Ten potential breakout players for two-time Big Ten champion Wolverines

Michigan, the two-time defending Big Ten champions, has considerable talent and experience returning for the upcoming season that begins Sept. 2 against East Carolina, the first of four straight home games, making the Wolverines a favorite, according to several national pundits, for a three-peat and contender for a national championship.
While the stars are well known — quarterback J.J. McCarthy, running backs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards and defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, among them — there are many others who look to make big splashes this fall. Most names are known to Michigan fans, and some have made starts even as freshmen, but these are players to keep an eye on this fall:
With Luke Schoonmaker and Joel Honigford moving on to the NFL and Erick All transferring to Iowa, Colston Loveland is expected to play a major role this season.
Colston Loveland, tight end
As Loveland enters his second season with the Wolverines, he already seems to be a household name among Michigan fans. With Luke Schoonmaker and Joel Honigford moving on to the NFL and Erick All transferring to Iowa, Loveland is expected to play a major role this season. Honigford earlier this year declared Loveland has the potential to be “one of the greatest” Michigan tight ends. Last season, Loveland had 16 catches for 235 yards and two touchdowns, the first on a 45-yard reception at Ohio State and the second a 25-yarder in the Big Ten championship game against Purdue.
Jaylen Harrell made 12 starts last season and had 30 tackles with 3.5 sacks while earning All-Big Ten honorable mention.
Jaylen Harrell, edge
Harrell made 12 starts last season and had 30 tackles with 3½ sacks while earning All-Big Ten honorable mention. Does it seem unusual to include the 6-foot-4, 246-pound Harrell on a list of potential breakout performers? Maybe. But Mike Morris garnered headlines last season, and while Harrell was all about consistent play, he didn’t have the numbers. During spring practice, defensive coordinator Jesse Minter praised Harrell’s complete game and consistency and said to expect “another big year” from him this season.
At Nebraska, Ernest Hausmann had 54 tackles, including a 12-tackle performance against Wisconsin, and one sack that came against Michigan.
Ernest Hausmann, linebacker
The 6-2, 220-pounder had a strong freshman season at Nebraska in 2022 making seven starts. If his Michigan spring game performance — he had eight tackles, including six solo, and forced a fumble — suggested anything, it’s that he intends to be impactful this season. At Nebraska, Hausmann had 54 tackles, including a 12-tackle performance against Wisconsin, and one sack that came against Michigan. Minter said he has told all the linebackers they’re going to have to step up their games to hold off Hausmann for playing time “because he’s coming.”
Derrick Moore appeared in every game last season at edge and had eight tackles with two sacks, two quarterback hurries and one pass breakup.
Derrick Moore, edge
This has been and is expected to be a position of strength for the Wolverines, and with their rotation, several players, including Moore, will get a chance to shine. Moore started to make a move late last season and Harrell was among those this spring who said Moore has improved and will be a “problem” for offenses. The 6-3, 279-pounder appeared in every game last season at edge and had eight tackles with two sacks, two quarterback hurries and one pass breakup.
Makari Paige, who came to Michigan from West Bloomfield High, is entering his fourth season with the Wolverines and is coming off a season in which he played in 12 games with five starts.
Makari Paige, safety
Paige, who came to Michigan from West Bloomfield High, is entering his fourth season with the Wolverines and is coming off a season in which he played in 12 games with five starts. Paige made 41 tackles with one sack and his lone interception came against Ohio State. He was All-Big Ten honorable mention and has played in 27 games during his career, but this season he expected to become a full-time starter along with Rod Moore, especially after edging R.J. Moten in the spring. Moten has since transferred.
As a freshman last season, Mason Graham saw playing time in every game and also made two starts, finishing with 27 tackles with 2.5 sacks, and a pass breakup.
Mason Graham, defensive tackle
As a freshman last season, Graham saw playing time in every game and also made two starts, finishing with 27 tackles with 2½ sacks, and a pass breakup. Graham, 6-3, 317 pounds, benefits from his high school wrestling background which has helped tremendously with footwork and leverage and perhaps accelerated his ability to be a contributor last fall. Now, it’s about taking the next step and with Mazi Smith now in the NFL, he likely will get that opportunity.
Will Johnson played in every game with five starts a corner and had 27 tackles, including two for loss, three interceptions among six pass breakups.
Will Johnson, cornerback
Johnson’s showing last season as a freshman is why he is expected to have a big season this fall. He played in every game with five starts a corner and had 27 tackles, including two for loss, three interceptions among six pass breakups. He told The News in April that he underwent minor knee surgery earlier in the year, “nothing major” he said, and anticipates being full go when camp begins Aug. 1. The 6-2, 194-pound Johnson said his goal this season is to build off last season and is bigger goals are the Jim Thorpe Award given to the nation’s top defensive back and first-team All-American honors.
Braiden McGregor finished the 2022 season with 17 tackles, including five for loss, 2.5 sacks and he broke up two passes.
Braiden McGregor, edge
Mike Morris, the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year last season, described Michigan as “Edge Rush U” during his comments at the NFL combine, which perhaps is why there are so many edge players on this list. McGregor spoke in the spring about his journey since arriving at Michigan in 2020 coming off knee surgery and finding his way and really learning how to practice all-out every day. He finished the 2022 season with 17 tackles, including five for loss, 2½ sacks and he broke up two passes. McGregor said coaches told him he is expected to be a force on the edge. “I like it,” he said of the pressure.
With Ryan Hayes off to the NFL, left tackle is open and Arizona State transfer LaDarius Henderson is expected to be a top contender to fill it.
LaDarius Henderson, offensive line
Had he not suffered a tendon injury to his left ring finger last season while a captain at Arizona State, he might very well be in the NFL. But Henderson, whose season was shortened six games because of the injury, transferred to Michigan late last year, calling the Wolverines “O-line U”. He sat out spring practice while finishing course work at Arizona State and will be full go for preseason camp. With Ryan Hayes off to the NFL, left tackle is open and Henderson is expected to be a top contender to fill it. The 6-foot-5, 310-pound Henderson started 29 games over three seasons.
Darrius Clemons saw action at receiver in nine games last season and caught one pass for seven yards.
Darrius Clemons, receiver
Veteran receivers Cornelius Johnson and Roman Wilson are back, but 6-3, 214-pound sophomore Clemons could make a splash this season. He saw action at receiver in nine games last season and caught one pass for 7 yards. With his size he certainly gives Michigan a big-body receiver, and he’s fast. Will this mean he becomes a down-field threat? Time will tell. “I think he’s going to shock a lot of people when he gets his opportunities this year,” Wilson said in the spring.

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