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Michigan Football: Breakout Hold on Violation

Michigan Football: Breakout Hold on Violation


Darius Clemons / Tyler Morris

I’m going to cheat the bat and group these two sophomore wide receivers together. Darrius Clemons and Tyler Morris have been linked as “the freak show” since their arrival in Ann Arbor, so they might as well stick together here.

Michigan’s top two receivers heading into the season are clear with veterans Cornelius Johnson and Roman Wilson. But there is a clear gap at WR3 and any of the top receivers have the potential to be the leading receiver in 2023.

Ronnie Bell’s goal share was huge last season, getting more than Johnson and Wilson combined. While Johnson and Wilson could see their roles increase, there’s also a big chance for Clemons and Morris to have breakout seasons this fall.

Michigan wanted to open the passing game last season and make deep passes during the Big Ten schedule. Execution was the problem, not playcalling. Whether it was throwing over JJ McCarthy or poor separation and falls from the receivers, Michigan struggled to get the deep ball to work before it exploded in Columbus. Andrel Anthony was the focus of that offensive attack and he is now in Oklahoma. Clemon’s big frame and speed on the outside give him the potential to be what Michigan wanted Anthony to be last season.

Tyler Morris has a lot going for him in the fight to replace Ronnie Bell, including McCarthy’s former high school teammate. Morris has all the tools to play in the slot or the Z role. He does a great job adapting to casts and making difficult catches. Aside from the smooth running of the route, Morris’s best feature is perhaps his ability to find space. Bell became JJ’s favorite target because he always found the holes in the defense when McCarthy was on the run. As you accumulate skills, Morris makes a lot of sense, not just as a Bell substitute, but as someone who could level up and become a true WR1 in this offense.

CJ Stokes

I am reminded of Allen Iverson’s comments about practice. A fumble? Are we talking about one fumble?

Bursting out of the gates last year, CJ Stokes surprised some when Harbaugh named him the RB3 ahead of the first game of the season. Stokes did well through Michigan’s non-conference portion of the schedule, rushing 22 times for 114 yards and 1 touchdown and keeping pace with Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards. Against Maryland, an uncharacteristic fumble caused a break.

I say unusual because it is. Clumsiness is not something Stokes has struggled with and no one expects it to become a problem. His brief moment in Mike Hart’s dog house was nothing more than a freshman being coached. A moment where Stokes has said he’s thankful for it, but maybe just sick of hearing about it.

Stokes carries were productive for the rest of the season, including an 8 for 68 days against Nebraska. Stokes finished the season with 273 yards for a 5.0 YPC. Not bad compared to Corum’s freshman year of 2.8 YPC and identical to Edward’s freshman year with nearly 100 more yards.

Stokes will be busy all summer on his way to fall camp. With his skills on par with Corum and Edwards, his efforts are sure to rise this season in an RB3 role that sees him more as part of the rotation than just a backup. It’s crucial to keep Corum and Edwards healthy, and if Stokes can make a sophomore leap that allows the lightning duo to become more of a trio, the coaching staff will certainly benefit.

Matthew Hibner

Matthew Hibner was lost on the tight-end shuffle depth chart last season with Joel Honigford as the primary blocking tight end, Max Bredeson took on a kind of H-Back role, and Colston Loveland quickly moved up the depth chart as a receiving threat.

In 2023, Honigford is with the Arizona Cardinals, Bredeson is now the team’s fullback, and Loveland is TE1 with Indiana transfer AJ Barner there with him. But Michigan uses a lot of tight ends, and the third tight end on this depth chart is going to get a lot of snaps.

Hibner enters his final season with a chance to reach the potential many saw for him when he was one of the more athletic tight ends in the 2020 class. Hibner is strong but fast for a tight end. He has excellent hands and is a great threat after the catch.

Loveland and Barner will be primary targets, but Hibner could have double-digit receiving potential as TE3.

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