With so many starters back, Michigan football ‘a train that kept on rolling’

Published Aug. 07, 2023, 4:14 p.m.
By Andrew Kahn |
In sports, there are teams that are fortunate enough to reload and others forced to rebuild from one year to the next. Michigan football, entering the 2023 season, is able to resume.
The Wolverines bring back most of their starters from last season’s team, which won a school record 13 games and didn’t lose until the College Football Playoff. Head coach Jim Harbaugh is back along with eight of his 10 assistants, including both coordinators.
The large number of returners has made for a seamless transition from the end of last season -- a disappointing loss to TCU in the semifinals -- to winter conditioning to spring ball and, now, to the start of fall camp.
“It really is just a train that kept on rolling ever since TCU,” Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy said on Monday. “We ran into a little bit of an obstacle, but that train kept moving. All the guys that came in -- the young guys, the transfers -- they hopped on and helped us push all the way from the start of this winter offseason.”
Each of the past two seasons, Michigan beat Ohio State, won the Big Ten, and reached the playoff. There’s no indication Michigan has lost any of that momentum heading into the Sep. 2 season opener against East Carolina.
A big reason is roster continuity. McCarthy returns, as do the top two running backs from last season, Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards. Three starters from the nation’s best offensive line are back (plus a fourth who started six games). The defense lost just three starters.
In total, Michigan brings back 81 percent of its offensive and defensive production, according to an ESPN story
Published in February, a figure that ranks fifth in FBS.
“It’s nice to have a lot of dudes come back,” offensive lineman Zak Zinter said. “It’s not really one of those rebuilding years that some teams have. It kind of felt like we came in and just picked up right where we left off.”
Michigan was voted second in the preseason coaches’ poll, released Monday. Expectations are high outside of Schembechler Hall, and surely within the facility, but the Wolverines will try to ignore the hype.
“What we did last year doesn’t matter,” edge Jaylen Harrell said. McCarthy cited a saying from a high school coach: “Don’t eat the cheese.”
It’s a good problem to have -- and better than the alternative, where players talk about changing the culture after a down season or two. That’s where Michigan found itself following a 2-4 season in 2020. It was during that season that McCarthy, not yet enrolled at Michigan, told fans, via social media, to have faith that things would improve.
On Monday, he compared the program back then to an arrow being drawn in a bow, about to be released.
“That arrow is still soaring through the air,” he said, “and it’s reaching new heights.”

Latest Player Notes

How Wisconsin athletes are benefiting from a unique NIL deal with Madison's Exact Sciences

Feb 17, 2024MJ Hammill entered what can be a scary time of an athlete’s life in mid-December.She went into the volleyball ...

Mike Griffith: Texas is Georgia's primary focus this offseason

February 16, 2024The Georgia Bulldogs face three SEC contenders on the road next season in Alabama, Texas and Ole Miss. According ...

Navigating a season that could see Texas play Georgia more than once

February 17, 2024The Texas Longhorns and Georgia Bulldogs will play in Austin on Oct. 19. It may not be the only time they ...

After some key departures from the team, Dykes got busy in the portal this offseason.

5:11 PM on Feb 16, 2024Biggest unanswered question: Who will emerge as the clear WR1?Before last season, Williams was the ...

How Louisville football coach Jeff Brohm balances transfer portal, high school recruiting

Louisville Courier JournalCollege football used to buzz on the first Wednesday in February, but Louisville football's office ...

Bob Asmussen | Illinois defense counting on linebackers to plug the gaps

College Football Reporter/ColumnistCHAMPAIGN — A new linebacker coach is in place at Illinois, and Archie McDaniel said he ...

Where Alabama’s quarterback group stands before spring practice

Alabama football’s offense is going to look different this season. Kalen DeBoer has replaced the retired Nick Saban as head ...

Why did AJ McCarron return to the St. Louis Battlehawks?

When AJ McCarron joined the resurrected XFL last year, the former Alabama All-American hadn’t played since suffering a knee ...

Colorado football self-reported 11 minor NCAA violations from Deion Sanders’ first year with Buffs

1/26/2024The Colorado football program has self-reported 11 minor NCAA violations since the hiring of head coach Deion Sanders ...

What Steve Young said about today’s NFL quarterbacks

By Jackson Payne Steve Young may have enjoyed a Hall of Fame career in the NFL, but that doesn’t stop him from feeling just ...
See More Player Notes