Broadly speaking, the 2022 season for the Michigan Wolverines was dictated by their key contributors. Players like Blake Corum and JJ McCarthy on offense and Junior Colson and Mazi Smith on defense shaped the identity and outcome of a historic 13-0 season that led to the College Football Playoffs.
That’s not to say there weren’t others who left their mark on the season – far from it. Here are some of the so-called “unsung heroes” for 2022.
Karsen Barnhart and Giovanni El-Hadi
Last season, Michigan’s offensive line wowed the nation on the backs of five core players – Ryan Hayes, Trevor Keegan, Andrew Vastardis, Zak Zinter and Andrew Stueber. While throwing up a few things here and there with the inevitable pain of a long season, these five played all but a handful of snaps throughout the year.
That consistency wasn’t the same in 2022, yet the group is still considered one of, if not the, best in college football. Gio El-Hadi and Karsen Barnhart not only proved reliable emergency hands, they proved reliable hands, period.
For Barnhart, his journey this season has been relatively easy. Despite being beaten for proper starting tackle job by Trente Jones at fall camp, it was clear Barnhart had made a serious push and won his coaches’ confidence. When Jones was injured during the Indiana game, there was no doubt who the next man would be. Barnhart has been a fixture of the line ever since – even after Jones reportedly returned to full strength.
In contrast, while El-Hadi had a less defined role, his contribution was almost as important. If the offensive line could be likened to a starting five in basketball, El-Hadi has settled comfortably into a “sixth-man” role – switching to the left guard spot with considerable regularity and also seeing the occasional snap as “extra.” Offensive Lineman”. ‘ when Michigan is in a run-heavy formation.
Is it cheap to put a captain on a list of unsung heroes? Maybe a little bit. But after only receiving an honorable mention for Sainristil in the All Big Ten poll, I think it’s fair to say that there are people out there who don’t realize how incredible his transition to defense really was.
This time last year Sainristil was one of the unsung heroes Recipient; He hadn’t played defense since his senior year of high school. Heading into camp, the question arose as to whether Sainristil would beat newcomer Zeke Berry for the nickel spot. And even among those who thought he would start, there was no guarantee that he would see the field all that regularly.
Three months later, Sainristil has become one of the brightest spots in an already strong runner-up for the Wolverines. He compiled 51 tackles, two sacks and seven pass breakups. With a return already announced in 2023, the chances of Sainristil finding himself on an unsung Maize n Brew hero list again next year are close to zero.
Usually, this article has only focused on the players who contributed to the team’s success. This year, however, I’m leaning towards adding a positional coach to the group — Linebackers coach George Helow.
At the beginning of the season, the team’s weak point was suspected by consensus in the second layer of defense. That view was reinforced following an undisclosed but ongoing injury to predicted starter Nikhai Hill-Green, who has not seen the field this season.
To his credit, Helow has turned the people he has into legitimate contributors. After Junior Colson was named second- and third-team All-Big Ten by the coaches and media, and Michael Barrett also received a third-team nod from the coaches, no one calls the linebackers a weak spot on this team. Much of the credit for this increase should undoubtedly go to Helow’s coaching.