Michigan football has been one of the best in the country when it comes to the transfer portal this year. How will this impact the Wolverines in 2023?
Portal opens for Michigan football
Just a few seasons ago, Jim Harbaugh showed hesitation regarding the transfer portal and only brought in three transfers this past offseason. Clearly, something has changed in that department, as the Wolverines now have seven transfer commits, gaining two more yesterday alone.
Out of the seven, three have been offensive linemen, and each has the potential to be an immediate starter. Taking a transfer offensive lineman is nothing new to the Wolverines program, as just a year ago, center Olu Oluwatimi transferred to Michigan and made an immediate impact.
In fact, Oluwatimi was so successful in his first year with the Wolverines that he would go on to win both the Rimington Award (nation’s best center) and the Outland Award (nation’s best interior offensive lineman).
This is significant because, as of right now, Michigan will lose at least one of its five offensive linemen next season. Olu Oluwatimi is out of eligibility and will likely be one of the top offensive linemen in the NFL draft this offseason. The other four have eligibility remaining and could return if they so choose to.
Who will stay?
I would be shocked if all five offensive linemen chose to leave for the NFL, but don’t be surprised if we see three or four decide to test the waters.
Ryan Hayes, Trevor Keegan, and Zak Zinter all can go to the NFL and become a starter early in their careers. All three have been starting for the Wolverines these past two seasons and were integral reasons why Michigan football has had the best offensive line in the country both years.
Hayes only has one more year of eligibility, so I view him as the most likely to leave for the NFL, but I could see both Keegan or Zinter giving it a shot.
If any are to return, it’s more than likely to be Keegan, as he still has the most left to prove out of the three. While he’s shown that he is more than capable and has the strength and skill to play at the next level, he unfortunately had to work through some injuries this season. As he missed time with injuries in multiple games this season, it could do him wonders to return and show that he can stay healthy.
Regardless, I’m getting the feeling the Wolverines will be looking to replace at least three offensive linemen this off-season, as that’s been a big part of their transfer portal efforts.
Transitions being made
The most apparent transition will likely be the center position, as we know Oluwatimi is leaving for the NFL. We also know Drake Nugent, a transfer from Stanford, is more than capable of filling in that hole almost immediately. Nugent started two years at Stanford and will be more than capable of stepping immediately into the starting position at Michigan.
From there, the next most likely position Michigan football will need to fill could be right tackle. Two Wolverine transfer commits can play the tackle position as LaDarius Henderson, out of Arizona State, and Myles Hinton, out of Stanford, have experience there.
Hinton is the most likely to take a spot at offensive tackle, as he’s played the position for the last three seasons at Stanford. It certainly helps that he still has two more years of eligibility remaining and could be a multi-year starter for the Wolverines if he chooses.
Finally, the commitment of Henderson leads me to believe that the Wolverines will be losing at least one of their offensive guards in the offseason.
What will the line look like in 2023?
For obvious reasons, I hope all three players with eligibility return to Michigan football for at least one more season. Still, it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad idea if they were to give the NFL draft a chance. In recent years, plenty of Wolverines in the NFL have found success, many of which played as part of Jim Harbaugh’s teams.
Players like Taylor Lewan, Jon Runyan, Mike Onwenu, Ben Bredeson, and many others have become integral parts of their teams.
Regardless, if they were to choose the NFL path, Michigan football has put itself in a position where it will have plenty of replacements if need be. These players are all good enough to keep up the level of play the Wolverines have grown used to seeing from their offensive line.
Would they be good enough to win the Joe Moore award for the third year in a row? Who knows, but these are all seasoned veterans who will be able to fill in with ease.
The deadline to declare for the NFL Draft is January 16, 2023, so we won’t have to wait much longer to know what the Wolverine offensive line group will look like next season.
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