that way. Most seasons, how- ever, one of the two squads has played in the national championship game and wound up in that top pair. Michigan is hoping it is in that group this season. Here's a look at Michigan's preseason and postseason AP poll placement under Harbaugh: — Clayton Sayfie MICHIGAN EARNS HIGHEST PRESEASON AP POLL RANKING SINCE 1991 Year AP Rank U-M Record Final Ranking 2023 No. 2 TBD TBD 2022 No. 8 13-1 No. 3 2021 unranked 12-2 No. 3 2020 No. 16 2-4 unranked 2019 No. 7 9-4 No. 18 2018 No. 14 10-3 No. 14 2017 No. 11 8-5 unranked 2016 No. 7 10-3 No. 10 2015 No. 22 10-3 No. 12

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