Change was inevitable for the Michigan Wolverines following a 2020 season in which they finished 2-4 with one of the worst statistical defenses in program history. It began with the coaching staff, as Jim Harbaugh added six new assistant coaches this offseason, all of whom are under 40. There will also be a new crop of fresh faces on the field as well, with the Wolverines bringing in the No. 10-ranked recruiting class, according to 247Sports, along with some key transfers that are expected to contribute immediately.
Alan Bowman, QB
Joe Milton opting to transfer out earlier this spring left just three scholarship quarterbacks on the current roster — a sophomore in Cade McNamara with just one career start, freshman Dan Villari and incoming 5-star recruit J.J. McCarthy. It was inevitable that Harbaugh would bolster that room with a veteran presence, and he found one in Texas Tech transfer Alan Bowman, who tossed 33 touchdowns in 19 career games with the Red Raiders. Bowman isn’t expected to arrive until the summer but will have three years of eligibility remaining.
J.J. McCarthy, QB
Until Bowman arrives later this offseason, most eyes will be on the true freshman McCarthy, who is already partaking in spring practices as an early enrollee. Rated as the No. 37 prospect in the 2021 class, according to 247Sports, McCarthy played at high school powerhouse IMG Academy last season, throwing for 1,392 yards and 16 touchdowns with zero interceptions as a senior.
The lack of development of the quarterback position during Harbaugh’s tenure with the Wolverines is well-documented at this point, but McCarthy represents the best chance to break that notion. Even with Bowman’s addition, McCarthy is expected to be in the mix to start in 2021.
Donovan Edwards, RB
Harbaugh signed another highly touted offensive prospect in this past recruiting cycle, landing Edwards, an in-state running. Securing talented playmakers in the state of Michigan is always a priority, but Edwards' commitment was crucial in that the Wolverines lost two running backs this offseason to the transfer portal, with Zach Charbonnet and Christian Turner seeking playing time elsewhere. Hassan Haskins is entrenched as the starter heading into 2021, but there is a prime opportunity for Edwards to land a rotational role immediately in the Michigan backfield.
Willie Allen, OT
There are a lot of moving pieces along the offensive line for the Wolverines headed into the spring, with one NFL Draft departure in Jalen Mayfield and a surprise transfer in Zach Carpenter heading to Indiana. There will likely be plenty of shuffling during camp to find out who suits best where, but one player expected to be in the mix is Louisiana Tech grad transfer Willie Allen who provides plenty of size (6-6, 343). A former top-100 recruit who committed to LSU coming out of high school, Allen started 14 games at left tackle for the Bulldogs in 2019, though he will likely shift over to the right side this season. At worst, Allen provides essential depth and a veteran presence.
Junior Colson, LB
With the Wolverines moving closer towards a 3-4 scheme under new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, Michigan will now feature more two-inside linebacker sets compared to just one man in the middle as in year’s past. Early intel suggests Michael Barrett may be shifting inside due to need, leaving a hole at outside linebacker where incoming freshman Colson could potentially get some looks. A converted wide receiver who finished 89th in the 247Sports composite rankings, Colson has great size (6-2, 230) already and would be a fit at that spot given his athleticism and ability to play in space. Those qualities will be prioritized in this new system over power and strength, which was emphasized by the previous staff.
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Follow him on Twitter @MBainbridgeCFF.