Spring Game: A shaky start turned into a firework finish with notable performances for the Maize and Blue.
Wolverine fans entered The Big House on Saturday, Apr. 1 for their first glimpse at Jim Harbaugh’s roster for the 2023 season. The annual spring game divided Michigan Football into Team Maize and Team Blue, in which the Mike Hart led Maize defeated Jay Harbaugh’s Blue, 22-21.
Several key players observed the early Spring action as non-participants. Running backs Blake Corum, Donovan Edwards, and CJ Stokes did not participate. Receivers AJ Henning and Tyler Morris didn’t suit up, and Will Johnson was the lone DNP on the defensive side.
The absence of several key players from Michigan’s 2022 season presented an opportunity for fresh faces in the winged helmet to showcase their skillset, and that they did.
Here are three noteworthy performers from the 2023 Spring Game:
Peyton O’Leary, WR (Junior)
Entering his junior year at Michigan, the 6-foot-3 wide receiver put on a show during the spring game. O’Leary recorded six receptions on seven targets for 126 yards as well as the go-ahead 2-point conversion to secure a spring game victory and steak dinner for Team Maize.
Since walking-on to the Michigan football program in 2021, O’Leary recently earned a scholarship after six appearances at wide receiver and special teams with the Wolverines. O’Leary’s hard work in training camp and electric performance in the spring game, has surely circulated his name into the top-6 WR conversation entering the 2023 season. Don’t be surprised to see the Byfield native’s snaps increase throughout the year.
AJ Barner, TE (Senior)
Barner saw a sizable workload during his first appearance on Team Maize. On five targets, he secured three receptions for 30 yards and a touchdown. Proving to be a dual-threat, Barner showcased his physicality and impressive blocking ability on the ground as well.
The 6-foot-6 tight end transferred from Indiana University following 30 appearances and nine starts for the Hoosiers. Barner was voted a team captain during his junior year at IU, concluding the 2022 season with 28 receptions for 199 yards and three touchdowns. Knowing Harbaugh’s love for the tight position, Barner will likely play a prominent role early with the loss of Erick All to the transfer portal and Luke Schoonmaker to the NFL Draft.
Benjamin Hall, RB (Freshman)
Arguably the most explosive performance on Team Blue in the 2023 Spring Game, Benjamin Hall was an absolute force on the ground. In the absence of Corum and Edwards, Hall recorded 96 yards rushing and a touchdown on 13 carries. The 5-foot-11 freshman showcased his explosiveness and physicality, breaking off his longest carry of 31-yards as well as numerous carries with broken tackles.
Hall joins the Wolverines as a three-star prospect from North Cobb High School in Kennesaw, Georgia. Following his spring game performance, the Acworth native received high praise from Michigan football running back coach and run game coordinator, Mike Hart.
“His maturity is pretty amazing. You wouldn’t guess he’s 18-years-old, just turned 18 a few weeks ago,” Hart acknowledged. “He works hard and studies. He’s just getting better and better every day.”
Article written by Woodward Sports guest writer, Christian Byers
Photo Credit: © Detroit Free Press
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