Michigan is gearing up to defend its national championship crown this fall, but the Wolverines will have a distinctly different look in 2024.

Coming out of last season’s title, head coach Jim Harbaugh has departed for the NFL, along with 10 starters on the offensive side of the ball and a number of key defensive pieces. New head coach Sherrone Moore has his work cut out for him, but the Wolverines added a strong staff around him after he shined in an acting head coach role at times in 2023.

Now, the Wolverines are wrapping up their spring session, and the annual spring game was aired live on FOX Saturday afternoon. The program split the roster and coaching staff into a Maize and a Blue roster for the game, and the Maize team finished things off with a 17-7 win.

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Heading into the summer, there will be plenty to work on and adjust before the official start of training camp. For now, here are the key takeaways from Saturday with some bright spots throughout the afternoon:

QB position looks solid

Heading into Saturday, all eyes were on the quarterback position with the Wolverines needing to replace JJ McCarthy. In his 2 seasons as a starter, Michigan lost just once, and that game came in the College Football Playoff.

It was quickly apparent that 2 players have separated themselves in the battle, and both bring a different look to the offense. Davis Warren started for the Maize while it was Alex Orji starting for the Navy.

Orji was the first player to get on the board, though he used his legs to score his first touchdown off a scramble to the outside. Orji would scramble for another touchdown late in the fourth quarter, but that play was blown dead with a defender getting a hand on the QB in the backfield.

The questions on Orji’s game were always related to his work as a passer, but he did well. He finished 12-for-18 for 97 yards without a turnover, and that’s a bright spot all thing considered.

Warren is the other leader in the race, and he had arguably the best game of anyone on Saturday. He threw 2 touchdowns in the Maize victory, and his ability throwing the ball down the field is what sets him apart from Orji.

Granted, Warren does not have the mobility and running strength of Orji, but he was able to distribute the ball and hit a home run with a deep ball to Kendrick Bell on the outside. (Bell is the younger brother of former Michigan star Ronnie Bell.)

The other touchdown from Warren came on a short throw to Fredrick Moore with the speedster delivering the heavy lifting with yards after the catch. Still, Warren’s movement in the pocket with the rush incoming and finding the right man with the ball is notable.

Jayden Denegal and Jadyn Davis were the other QBs in action, but results from those two were mixed. Denegal threw an interception while Davis had some solid ball placement at times, but the true freshman will need a bit more time before he’s ready.

As for the leader in the QB race, Warren looks like the current QB1 with the program though an argument can certainly be made Orji provides the highest ceiling for the offense if he can improve his downfield throwing. Orji also came up limping late in the 4th quarter, so that will bear monitoring through the summer.

Speed — and youth — on the outside

Michigan enters the 2024 season with a younger group of receivers, and that’s understandable when guys like Roman Wilson and Cornelius Johnson make the leap to the NFL.

In fact, guys like junior Tyler Morris and sophomore Semaj Morgan are the veterans of the group, and that duo has a combined 38 career catches in the program. But on Saturday, it was the group of young wideouts who showed out a bit.

Kendrick Bell, a redshirt freshman, got behind the secondary to haul in the 42-yard touchdown pass from Warren. Listed at 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, the former high school QB has a bit more size than the rest of the group as a potential deep threat on the outside.

Fredrick Moore, a 6-foot-1 sophomore with plenty of speed, showed what he could do with a 42-yard catch-and-run touchdown.

Outside of the QB room, it is Michigan’s receivers that have the most questions entering the year. Colston Loveland is back to headline the tight end room as an impact performer, and Donovan Edwards should have the ground game humming along just fine.

The faster the young group of explosive playmakers can get settled, the better Michigan’s offense will be with a shot to reach its full potential this fall. On Saturday, the group provided plenty of bright spots of encouragement moving forward.

The defense will be just fine

To no surprise the defense once again looks like it has the pieces to be one of the best in the country with a dynamic defensive front, a deep group of edge rushers and a strong secondary headlined by Will Johnson.

The true ceiling for the defense remains to be seen and will ultimately be determined by the depth of the unit. If the Wolverines stay healthy on that side of the ball, depth will be less of a concern, but the legendary status of the 2023 defense was ultimately achieved by a heavy rotation of players.

Michigan’s starting unit defensively looks great, but it will take some time to see how deep the unit is once real games roll around.

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