Michigan has been living in a golden era of Wolverine football. That unprecedented stretch of performance includes 3 straight wins over Ohio State, 3 straight B1G Championships and the 2023 national championship.

Unfortunately, the joy of that championship will quickly give way to preparation for the 2024 season and a new era in Ann Arbor. That era includes Sherrone Moore ascending to the head coaching position while Jim Harbaugh has made the leap back to the NFL.

There remains a lot of optimism surrounding the Wolverines, and that optimism has been well-earned. Michigan has been among the most consistent programs since the start of the 2021 season, but that does not change the challenges ahead that await Moore.

For starters, even handing Moore the head coaching job has some risks associated with the move. That’s a topic I dove into deeper following the departure of Ben Herbert and others to the NFL as Moore assumes the head coaching job but without a large core of Harbaugh’s elite coaching staff.

Even with the risks associated with Moore’s hiring, the move was really the only one AD Warde Manuel could make at the time. The threat of losing Moore to another job was very real, but now it’s up to Moore to prove he’s the right man for the job to reload the program.

I chose the word “reload” because it would be grossly inappropriate to call Moore’s task a “rebuild.” While losing Harbaugh (and his key group of assistants) stings, it must be said he leaves behind an elite culture and foundation in place.

The thing Harbaugh does not leave behind in Ann Arbor? An elite roster or cupboard full of veteran talent for the 2024 season.

Fans always knew the roster turnover would be steep with 2023’s veteran-loaded roster departing for the NFL. However, ESPN’s Bill Connelly recently finalized his returning production rankings, and the number for Michigan is still staggering to see.

Connelly ranked every team in the country — No. 1 through No. 134 — based on the amount of production returning to the roster. Michigan… comes in at 128th in the country with less than 40% of returning production on the roster.

The offense is actually the worst unit with 24% of the production returning. That number comes in at 132nd out of 134 FBS teams. Defensively, the Wolverines return 47% of production, a better number but one that still comes in at 109th in the country.

That’s why Michigan checks in at 8th in the country in the early national championship odds for the 2024 season. And quite frankly, the Wolverines should probably be even lower. Fans can stay up to date on Michigan’s latest news, odds and trends with Tradition’s DraftKings Michigan promo code.

How dire is Michigan’s total returning production percentage of 36%? Per Connelly, that number puts Michigan in the “rare team” category as just 2.6% of teams come in under the 40% mark, and the impact is steep.

Connelly says that teams that come under the 40% threshold for returning production traditionally fall by an average of 9.8 adjusted points per game in the next season’s SP+ ratings. All of that adds up to Michigan being included in Connelly’s group of “most likely to regress” during the 2024 season.

What does it all mean?

To be clear, Michigan losing a lot of production does not fully mean the sky is falling in Ann Arbor. As previously mentioned, the culture left behind by Harbaugh is one of the best of the best, and Herbert’s replacement in the strength and conditioning department has worked under his tutelage for a number of years.

It would also be inaccurate to say Michigan does not have any notable production returning. Donovan Edwards produced just 497 rushing yards this past season, but he previously rushed for 991 yards in 2022.

In the receiving game, Roman Wilson heads to the NFL, but Colston Loveland — the team’s second-leading receiver in yards — is back for more. Semaj Morgan and Tyler Morris also stand poised to see bigger roles.

Defensively, Michigan must replace its top two tacklers in Junior Colson and Michael Barrett. The good news is the program has already worked to replace that production.

Ernest Hausmann, the team’s third-leading tackler after transferring in from Nebraska, will climb the depth chart in 2024. The Wolverines also looked to the transfer portal and added ex-Maryland defender Jaishawn Barham.

The big departures will undoubtedly sting. That group includes superstar players like JJ McCarthy, Blake Corum and the elite offensive line of the Wolverines.

Still, the culture of development in place can keep things rolling in Ann Arbor, if Moore and his staff add some key pieces in the transfer portal this spring. It’s possible, but the task is rife with challenges, particularly as the Wolverines embark on a brutal nonconference schedule and the new-look B1G.