Corum was a shoo-in, but who else is PFF big on?
Pro Football Focus (PFF) released its annual 2023 “way too early” All-American predictions for the upcoming football season. The Michigan Wolverines were represented by three players – the most of any team in the country.
Running back Blake Corum, center Drake Nugent and cornerer Will Johnson were the three Michigan players selected.
Corum was a Heisman frontrunner last season before a knee injury against Illinois derailed his best season in the corns and blues. Corum finished with 1,463 yards and 19 total touchdowns. While he is expected to share time with the dynamic Donovan Edwards to maintain his health, Corum will be aiming for legend status next season.
Currently, Corum is ranked #7 in touchdowns in career rushing (31) and just eight from the top five (Chris Perry), 10 from Mike Hart and 18 from career leader Anthony Thomas.
If Courm can accurately repeat his 2022 season, his name will be mentioned with names like Thomas, Hart, Perry, Jamie Morris and Tyrone Wheatley as he goes to the NFL.
Drake Nugent is an unknown relative to most Michigan fans and will remain so through the fall. Nugent, a Stanford transfer, is currently recovering from minor surgery and will be restricted in the spring.
Nugent was a four-year letterman at Stanford and as a starter has allowed just four sacks in 993 pass-blocking snaps. Can Michigan make it to second place in Rimington/Outland Trophy transfer winners and three straight Joe Moore Awards?
Eventually, Will Johnson understood the pressure to dawn the No. 2 jersey as a Michigan corner. Like the big No. 2 before him, even as a rookie, Johnson was impossible to keep off the field.
Once a starter, Johnson drew two of college football’s toughest picks last season in Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. and Purdue’s Charlie Jones. The young freshman excelled against both, even notching two man-to-man interceptions against Purdue in the Big Ten Championship.
The November rematch between Johnson and Harrison Jr. is one of the most anticipated position fights in all of college football next season.
Here’s what PFF had to say about the three Wolverines:
RB: Blake Corum
“Corum’s 96.2 score not only led all players in the country last season, it was the best PFF ever seen by a Power Five player. Corum’s 96 rushing first downs/touchdowns were the second most in the country behind only Minnesota’s Mohamed Ibrahim, who received 72 more carries. The junior is expected to be shortlisted for the Heisman Trophy next season.”
Middle: Drake Nugent
“Despite losing Outland Trophy winner Olusegun Oluwatimi, Michigan should still have an elite game down the middle of their offensive line.
Nugent is the highest-ranking center on this list and the most valuable returning player in the Power Five position based on PFF’s above-average wins. The Stanford transfer’s 84.1 run-blocking class ranked third among all centers in the country last season. Between Nugent creating holes down the middle and two top-10 running backs in Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards, the Wolverines’ ground game should be deadly again next season.”
Flex-D: Will Johnson
“Johnson entered Ann Arbor as a five-star recruit and immediately showed he was worth the hype.
He will remind many of Patrick Surtain II thanks to his height (6-ft-2) and lockdown ability. A true novice, Johnson led all corners of the Power Five with a 91.1 score in man marking. His two interceptions at Man also finished fifth in the same group.”
Check out the full list of PFF All-Americans here.
Michigan also had several players who were not listed as Predictive All-Americans but were ranked in the top 10 for their position by PFF in recent weeks:
- JJ McCarthy, No. 8 quarterback
- Donovan Edwards, No.9 running back
- Zak Zinter, Guard #3
- Kris Jenkins, No. 4 centre-back
- Rod Moore, No. 5 Security
It’s not surprising that so many Wolverines are recognized in some way by PFF, given Michigan’s return from a 13-1 college football playoff contender.
Though they weren’t mentioned by PFF, Michigan has a handful of other players to keep an eye on for potential breakthrough seasons this season: tight end Colston Loveland, left tackle LaDarius Henderson, center back Mason Graham and nickel Mikey Sainristil.
Which Wolverines will be All-Americans in 2023?