ANN ARBOR – If you told freshman tight end Colston Loveland of Michigan preseason that you made touchdown catches in the team’s two most important games, he’s not even sure he’d believe you.
But Loveland, a former four-star recruit from Idaho, will be a surprise contributor in 2022 for the undefeated Wolverines, who face the No. 3 TCU in the Fiesta Bowl College Football Playoff Semifinals on December 31. was one of Eric Loveland, who suffered a season-ending injury in Week 4 after suffering Orle, slipped into the second-place tight end spot and only saw his role expand as the season progressed.
The 6.5-foot, 237-pounder has at least 20 snaps in his last seven games, including a season-high 72 against Luke Schoonmaker against Illinois on Nov. 19. His eight of his 12 receptions this season have come in the last five games, including his 45-yard touchdown against Ohio State and his big ten wins at his championship. double his end against his coverage includes his 25-yard grab in his zone.
“I mean, the growth from day one to now is insane,” Loveland said of his development on Thursday. Newsom, every day they show me something new.
Loveland isn’t the only underclassman to stand out in 2022. Michigan’s last season of college football in his playoffs was largely aided by seniors such as Aidan Hutchinson, David Ojabo, Duxton Hill and Hassan Haskins.
The team had quite a few holes to fill this offseason, especially on defense, and a few veterans waiting on the wing, including defensive lineman Chris Jenkins and Mike Morris, quickly mitigated those losses. , helped the team return to CFP.
But Michigan has had to rely heavily on its underlings this season, and they haven’t disappointed.
From sophomores JJ McCarthy (quarterback), Donovan Edwards (running back), Jr. Colson (linebacker) and Rod Moore (safety) to freshmen like Loveland, cornerback Will Johnson and defensive tackle Mason Graham. , Michigan wouldn’t be 13-0 without them. contribution.
“We have a lot of players this year, and we don’t look at them like underclassmen or care about their age,” Cornelius Johnson senior receiver said Friday. has always emphasized playing no matter what class they’re in. This year, it’s all thanks to the coaching staff in recruiting, developing, etc.” likewise.
“This year we have definitely seen a lot of contributions from true freshmen who have been able to step up and make important plays because you never know when your number will be called. You don’t have one, and all of a sudden you get thrown in like a 4 down and your game is in jeopardy and you have to step up and the whole team is watching you.”
On defense, Colson and Moore have built a spectacular freshman season in 2021 and will be stalwarts of Jesse Minter’s unit in 2022, playing the second- and third-most snaps on the team, respectively.
JJ McCarthy, the crown jewel in Michigan’s 2021 Recruit class, took over the starting job in Week 2, throwing 20 touchdowns with just three interceptions while defending with his dual-threat ability. kept guessing.
Donovan Edwards complemented Blake Colm for most of the season until Heisman Trophy nominee Blake Colm went down with a knee injury against Illinois. In his next two games, Edwards rushed for his 401 yards.
Meanwhile, the former five-star prospect has taken over one of the starting cornerback jobs and has become the team’s best defensive player this season, according to Pro Football Focus.
A former four-star recruit, Graham is a key part of Michigan’s defensive line rotation, with 25 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
“I didn’t know he was this good until the first game, when he was just humanizing me,” Moore said Thursday. “Mason is just amazing. Just seeing him with us, he can do what he can do as a freshman. Just that he can do this is something different.” is.”
Fifth-year linebacker Michael Barrett isn’t surprised by the impact of underclassmen this year.
“I mean, we brought them in and brought them in as family as soon as they stepped in,” Barrett said. We brought them in, we taught them, we took them all in our arms, we put them all under our wings, and we set off from there, we kept teaching them, we kept showing them all the tricks, so they soon I got used to it.”
Throughout the season, Michigan players have spoken out about cultural shifts within the program that create an environment conducive to success. Loveland said he felt it as soon as he stepped onto campus.
“Just being in this building, I feel surrounded by amazing people who push me every day,” he said. “There is no greater blessing.”
Most of Michigan’s players experienced their first CFP last season in the semifinal against Georgia. Loveland and the rest of the freshmen get crack at the national championship in their first college season.
“It was a lot of fun,” Loveland said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more. It’s the best, the best stage, and I’m enjoying it with everyone here. It’s amazing.”