"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Recruiting Summary: Offensive Line
A note on this one: offensive linemen don't get the attention that basically any other position group does. They don't have stats. They don't have awesome action photographs. I did my best.
CORY ZIRBEL - OT - Murray(KY)
Height: 6'7" Weight: 301
Lemming: #84 overall, #7 OT
Rivals: ****, #76 overall, #11 OT, #1 KY
Scout.com: ****, #15 OL
Projected Role: Dominating LT.
Absolutely everybody wanted Zirbel and wanted him early. Michigan's nearest competition was Miami and Oklahoma, which should tell you something. Zirbel may not be a five star but his offer list says otherwise.
Looking at Michigan's OT depth chart, Zirbel has the opportunity to start as a redshirt sophomore, if not redshirt freshman. Most of Michigan's OL recruits from last year project as interior linemen and the other two OTs in this class are project types. Zirbel will redshirt next year and then go head-to-head with a fifth-year senior Mike Kolodziej for a left tackle spot that has his name on it.
JUSTIN SCHIFANO - OG - Webster Schroeder (NY)
Height: 6'5" Weight: 300
Lemming: #19 OT
Rivals: ****, #13 OT, #5 NY
Scout.com: ****, #17 OL
Projected Role: Prodigal guard
Schifano's been a forgotten man since his extremely early commit in January. He was also being recruited by Miami and picked up an offer from them as a junior, impressive credentials. He's already over 300 pounds and has been dominating since he was a sophomore. Just as with Mike Hart, though, the level of competition in central New York is always a question mark.
However, Schifano's extremely early commitment is encouraging. He actually committed at the Notre Dame game... the 38-0 2003 game. That's before his junior year of high school. It only became public in January. And Miami was already after him. So, was he just ahead of the curve? How much more potential does he have to fill out? I don't know.
Given the general recruiting guru's bias against NY, early commits, and guards and given the ridiculously early interest shown by two powerhouses nowhere near his home, I think it's very possible that Schifano is underrated. Only time will tell.
DAVID MOOSMAN- OG - Libertyville(IL)
Height: 6'5" Weight: 270
Lemming: #7 OG
Rivals: ****, #10 OG, #6 IL
Scout.com: ****, #16 OT
Projected Role: Tough pulling OG
Moosman's team went 13-1 last year, losing in double overtime in the Illinois class 7A state finals. This year they won it all, defeating Cary-Grove 13-3. Moosman's agile and the key cog in Libertyville's line but at 270 pounds he's not as ready to play as Zirbel or Schifano.
Moosman is also an accomplished high school wrestler, which requires great balance and mobility. As we'll see with the next two guys as well, Michigan has really begun to put a premium on athletic, mobile linemen. Moosman will have to pull a lot if he's going to start at guard for Michigan, and he's been running toss sweeps for years now in Libertyville's crushing ground game. He'll have to recover from a shoulder injury before stepping on campus, but he'll certainly be a favorite for a starting job in a couple years.
MARK ORTMANN - OT - Klein(TX)
Height: 6'6" Weight: 275
Rivals: ***, #44 OT, #90 TX
Scout.com: ***, NR
Projected Role: Project tackle
Ortmann played mostly tight end in high school, just like fellow tackle project Tim McAvoy, and chose Michigan over Texas A&M and Northwestern (Ortmann's dad is from Chicago). Ortmann was a camper but wasn't offered until after his senior season was complete and Michigan began to get the idea that this class would be closer to 20 kids instead of 16 and that it was unlikely that Dan Doering or Dace Richardson had any serious interest in Michigan.
Ortmann is clearly the kind of guy the coaching staff will have to work with quite a bit before he competes for a job, but has the type of frame that can hold a lot of weight.
TIM MCAVOY - OT - Bloomington(IL)
Height: 6'6" Weight: 270
Lemming: #20 OG
Rivals: ***, #28 OT, #16 IL
Scout.com: ****, #31 OL
Projected Role: Project tackle.
McAvoy is another project with huge potential. His coach puts it best: "He is a 300-plus-pounder in a matter of two years. He's a definite red shirt with the potential to be 320 and a mobile 320." McAvoy also played tight end throughout high school before moving down to RT for the last half of his senior year.
McAvoy suffered a neck injury late in the year that will require surgery on a damaged disc, so he may fall behind initially, but if his coaches prediction of a "mobile 320" comes true he'll be in the mix at RT when Jake Long graduates.
MGOBLOG Editorial Stance
B+. Offensive line classes are almost impossible to project, because college linemen usually submerge themselves in the weight room for a year or two and emerge on the other side completely different players. But let's try anyway. Schifano and Zirbel were heavily recruited by Miami and everybody else but chose the good guys. Moosman's somewhat surprising addition gives the offensive line class some punch. The two sleeper-types certainly have the frame to grow. There is certainly potential here.
I think the interesting thing about these o-line guys is they're huge, even for offensive linemen. Michigan is really pushing towards lanky, athletic guys (ex-TEs) who can move in space. Look at the heights: 6'5", 6'5", 6'6", 6'6", 6'7". Every one of these guys could probably play power forward. But they probably won't be able to blow people off the ball at that height, which isn't surprising given the way Michigan's offense has evolved: most runs have draw action or trapping, screens are extremely frequent, and extensive pass blocking is required. This class is extremely good for that sort of thing, especially if one of the projects works out, but they might not pick up all the third and ones you'd want to.
It's also interesting to contrast this o-line forest that with the backfield recruits: 5'9" Mike Hart. 5'10" Kevin Grady. 5'9" Mister Simpson. Opposing players will have a very hard time finding our leetle ballcarriers behind the wall of humanity in front of them... maybe we will see some Iowa-style zone stretch plays? Hart's size, vision, and cutting ability make him the perfect back for that sort of play--he's like Fred Russell after a power mushroom. To boot, it doesn't require the o-line to destroy and drive players off the ball, which they haven't been very good at in recent years.
Anyway, this is a solid class of linemen. I wouldn't be surprised to see at least three of these guys starting at some point, but, hey, they're offensive linemen. Who knows? The only disappointment here is the inability to get someone like Dace Richardson or Dan Doering to bookend Zirbel: both those guys are from Illinois, a state we should regard as a home away from home in recruiting. They'll both be heading to Iowa, who put together an absolute monster OL class.
Up Next: WRs and TEs (after Christmas break).