Ever since taking over Michigan football in 2015, coach Jim Harbaugh has always made it a point to give true and redshirt freshmen playing time during Week 1 of the season. On average, a dozen new players have gotten a taste of at least late-game action during the season-opener.

The same was true this past Saturday, as Harbaugh pushed out 18 players making their debuts during a 47-14 romp over Western Michigan. Out of those 18, there are roughly a handful who have a legitimate shot at making significant impacts during this important turnaround 2021 season.

Michigan will heavily rely upon its 2020/2021 classes to help mold the future of the program. Here are 4 names to immediately consider as the progress takes place during Harbaugh’s 7th season in Ann Arbor.

RB Donovan Edwards

A true freshman, Edwards has been on the radar since his commitment to the Wolverines. Out of all first-year/new players, the standout RB wearing No. 7 is the most obvious to be a major contributor for the Wolverines, who are deep at the RB position. A former 5-star recruit, Edwards debuted with 6 carries for 27 yards (long of 9) vs. the Broncos defense.

Sure, it was just a sprinkling of touches against an inferior opponent; but they were definitely a sign of things to come for Edwards, a 6-foot, 202-pounder who can break off pretty athletic runs and bust out with powerful brute-style runs. The Wolverines have talent in the backfield, but expect this true freshman to see more than clean-up action against struggling opponents.

WR Andrel Anthony

Once considered a Michigan State-lean, the former East Lansing High School star ultimately chose the Wolverines over the Spartans, entering campus with considerable buzz. The 6-1, 185-pound true frosh didn’t register any stats Saturday vs. WMU, but he saw the field and could certainly see some time on special teams and/or as a reserve receiver.

The former 3-star recruit dazzled during fall camp, impressing Harbaugh and prompting a nice comparison. Anthony was also performing well during spring ball.

“Andrel Anthony continues to make a play a practice,” Harbaugh recently told reporters. “He’s on a streak. It’s like a Lou Gehrig hitting streak. He would do it in spring ball where, ‘wait for it, it’s going to happen,’ and he makes it. It is just a play a practice that’s a big chunk variety. He continues to be really good.”

QB JJ McCarthy

Considered next in line in terms of star QBs at Michigan, McCarthy helped lead meaningful drives during Saturday’s blowout over the Broncos. The No. 2-ranked pro style QB of 2021, McCarthy flashed his rocket arm with a 69-yard touchdown connection to senior transfer Daylen Baldwin after scrambling to the far right sideline, making a throw across the field — from hash-to-hash — and inciting a roar from the crowd of 100,000-plus at The Big House.

Edwards, a RB, may see the most time out of any freshman this season — given that Michigan already has a solid starting QB in Cade McNamara — but expect to see plenty of McCarthy. It only takes one play or one mistake in order for a team to make a move at quarterback.

McCarthy, 6-2 and 197 pounds, completed 4 of 6 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown during his debut, further fueling the JJ Hype in Ann Arbor.

LB Junior Colson

The former 4-star recruit had a pair of tackles during Saturday’s dismantling of Western Michigan. The 6-2, 225-pound linebacker certainly has speed and strength, something that has been a recent hallmark of Michigan linebackers, and has impressed since arriving to campus. Harbaugh tabbed Colson as “one of the best” true freshmen during camp media availabilities, so it was no surprise to see Colson get meaningful snaps against WMU.