Michigan’s 180 could lead to the same results

Last year, Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines shook off a COVID disaster unlike anything Michigan Football had ever seen. Coming off a losing season, Coach Harbaugh took a pay cut and seemed to barely keep his job. No one saw the 180 coming, yet the 180 came. Harbaugh used a stout defense to carry a rather one dimensional offense to the CFP. This formula of run the ball with enough success to let our defense hold on is not going to work this year. First off, Aiden Hutchinson, David Ojabo (how I loved hearing “Ohhhhh-jahhhhh-bow” every time he got a sack), Daxton Hill, and several others are gone from that defense that created havoc. Also, DC Mike MacDonald is gone; his loss might be the hardest on the team.

The defense has to take a step back in 2022, but I think that a lot of pundits might be overestimating how big that step will be. There are a lot of really good returning players that saw time last year. Yes Michigan lost a couple of first round linemen (Ojabo would have gone first minus the injury), but Mike Morris and Mazi Smith will headline a deep defensive line that will get into the backfield. Remember, Michigan has sent a lot of defensive linemen to the NFL: Donovan Jeter, Christopher Hinton, Chris Wormley, et al- there is always a next man up mentality in Ann Arbor. Lines win games on both sides of the ball, but the men behind are important. The secondary has the potential to be even better this year than last. While Daxton Hill is gone, Rob More and RJ Moten are two young safeties that are ready to step up; the cornerback room has stud returner DJ Turner and is adding in a 5 star recruit in Will Johnson, along with more depth. The linebacker crew should be solid as Junior Colson and Nikhail Hill-Green are studs.

Time is what the defense needs more than anything else. Last year, the defense had to be good from kickoff in order for the offense to play catchup. This year, the offense is going to be good-not just a little good, I mean really good. Losing Hasaan Haskins is a blow to the running back room, but no one, other than JJ McCarthy, is catching Blake Corum. He is poised for a season that I would call a breakout, but he was amazing last year until taken down by an ankle sprain. Donovan Edwards is Corum’s backup but would probably start on most teams. The two will make up a one-two punch at the running back like last year. Add in that the offensive line is deep and might be one of the five best O-lines in the country, the ground game will be a strength again for the Maize and Blue.

The main difference in this iteration of Michigan football will be the air game. The receiver room is packed with exciting plyers, including Ronnie Bell who is back from an ACL surgery. Roman Wilson, AJ Henning, and Cornelius Johnson will get targeted a lot, but there is still a ton of depth with Mike Sainristil and top recruit Darrius Clemons fighting for reps. The Wolverines also sport an All-American level tight end in Erik All and one of the best backup ends in the game in Luke Schoonmaker. The passing game should show marked improvement from last year. In fact, it might even start the year on more solid footing than the run game.

The only real question on offense is how quarterback reps are handled. Cade McNamara will be the starter, but JJ McCarthy is waiting in the wings. It is possible that Harbaugh will use both of them. I have written on this idea as a positive plan. McCarthy’s athleticism is off the charts, while McNamara is more of a pocket passer. The different styles should give opposing teams fits. Imagine lining up every time with four legit receiving threats, a mix of speed/power at the running back, and two different styles of play caller- too many options for every defense not named Georgia, Clemson, or Bama.

Which brings me to my 180 point, an offense that was a detriment at the start of last year and overly reliant on the run game is going to be the belle of the ball. There is no reason that the Wolverines shouldn’t be able to put up 50+ points and 300+ yards of passing in their first three games. The offense should be dynamic enough to give the defense time to work things out. It’s only fair since it was 180 degrees different last year. Will it lead to another great season? Yes. Will it lead to another CFP appearance? Time will tell.

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