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Michigan Football: 5 Newcomers to Watch for the Wolverines

Michigan Wolverines Football

Michigan landed a premier grad transfer and a top 10 recruiting class this offseason to replenish the roster

Michigan fans were hoping for a calm and quiet offseason following the Wolverines' first trip to the College Football Playoff. However, it's been the exact opposite of that with Jim Harbaugh's NFL flirtations and a number of coaching changes during the offseason carousel, including a publicized departure of offensive coordinator Josh Gattis.

As we near the beginning of spring practices, the dust has finally settled for the Wolverines. Harbaugh is returning, signing a brand new contract, and the staff is locked in place with the hiring of new defensive coordinator Jesse Minter and a few in-house promotions on the offensive side of the ball. With that out of the way, Michigan fans can now look towards a promising future with a roster that is littered with high-end talent, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, and an incoming top-10 recruiting class that looks to provide a few immediate contributors in 2022.

Victor Oluwatimi, C

Don't expect any sort of drop-off from the group that won the Joe Moore Award last season as the best offensive line in the country. The Wolverines return three starters and now add in Virginia transfer Victor Oluwatimi, who was a Rimington Award finalist and second-team All-American last season. Listed at 6-foot-3, 310 pounds, Oluwatimi started all 12 games for UVA in 2021 — 32 straight games started in total — and was graded as the country's second-best center in run blocking according to Pro Football Focus.

Will Johnson, CB

Of Michigan's impact freshmen for next season, the top spot is pretty clear-cut with Johnson, a 5-star cornerback. A dual-sport athlete in high school, Johnson has the requisite size (6-2) and speed (reported 4.7 40-yard dash) to make an immediate impact in the Wolverines' defensive backfield. And he will have every opportunity to do just that with three starters in the secondary leaving for the NFL in Daxton Hill, Vincent Gray, and Brad Hawkins. Being in the mix for a top-three spot in the cornerback rotation for Michigan means you'll see the field quite a bit, and that'll be a realistic expectation for the 5-star recruit.

Derrick Moore, DL

While the Michigan secondary is losing several contributors as mentioned earlier, the top-end talent lost along the defensive front is most concerning looking towards 2022 with star defensive ends Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo being likely top-10 picks in this year's NFL draft. Only a select few high school recruits are physically ready to have an immediate impact along the defensive line, but Moore fits the bill in terms of size and athleticism. At 260 pounds, the four-star lineman has some positional flexibility to play defensive end on the strong side or kick to the 3-technique which should mean he sees the field in Year 1 at minimum.

Related: College Football's Top 20 Impact True Freshmen for 2022

Zeke Berry, DB

Positional versatility is the name of the game for Berry, a 4-star defensive back who comes to Ann Arbor via California. Berry's impact in Year 1 will likely depend on how and where the Michigan staff plans to deploy the versatile playmaker since he could see time at nickel back and safety — or maybe even some reps on offense. With the continuity in Michigan's defensive scheme under new defensive coordinator Minter, a likely landing spot for Berry could be in the slot where Hill previously played as a roaming defender.

CJ Stokes, RB

Of the 11 starting spots on offense and defense, one could make the argument that transitioning to a higher level a football is easiest at running back. And there is a spot open in the Michigan backfield with Hassan Haskins now moving on to the NFL. Blake Corum and future star sophomore Donovan Edwards will share the bulk of the carries, but the Wolverines will need another contributor given that they ran the ball 58.4 percent of the time in 2021 — 23rd most in the country. Stokes won't garner many headlines in a top-10 recruiting class as a three-star back, but the 190-pounder ran for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons to close out his high school career. And Stokes' social media account gives the notion that he's up to 205 pounds, which bodes well for immediate impact as a true freshman. 

— 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.