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Michigan football: star players returning speaks to program’s culture

Over the past few weeks, Michigan football managed to bring back most of its draft-eligible players to make a CFP run in 2023.



© Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK | Michigan Wolverines running back C.J. Stokes (23) celebrates the 43-22 win against the Purdue Boilermakers in the Big Ten championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022.

Over the past few weeks, we have seen nearly all of the Wolverines’ draft eligible players announce that they will be returning to Michigan football in 2023. Some point to NIL, some point to them not being ready, but the real reason behind Michigan’s success in retaining players is the program’s culture.

Michigan football returns most of its star players

Since Michigan’s 2022 season came to a close — a season in which the Wolverines again beat Ohio State, won the Big Ten, and headed to the College Football Playoff — the Wolverines have been gearing up for another huge run in 2023. Over the past few weeks, Michigan has managed to bring back nearly all of its draft eligible players, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Cornelius Johnson (wide receiver)
  • Mike Barrett (linebacker)
  • Trevor Keegan (offensive lineman)
  • Zak Zinter (offensive lineman)
  • Blake Corum (running back)
  • Kris Jenkins (defensive line)

These players all announced that they will be coming back to U-M for the 2023 before Jim Harbaugh announced that he, too, will be back this fall. Now, as we turn the page to the 2023 Michigan football season, the Wolverines are looking loaded on both sides of the football.

Michigan’s championship culture is one of the driving factors behind Harbaugh’s recent success, and these star players all coming back to run it back in 2023 further proves that. Additionally, Michigan is bringing in seven highly-experienced and quite talented transfers from all over the country — two from the Big Ten, four from the PAC-12, and one from the Sun Belt Conference.

Wolverines should be favored to win Big Ten due to experience alone

Michigan football returns more than just experience — it is keeping its talent in Ann Arbor. Both of the Wolverines’ returning offensive linemen are All-Big Ten selections and were a huge factor on Michigan’s back-to-back Joe Moore Award-winning offensive lines. With both returning to Ann Arbor in 2023 (as well as a number of transfers and in-house talent) Michigan football should be favored to win the Joe Moore Award for a third-straight year.

Furthermore, the Wolverines might have the most-deadly offense in the Big Ten now. Behind its elite offensive line is rising junior star quarterback JJ McCarthy; McCarthy is joined in the backfield by the best RB duo in the nation: Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards.

Out wide, Michigan football has two of its top-3 receivers coming back (Cornelius Johnson and Roman Wilson) as well as a 4-star transfer tight end and rising sophomore tight end Colston Loveland.

Defensively, the Wolverines are looking just as dangerous as they were in 2022 — Michigan’s only real concern right now should be replacing Brad Robbins (P) and Jake Moody (K) on special teams. With Michigan’s championship culture, its winning ways over the past two years, its returning talent, and its veteran leadership, I see no reason that Michigan football shouldn’t be the favorite to three-peat as Big Ten Champions.

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