Senior receiver Ronnie Bell left countless voids in the wake of his season-ending knee injury, including the role of punt returner.
In Bell’s absence, the Wolverines have turned to junior defensive back Caden Kolesar, who muffed a punt against Washington on Saturday. On Monday, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh hinted at a potential shakeup, acknowledging that Kolesar is too important elsewhere on special teams to be returning punts.
Kolesar still split time as the return man during practice this week, but the door is open for other players to seize the spot. Sophomore receiver A.J. Henning, junior DJ Turner, freshman running back Donovan Edwards and freshman cornerback Andrel Anthony are all taking reps as the returner in practice, alongside Kolesar.
Henning is the closest to supplanting Kolesar in an actual game with Harbaugh noting that he is “really close” and had a “good week of practice.” Henning — who runs a 4.46 40-yard dash — flashed his explosiveness in the season’s first game against Western Michigan, taking a jet-sweep 74 yards for a touchdown.
A success for Michigan on the recruiting trail
Saturday’s dominant victory over Washington certainly benefited this year’s Michigan team, and it may soon prove advantageous for future squads, as well.
The Wolverines hosted a number of top prospects for the weekend, strategically inviting recruits to experience the atmosphere induced by a Maize Out and primetime game. That decision is already paying dividends.
On Thursday, Mason Graham, a 3-star class of 2022 defensive tackle, flipped his commitment from Boise State to Michigan following his visit to Ann Arbor last weekend. Graham, is now the 16th member of Michigan’s 2022 class.
“We kinda told them how we were gonna operate from day one, and I’d like to think that they’re seeing that come to fruition in real life,” Michigan defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald said on Wednesday when asked about the effect early success has on recruiting. “… I hope that’s what they’re seeing. They can take our word for it — we’re not just blowing smoke up their butt.”
Headlining the remainder of Michigan’s top targets is 5-star class of 2022 cornerback Domani Jackson. Though Jackson is verbally committed to USC, he attended the Washington game alongside his close friend, fellow 5-star cornerback and Michigan commit Will Johnson. With the Trojans firing coach Clay Helton on Tuesday, Jackson’s recruitment seems to be far from finished.
A new view for Josh Gattis
Back in 2019, offensive coordinator Josh Gattis began his Michigan career calling plays in the pressbox. But, after three games, Gattis moved back onto the field, reasoning that the team needed his leadership and his ability to “rally the troops.”
Two years later, Gattis is back in the pressbox again.
“I just think it’s a good thing,” Harbaugh said on Monday. “… It’s just a better vantage point, and I think that’s the way he feels about it. The players know what’s going on, they know the calls, they know the signals really well. … Josh is more comfortable right now and I’m with it.”
Gattis began re-experimenting with calling plays from the pressbox during fall camp, doing so alongside offensive graduate assistant Grant Newsome. Gattis maintained that the tactic has been “very successful,” both during camp and through the season’s first two games, as it allows him to have “a different set of eyes” compared to coaches on the sideline.