Michigan Spring Game 2022: Top Storylines and Prospects to Watch

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIApril 1, 2022

Michigan Spring Game 2022: Top Storylines and Prospects to Watch

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Earlier this year, rumors swirled about Jim Harbaugh potentially leaving Michigan to return to the NFL. There were even reports of him going to interview with the Minnesota Vikings. But in the end, Harbaugh decided to solidify his long-term future with the Wolverines, signing an extension through the 2025 season.

    Now, Harbaugh is looking to lead Michigan to more success after the program reached the College Football Playoff for the first time in 2021. The Wolverines have been participating in spring practices over the past month, and now, they're set to hold their annual Maize and Blue Spring Game at Michigan Stadium on Saturday.

    The event is free for fans, with gates opening at 11 a.m. ET and players beginning warm-ups and drills around 11:30 a.m. ET. The game, which provides an opportunity for an early look at the Wolverines' 2022 team, is set to start at noon ET.

    Here are some top storylines and players to watch for Michigan heading into its spring game.

McNamara Looking to Prove He Should Remain Starting QB

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    Jim Rassol/Associated Press

    Cade McNamara started at quarterback for all 14 games for Michigan last season, leading it to a 12-2 record, a Big Ten championship and a CFP berth. However, he didn't put up huge numbers while doing so. McNamara passed for 2,576 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions as a junior.

    Now, McNamara is back in 2022. But it's not a sure thing that he'll start every game for the Wolverines during the upcoming season, especially because J.J. McCarthy flashed his potential at times as a true freshman last season, passing for 516 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions over 11 games.

    For now, McNamara is the starter. And that's because McCarthy has been dealing with a right shoulder injury that has prevented him from throwing the ball during spring practices. So it seems unlikely McCarthy will be on the field for Michigan's spring game.

    That could give McNamara an opportunity to cap his spring with a strong showing and prove that he should remain the starting QB in 2022, even if McCarthy gets healthy later on. Even though the spring game is only a scrimmage, it could be a chance for McNamara to showcase any improvements he's made over the offseason, which may impact a future quarterback battle.

WR Corps Has Potential to Be a Huge Strength

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Whether it's McNamara or McCarthy under center this season, Michigan's quarterback is going to have some impressive playmakers to throw the ball to. The Wolverines have a mix of returning players and incoming freshmen who should make this an exciting unit to watch.

    Among the returning receivers for Michigan are senior Cornelius Johnson, juniors Roman Wilson and A.J. Henning and sophomore Andrel Anthony. There's also senior Ronnie Bell, who suffered a torn ACL in the Wolverines' 2021 opener and is now back for a fifth season.

    Michigan bolstered its receiving corps during the 2022 recruiting cycle, too, as it brought in a pair of 4-star receivers (Tyler Morris and Darrius Clemons) and a 3-star receiver (Amorion Walker). And Harbaugh has already shared his excitement about the talent level among that group.

    "Freak show," Harbaugh recently said, per Isaiah Hole of Wolverines Wire. "Really all three receivers physically, what we were just talking about, in terms of what they can do—running, jumpingthose traits are quite off the charts."

    It should be exciting to see the wide receivers in action on Saturday, as it could be a preview of what to expect from the Wolverines' offense this upcoming season.

How Will Defense Look Following Coaching Changes?

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    Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    Michigan's defense will likely look a bit different in 2022. Over the offseason, the Wolverines hired Jesse Minter to be their new defensive coordinator, while Mike Elston was brought in to be the new defensive line coach. And it will be interesting to see how they impact the unit moving forward.

    Minter spent 2021 as Vanderbilt's defensive coordinator after previously serving as an assistant for the Baltimore Ravens from 2017 to 2020. Elston was an assistant at Notre Dame from 2010 to '21, but he has ties to Michigan, as he was a linebacker for the Wolverines from 1993 to '96, then began his coaching career with the program by serving as an assistant from 1997 to 2000.

    There are holes for Michigan to fill on defense, as edge-rushers Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo are both heading to the NFL. If the Wolverines are going to continue to have defensive success, they'll need to find players to help try to fill those spots after losing two impact ends.

    So, there will be a lot to watch on defense during the Michigan spring game. And it could give an early indication of what the Wolverines will look like on that side of the ball with Minter now in charge.

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