Jake Moody is returning to Michigan. Initially, it looked like the Lou Groza Award-winning kicker might leave the Wolverines, but he decided to stick around for one more season — and that’s a great thing for UM, because Moody was the best in the country in 2021. He led Michigan in scoring and was top 15 nationally.

Needless to say, Moody is an important returning player for the Wolverines, who will try to repeat as Big Ten champs.

Whether they’re returning like Moody, or were already coming back (underclassmen), there are a handful of Wolverines who will have significant influence over the direction of the 2022 season. Let’s review the top players to watch as Michigan reloads and refreshes, all in hopes of building on one of the greatest seasons in program history.

JJ McCarthy

Widely recognized as the future of the program, the will-be sophomore has to be one of the most important — if not the most important — returning players for the Wolverines in 2022. As a true freshman, McCarthy flashed his wheels on scrambles and showcased his arm with several deep-ball connections. Earlier in the year, he hit departing WR Daylen Baldwin with 53- and 69-yard touchdown strikes, quickly giving hope to Michigan’s aerial attack (which had been in question entering the season).

Cade McNamara was the man in 2021 and, until further notice, will be that guy in 2022. However, McCarthy is the heir to the position, so it makes sense to start focusing on moves made by the youngster as the Wolverines prepare for spring ball.

Junior Colson

Named to the FWAA Freshman All-America team, linebacker Junior Colson is on his way to becoming a true star in Ann Arbor, following the steps of former star linebackers such as Devin Bush and Josh Ross. They may not play the same style of game, or even the same exact position, but Bush and Ross were leaders. Throw in Mike McCray too, a former team captain who now coaches at UMass. Michigan has always had one of those type of linebackers, and Colson fits the bill as being next in line to lead the defense.

This past fall, he had 60 tackles — tied for fourth-most on the team — and routinely found himself making plays in big games. Get used to seeing Colson patrol for the Wolverines; he’s about to be a real-deal star.

Donovan Edwards

Speaking of young stars, running back Donovan Edwards will also be one of the most critical pieces for the Wolverines next season. As a true freshman, he wowed with his speed, hands and even arm (remember that TD to Roman Wilson vs. Iowa?). Entering Michigan, Edwards was expected to be a difference-maker. This past fall, he more than proved that the hype was real. With 439 yards from scrimmage and 4 touchdowns, it’s easy to project Edwards as a potential All-Big Ten performer in 2022.

Ronnie Bell

Ronnie Bell has more to show Michigan, so he decided to return for the 2022 season. A knee injury against Western Michigan took him out for the remainder of the season, leaving many to wonder what could have happened if he were healthy all year. What about against Georgia? Would he have made a difference against the eventual national champion during the College Football Playoff semifinal in Miami?

His 76-yard touchdown reception was a reminder that Bell, a once unheralded 3-star who actually considered playing college basketball, had the potential to become the Wolverines’ star wideout — something that would pair perfectly with QB Cade McNamara or JJ McCarthy.

Blake Corum

Well, Hassan Haksins is off to the NFL, leaving one of half of 2021’s electric duo looking for a new partner. Could it be Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards as the stars of the show? Probably.

One of the most exciting players in college football, Corum ran away with the September Heisman and found himself among the nation’s leaders in all-purpose yardage. With 11 rushing touchdowns, he was a major contributor to Michigan’s incredibly efficient ground game this past season. With 1,093 yards from scrimmage, he was easily one of the most versatile players in the country — he could do it via ground or return, if needed. In 2021, he returned 12 kicks for 304 yards, averaging 23.5 per touch.