Michigan was one of the first programs to open spring training, which means it will host one of college football’s first major spring games on Saturday. After a historic 2021, all eyes will be on Ann Arbor to see how the program can maintain its momentum.
Replacing seniors is never easy, but Michigan has its work cut out after losing Heisman runner-up defensive end Aidan Hutchinson to the NFL. Running back David Ojabo, running back Hassan Haskins and safety Daxton Hill are also at the gate, along with the two coordinators. Maintaining historical production will be difficult with all the turnover.
The Maize & Blue Spring Game will give fans their first chance to see the next generation of Wolverines players, who have been drafted to either Maize or Blue. New offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore will lead the blue team, while defensive backs coach Steve Clinkscale will coach the Maize.
Here’s what to watch in Michigan’s spring game on Saturday.
Dated: Saturday April 2 | Time: 12 p.m. ET
Location: Michigan Stadium – Ann Arbor, Michigan
TV: Big Ten Network
1. Building staff chemistry: After staging a historic season and winning the Big Ten, Michigan lost both coordinators. Broyles Award-winning offensive coordinator Josh Gattis opted to join Mario Cristobal in Miami, while defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald joined fellow Harbaugh, John, with the Baltimore Ravens.
Offensively, Harbaugh chose to stick with continuity. Moore, the team’s offensive line coach, and quarterbacks coach Matt Weiss have been promoted to co-coordinators, but now must rethink an offense with running back Hassan Haskins in the NFL. On the other side, Harbaugh nabbed Jesse Minter from Vanderbilt to become defensive coordinator. Minter worked for Harbaugh’s brother, John, with the Ravens for four years before taking the Commodores’ DC job.
Now these three new coordinators have a critical spring to get on the same page and find the kind of camaraderie that has helped the Wolverines reach such great heights in 2021. With so much key production heading into the NFL, the coaching and development must hit another level.
2. Evaluate the QB position: Michigan used quarterbacks Cade McNamara and JJ McCarthy in 2021 and looked set to host open competition in the spring. However, McCarthy wasn’t a full participant in the spring due to arm pain, so it was a showcase opportunity for McNamara instead.
The Reno, Nevada native completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 2,576 passing yards and 15 touchdowns while leading the Wolverines to their first Big Ten championship in nearly 20 years. With McCarthy limited, quarterback competition could extend into preseason camp. However, the top class student has the opportunity to learn and grow at a rate that can hold off the former five-star recruit with the extra practice time.
3. Find new defensive playmakers: Michigan had an elite defense in 2021, but now the bones of that are heading to the NFL. Hutchinson earned a trip to New York as a Heisman runner-up and ranks No. 3 in the CBS Sports Draft Prospect rankings. Hill and Ojabo also rank in the top 40.
In fact, only two of Michigan’s nine players with more than two sacks are back: seniors Taylor Upshaw and Mazi Smith. This is where recruitment and development must pay off, especially with the arrival of new defensive personnel. Michigan didn’t agree to a transfer on defense, so Harbaugh trusts his returning roster.