The Wolverines had a sensational year in 2022, but came up short in the College Football Playoff semifinals against TCU. Michigan was largely led by its powerful running attack a year ago. Senior Blake Corum was the headline in Ann Arbor in which he ran his way into Heisman contention, but he ultimately fell short after suffering an injury against Illinois — Corum missed the final three games of the year.
One would think with the return of Corum, Michigan could potentially have someone back in the Heisman race once again this season. He did finish 11th in the nation a year ago — while missing three games — rushing for 1,463 yards. Surely everyone thinks the senior lead-back at Michigan will be back in the race, right?
Well, not everyone.
On3’s Jesse Simonton came out with the Big Ten’s top five Hesiman candidates heading into the 2023 season. Simonton had two Wolverines on the list, but he left off Corum — a glaring omission.
Ohio State wide receiver came in at No. 1, but right behind him at No. 2 is J.J. McCarthy.
J.J. McCarthy isn’t a Top 5 quarterback in all of college football in 2023, but when you’re the QB1 for a team that could go 12-0 in the regular season, you have a strong case at baseline as a Heisman Trophy candidate.
McCarthy had a breakout performance against Ohio State last season (12 of 24 for 263 yards and three touchdowns), and if he helps the Wolverines beat the Buckeyes for a third-straight year en route to another Big Ten title, then he’s going to find himself on the shortlist of invitees to New York.
The junior had 22 passing touchdowns in 2022, and with an even better-supporting cast this fall, his numbers could certainly improve with more experience and another season in Jim Harbaugh’s system.
McCarthy enters his second season in Ann Arbor as the starting quarterback and for the first time in quite a while there isn’t a quarterback competition. McCarthy has a fantastic offensive line in front of him and has plenty of playmakers to throw the ball to. Jim Harbaugh has said he thinks the Wolverines will be a 50/50 passing-to-run team this season which will only help McCarthy’s stock grow. As long as the junior can complete the long ball consistently, as he did against OSU and TCU, the former five-star could be in New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation.
Following McCarthy on Simonton’s list is Penn State running back Nick Singleton. Then coming in fourth on is Michigan running back Donovan Edwards.
Michigan tailback Blake Corum was a Heisman contender in 2022 before tearing his ACL against Ohio State, but his backup Donovan Edwards might have even more star potential — rushing for over 520 yards at 7.5 per carry in the three games without Corum.
Edwards was hampered by an arm injury late last the season that limited his ability to contribute in the passing attack, but he is one of the best-receiving tailbacks in the country, too.
With Michigan likely to be careful with Corum early and Edwards possessing home run ability, the junior tailback should have the requisite touches and stats to enter his name in the conversion come December.
It is very possible Michigan is careful in the return of Corum, but I guarantee you Corum wouldn’t come back to Michigan — and forgo the NFL — if he wasn’t going to be the lead back again during his last run in Ann Arbor. However, Edwards is a star in the making and has the ability to run for 1,000-plus yards right beside Corum. If Michigan is smart, the Wolverines will spread Edwards out some this year and throw him the ball. We’ve seen what Edwards can do with the ball in his hands, and Harbaugh should do whatever he can do to get the former five-star the ball more frequently in 2023.
You can see all five players on the list below in On3’s tweet.
— On3 (@On3sports) June 6, 2023