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Fiesta Bowl Position Battles: Michigan WRs vs. TCU DBs

The Horned Frogs’ Secondary will look to prevent big plays from the experienced Wolverine Receivers

COLLEGE FOOTBALL NOV 19 Illinois at Michigan Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This is the 5th in our series of position battle matchup previews for the Fiesta Bowl College Football Playoff Semifinal, you can read all entries and other preview info HERE

Michigan Wide Receivers:

Depth Chart:

WR-X: Cornelius Johnson (SR); Andrel Anthony (R-FR)
WR-Z: Ronnie Bell (SR); Darrius Clemons (FR)
WR-H: Roman Wilson (JR); A.J. Henning (JR)

While the Wolverine pass game has not been the focal point of the offense, it showed up when it mattered most, combining for 278 yards and 3 TDs in a romping victory over Ohio State, plus another 3 scores in the B1G Championship win over Purdue. Ronnie Bell is the volume leader of the unit, with 56 receptions for 754 yards and 3 scores. The 5th year Senior is the model of consistency, with one monster game (11 for 121 vs. Indiana) and two games under 20 yards (Iowa & Colorado State), but otherwise is a sure bet for a handful of catches for 40-70 yards. Cornelius Johnson as the other wide-out is the big-man receiver at 6’3” 208 lbs, profiling similar to top WRs the Frogs have faced this season like Rashee Rice (6-74-1) and Xavier Hutchinson (2-11-0). Johnson had a relatively quiet season, with just 309 total receiving yards in the 12 non-Ohio State contests, but exploded vs. the Buckeyes for 160 yards and 2 TDs.Roman Wilson hasn’t been as prolific in 2022 (272 yards) as he was in 2021 (420 yards), but is the kind of receiver that can give the Frogs fits out of the slot, attacking matchups with safeties and linebackers to find space and be off to the races. TCU’s Sonny Dykes has taken some online criticism for suggesting the Frogs would need to stop the run and force these receivers to make plays and QB JJ McCarty to find them, but that’s simply a compliment to the elite Wolverine rushing attack, and certainly a strategy that did not work for Ohio State.

TCU Defensive Backs:

Depth Chart:

CB: Josh Newton (JR); Noah Daniels (SR)
FS: Bud Clark (SO); Abe Camara (JR)
N: Millard Bradford (SR); Josh Foster (SR)
SS: Mark Perry (JR); Namdi Obiazor (JR)
CB: Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson (SR); Kee’yon Stewart (JR)

While the Ohio State secondary was brutally torched by these Michigan pass catchers, for all the 5-Stars on that Buckeye roster they do not have the Thorpe Award winner or any First or Second Team All-Conference players in the secondary. Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson was granted the award for nation’s top defense back (TCU’s 2nd Thorpe winner in 3 years) and was named to the AP, ESPN, Sporting News, and USA Today All-American teams. Although Hodges-Tomlinson’s is often diminutive in size compared to the wide-outs that line up across from him (listed at 5’9” 180 lbs), he has elite cover skills and is a sure tackler in space, rarely giving up yards after catch. At the other Corner spot, Josh Newton has become an instant impact team leader after his summer transfer from Louisiana-Monroe. His locker room motivation spills onto the field where he leads the team in pass break-ups and has 3 interceptions including one returned for a TD while being the human embodiment of “got that dog in him.” Newton and THT were both named to the All Big 12 First Team

From the Safety spots, Bud Clark is a ball hawk, leading the Frogs in interceptions despite missing three games with injury; his rotational backup Abe Camara is a punishing hammer over the middle. Mark Perry has been stellar in run support, second on the team in tackles, and will be critical in slowing the Wolverine rush attack. Senior Millard Bradford has played a lot of football for the Horned Frogs, in 2022 he was 3rd on the team in pass break-ups with a pick-six. While the unit has struggled at times covering running backs out of the backfield or deep shots over the middle, the talent, experience, and positional discipline is there to hold up its end of the bargain in preventing the Michigan pass game from going wild