Jim Harbaugh just signed an extension through the 2026 season, Michigan just won a Big Ten title and made an appearance in the College Football Playoff. Life is good for the Wolverines, who will enter 2022 without some key players but still with enough power to compete for another league championship.

Coming off an 11-1 regular season, the Wolverines certainly have reason to be confident heading into spring ball and, ultimately, camp and into the fall. Regardless of the results on the field, Michigan has pretty much always had at least 1 superstar who was the “face” of the program. Players such as Denard Robinson, Jabrill Peppers and Rashan Gary, to name a few, have been some of the most recent athletes who served as big-time brand ambassadors for the program.

This year, the selection of potential candidates is rich with talent. And yes, there could be more than 1 “face” of the program, although it usually helps to start with the quarterback. After all, it’s a position that always commands attention and it’s a spot that usually has some of the best players in the country.

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Let’s take a look at a handful of UM stars-in-the-making who could easily become the most recognizable guy on the field wearing a winged helmet.

Cade McNamara

Let’s be honest, for the past couple of years, if not longer, Jim Harbaugh has been the “face” of Michigan. In 2021, things changed a bit, and QB Cade McNamara (sort of) became the most identifiable player. Well, and there was DE Aidan Hutchinson, too. But McNamara earned the spotlight by being one of the most consistent QBs in the nation. With a year of starting and leading the team, McNamara is primed to, again, be one of the most known at Michigan.

That is, of course, if he wins the starting job before Michigan kicks off vs. Colorado State. However, it may be difficult for McNamara to be unseated, considering that he went 11-1 as a starter, beat Ohio State and nearly knocked off Michigan State. He threw 15 TDs and just 6 picks, and he was sacked just a handful of times. On top of that, he posted the highest completion percentage of any UM starter since 2018, coming in with a mark of 64.1 compared to Shea Patterson’s 64.8 in 2018.

McNamara might not be the popular fan pick, but he’s certainly a logical selection to be the “face” of the Wolverines next season. He takes care of the ball, makes smart plays and is steady.

JJ McCarthy

The ringleader of Michigan’s new NFT gang, McCarthy has been crowned as “next” since the day he arrived on campus. He wowed spectators with speed and athleticism as a true freshman, but he also looked a bit erratic at times. Yes, he’s a weapon. And yes, he’ll develop into a starting QB. Will it be in 2022? Only McCarthy can make that decision.

With speed to burn and a fantastic arm, McCarthy should evolve into a star QB at Michigan. He’s already one of the most recognizable players on the team and he’s yet to really make his true debut. He’s provided glimpses into the future — and the future looks damn good for the Wolverines in that regard.

Andrel Anthony

Another NFT member, Andrel Anthony made a huge splash with a 93-yard TD reception vs. Michigan State — quite the homecoming for the former East Lansing High School record-setting wideout. He will be, without a doubt, a staple of the Wolverines’ offense and a headliner for the next 3 years.

Donovan Edwards

Michigan is loaded with young talent, but RB Donovan Edwards might be the best one of the bunch. The former West Bloomfield High School superstar is well on his way to duplicating his prep fame in college. The former 5-star recruit has thrown for a touchdown, demonstrating superb athleticism and versatility. He only had 35 touches but still finished with 174 yards (5.0 YPG) and scored 3 rushing TDs — so breaking that down, that’s about one score per every 12 runs.

Not a bad average to start. He’s only going to get better and do more as he continues to develop in Ann Arbor.

Edwards, along with McCarthy and Anthony, comprise the NFT kids. They just signed a deal to release the first university-licensed NFT, so Michigan is obviously banking on its sophomore stars to grow into megastars in the near future.

Junior Colson

A Freshman All-American at linebacker, Junior Colson could easily transform into a leading man in Ann Arbor. With 60 tackles, he finished 5th among Wolverines in 2021, only trailing star upperclassmen such as Hutchinson, David Ojabo, Daxton Hill and Brad Hawkins.

Colson is certainly a favorite to be one of the defense’s major players — if not the best overall. Considering he’s entering his sophomore season, it’s not a stretch to predict future All-American honors and, quite possibly, a Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award before his days are finished at Michigan.