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What we learned from Michigan’s 2023 spring game

Michigan football is looking elite following their spring game!



2023 Michigan football spring game,
Apr 1, 2023; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) drops back to pass during the Spring Game at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

On December 31, 2022, Jim Harbaugh’s squad played their final game of the 2022 season. Just three months later, Maize and Blue fans had their first look at the Wolverines’ team this year. All afternoon, there were big plays aplenty, and plenty of new faces showed what they were capable of. Thinking back on it, there’s plenty for Michigan fans to be excited about heading into the home opener this fall. Here are some of our takeaways from the 2023 Michigan football spring game.

Kenneth Grant stood out during the 2023 Michigan football spring game

With the number one overall pick in the 2023 Michigan football spring game draft, the Blue Team selects Kenneth Grant. In the 2022 campaign, Grant didn’t get much of an opportunity to show what he was capable of. Still, that was more because Michigan football had and has an elite defensive interior group.

Last season the Wolverines were led by Mazi Smith and Mason Graham, who were both elite in their own right. Now, Mazi Smith is off to the NFL, and some spots will need to be filled on the defensive line. While it’s no guarantee Kenneth Grant’s stardom will come this season, it feels inevitable that he’ll have a breakout year very soon.

Following his No. 1 overall selection, it was only natural that people had their eyes on him, and he did not disappoint. Throughout the game, his 6-foot-3, 356-pound frame where very much on display. Not only was he using size and power to disrupt the run game, but his speed in getting after the quarterback was on display all afternoon.

It didn’t take much to see that Kenneth Grant has the potential to be an absolute star for Michigan football now and into the future. If he continues to improve at the rate he has, it’ll be challenging to keep him off the field much longer.

Elite two-punch combo at tight end

Over the years, elite tight end play and Michigan football have become synonymous, and this season looks to be no exception. This is largely thanks to the breakout of young stud tight end Colston Loveland in 2022.

Now, the Wolverines might have one of the best tight end groups in the country thanks to a transfer from Indiana named A.J. Barner. In his time at Indiana, Barner wasn’t necessarily the star of the show on offense, but he showed plenty of flashes in his time with the Hoosiers.

In two seasons with Indiana, Barner recorded 42 receptions for 361 yards and four touchdowns. While those aren’t exactly eye-popping numbers, he showed that Michigan might have found a gem at the tight end position. On Saturday, he caught several big-time passes and made an appearance in the endzone for the Blue team.

Not only that but he’s been turning heads on campus already, as fellow tight end Matthew Hibner had some good things to say about the incoming transfer. 

“A.J. has been a great addition. He’s a great guy, a great player, brings a lot of height to the tight end room, brings a lot of length. He does well in the run game; I mean, I feel like all of us are just weapons in our own way, we’re not all the same people, but we all bring different things to the field, and I think we’re gonna show that this season.”

With an elite tight end group boasting several guys who could start just about anywhere in the country, Michigan football fans have every reason to be excited about what they can accomplish in the passing game this season.

Defense as a whole looks elite

Throughout the offseason, there’s been plenty of hype around the offense. That was deservingly so, as the Wolverines return their quarterback, their running backs, most of their receiving core, and the majority of their offensive line. Still, the defense stole the show for most of the spring game and made their case for deserving more hype from now on.

The defense was flying around the field all day, displaying speed we haven’t seen from the Wolverines’ defense in some time. Turnovers were the star of the day, as there were multiple forced fumbles and several other interceptions forced.

While some were mistakes by the offense, it’s hard not to credit a large part of this to the defense, as they were moving and making things difficult on the play callers.

Plenty of guys stepped up, including but not at all limited to names like Josaiah Stewart, Ernest Hausmann, Jaylen Harrell, Kenneth Grant and Derrick Moore. Not to mention plenty of the young guys were competing hard and showed that the future is bright for Michigan football.

If the Wolverines’ defense continues on the track they appear to be on, this team can accomplish anything they want. It’s just a matter of staying hungry, and if Saturday showed anything at all, it’s that the Michigan Wolverines are hungry for a national championship.

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A recent graduate from Kalamazoo College, Tyler has four years experience in sports writing. He currently works as assistant editor for Blue By Ninety and specializes in a variety of sports such as football, swimming and diving, and basketball.