Michigan's Most Irreplaceable Player
College football is obviously very different this year. The schedules have been altered. The season has been shortened. Teams have had to postpone games. And strict, regular testing protocols are in place to ensure that everyone involved is as healthy as possible. Still, it seems inevitable that some or all teams will be without a player or players for at least some stretch of time.
In the Big Ten, if a player tests positive for COVID-19, that player has to sit out a minimum of 21 days. Imagine if that happens to Justin Fields for Ohio State or Tanner Morgan for Minnesota. If a key player like that misses three games, it could derail a team's season.
Obviously no one, regardless of fandom, wants to see that happen, but it's a very real possibility and definitely something coaches need to think about. The most irreplaceable person for some schools is obvious, but what about at Michigan? Who can the Wolverines least afford to lose?
Even though he's never played a meaningful snap, I think it's redshirt sophomore quarterback Joe Milton. Now that we've learned that he's the guy and that Dylan McCaffrey is on his way out, Milton becomes extremely important to what Michigan wants to do on offense.
With four new offensive linemen, a loaded running back room and a stable of young, fast and talented wide receivers, those positions just aren't as premium as the quarterback. On defense, there are definitely some star players, but under Don Brown it always feels like that side of the ball operates more as a collective whole. Aidan Hutchinson, Kwity Paye, Cameron McGrone and Daxton Hill are all certainly important to what U-M wants to do on D, but I personally don't get the sense that Brown's unit would fold without any one of them.
Milton won the job for a reason. He's big, strong, fast and has a cannon for an arm. Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis wanted to give the job to Milton, convinced Jim Harbaugh to do so and is now hitching his own success to the inexperienced quarterback's abilities. We've never seen redshirt freshman Cade McNamara in action and honestly, I hope we don't this year. Michigan is going to go as Milton goes.
You could make an argument for redshirt sophomore offensive tackle Jalen Mayfield as Michigan's most irreplaceable player, but I just don't think a right tackle, even a potential first round one, is as important as a quarterback, even though he's only thrown 11 passes as a Wolverine. Certainly the talented crew of defensive players are valuable, but I really don't think losing any one of them would handicap the defense or force Brown to call the game differently. I think you'd definitely get that if Milton isn't under center.