Michigan Wolverines Football Offseason Preview

The Michigan Wolverines and Jim Harbaugh finally got over the hump last year. They finally beat Ohio State, finally won the Big Ten East Division championship, finally made the Big Ten Championship Game, finally won the Big Ten title, finally made the College Football Playoff semifinals, and finally put a player in the top two of the Heisman Trophy voting. Michigan had never previously reached the Big Ten Championship Game. It had not beaten Ohio State since 2011. It had not made the playoff semifinals since the College Football Playoff began in 2014. Harbaugh had never beaten Ohio State as a coach. He had beaten OSU as a Michigan quarterback in 1986, but he had struck out several times against the Buckeyes as a coach. In 2021, his long drought came to an end, as Michigan hammered Ohio State in late November to achieve a number of long-sought goals. Aidan Hutchinson, a defensive lineman with an endless motor and an unquenchable desire to be great, was the Heisman Trophy runner-up, losing the award to Bryce Young of Alabama. Michigan did lose to Georgia in the playoff semifinals, but the Wolverines and Harbaugh, after many frustrations and setbacks, finally produced the kind of season their fans had been waiting for. It was worth the wait.

Key Personnel Lost

Defensive coordinator Mike MacDonald, offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, and Heisman Trophy runner-up Aidan Hutchinson are all gone. Replacing the two coordinators is arguably more important than replacing any individual player, although Hutchinson will be extremely difficult to replace on the field. Michigan needed every ounce of quality from Hutchinson to make the playoff semifinals last season. The Wolverines have to get multiple players to improve by a substantial degree in order to compensate for even half of what Hutchinson did on the field last year. Michigan also lost Shaun Nua, its defensive line coach, to USC. Nua helped Hutchinson become a great player, so the Wolverines have to find a replacement on that part of their coaching staff as well. Seeing all these coaches leave after a hugely successful season is a reminder that prosperity brings its own unique challenges. Michigan has to learn how to handle prosperity, and being a target of opposing teams, in 2022.

Important Incoming Freshmen

Defensive lineman Derrick Moore is a top recruit who will try to fill the void left by Aidan Hutchinson’s departure. Michigan needs youthful energy on its defensive line so that it can rush the passer and bother C.J. Stroud, something it managed to do in the win over Ohio State a year ago.

Key Position Battles

Michigan was able to beat Ohio State and rise to the top of the Big Ten because its offensive line was able to dominate Ohio State’s defensive line. Getting the 2022 offensive line to match – if not exceed – the 2021 team’s standard will be essential. What will also matter is getting a level of quarterback play which can similarly match the 2021 standard at minimum, and possibly improve it. Stability on the defensive line will be another key point of emphasis in the offseason.

Biggest Offseason Goal(s)

Michigan needs to find new players who can replace the centrally important players from 2021’s brilliantly successful team. If new infusions of talent and hunger can compensate for the athlete and coaching losses this program has endured in recent months, Michigan would still have a chance to rise to the top of the Big Ten this season. It won’t be easy, but new players making a quick impact is undeniably something this team has to have. It’s a non-negotiable point.

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