Hokepoints: When Will the O-Line Be Ready?

Submitted by Seth on January 15th, 2013 at 8:12 AM


This week Michigan pulled in a commitment from another offensive lineman. That makes six for the 2013 class, with the possibility of a seventh, on top of four in 2012, on top of…well that's the point isn't it?

It's easy to point fingers […in the general direction of Tucson] for the dilapidation of M's o-line depth. Rodriguez did knowingly and willfully get too picky with his 2009 and 2010 recruiting, perhaps figuring the massive 2008 haul would tide him over until he was winning championships and could offer playing time and non-ridiculous uniforms to Oregon targets. The result was two great tackles in '09, just a center in 2010, and then much striking out in what was supposed to be the year of many Hobbis and Yruretagoyenas, the wanton whiffing exacerbated five times over by [the bad timing of…] The Process.™

A man cannot be faulted for the circumstances of his creation, and certainly Brady Hoke and co. have since done a bang-up job of finding large and talented young gentlemen willing to stand between us and the ill-begotten creatures that plague Big Ten defenses. That's not to say they'll be any good at it…yet. Like a basement full of wedding gifts without a house to fit them all, our future of wealth and comfort is all but promised but we wonder how long must we wait?

Answer: some time yet, sorry. I hate to bury the lede, so here's a great big spoiler. We're gonna have a little history lesson, and then you're going to find this:

Michigan O-Linemen
Classes of 1993-2011

Year in Program:

1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th


All-B1G+ 0 0 1 9 13
Solid Starter 1 6 13 13 12
Liability Starter 0 3 7 10 6
Backup 0 47 30 17 8
Redshirting 65 0 0 0 0
Injured 0 6 2 2 0
Playing defense 2 1 1 0 0
Not on team 1 6 13 16 28


% Available 95.7% 88.9% 78.5% 75.4% 58.2%
% Solid + 1.4% 9.5% 21.5% 33.8% 37.3%
% All-B1G+ 0.0% 0.0% 1.5% 13.8% 19.4%

What the hell this is: It's me tracking the development of Michigan offensive linemen over the last 20 years based on how many years each has been in the program. It is subjective on the top and a bit accusatory in the middle and perhaps only a little bit useful on the bottom where I show things like just 1 in 5 of all the great centers and guards and tackles in two decades of Michigan recruiting end up ever becoming All Big Ten-level players. It seems to say that there's a lot that can go wrong between the gathering of the linemen and the deployment of the linemen.

It also says it takes time: in 20 years of OL recruiting just seven guys (Lewan, Molk, Long, Backus, Hutchinson, Jansen and Boren) were even ready to be okay starters by their second years in the program. If one guy from the 2012 class starts this year and is proficient, that's beating the odds; the chances of the 2012-'13 classes forming a proficient unit by 2014 are the chances of finding five NFL linemen in ten recruits.


A History of Michigan OL Recruiting, 1993-2011

I wanted to go back far enough to get a relatively large enough sample of Michigan offensive linemen and some idea of how a class of recruits matures into a line. Because this involved a lot of memory and subjectivity, I included my written impressions of all of these linemen below. That information was put into chart form to produce the above money chart.

For the years before Rivals-Scout these are general senses gleaned from Lemming, Prep Football Report, and one blogger's admittedly bad memory. They should not be trusted. From 2002 on it's an average of star rankings from Rivals, Scout, and after 2006, ESPN – positional rankings are composites of those available.

Also I'm going to ignore dudes who were defensive linemen for the majority and end of their careers because there's no way to say how good they would have turned out. They are: Will Campbell, Marques Slocum, Alan Branch, and Quinton Washington.

1993: Damon Denson (★★★★★) was Maurice Williams before it was cool, riding in on a wave of hype then wasting effectively two years (including burned redshirt) playing 399041_display_imagedefensive line, having his eligibility run out just as soon as he was getting really good at donkey abuse. Unlike Williams he had a short and uneventful pro career. Zach Adami (★★★½) was a smallish three-year starter you could plug in anywhere who came in for one of those "your team won, here's some extra all-conference pins for your longtime starters" awards his senior year in '97. John Partchenko (★★★), and Joe Ries (★★½) never saw the field that I recall and neither made it to 5th years.

1994: Jon Jansen (right) (★★★★ as a TE) was also a great linebacker for Clawson. That athleticism plus his massiveness led to three years of starting, two All-B1G selections, and a long and productive NFL career. Noah Parker (★★★) was a small Floridian career backup at guard.

1995: Steve Frazier (★★★½) and Chris Ziemann (★★★★) were constant presences as injury starters on the '97 to '99 lines, both ending up okay-ish (Frazier's infamous snap over Brady's head in the '99 Illinois game notwithstanding) as 5th year seniors. Eric Moltane (★★★★) was an early medical loss, Jeff Potts (★★★) was buried on the depth chart.

[Pics of different dudes wearing 77, after THE JUMP…]

1996: Steve Hutchinson (★★★★), Jeff Backus (★★★★½), and David Brandt (★★★), were all longtime starters and the core of the greatest Michigan OL in the period. Hutchinson and Backus were both 4-year starters, multiple All-B1G selections and longtime NFL-ers, Hutch being among the best to ever play his position. Paul Tannous (★★★★½) may have joined them, but was injured his freshman year and never played.

1997: The '97 class was considered for its time one of the best OL hauls of any school ever, however contributions from this group would be spotty. Maurice Williams (★★★★) spent a year on the defensive line, then two as a backup OT, getting in one great year in 2000 before heading off to the NFL. Kurt Anderson (★★★★) bid his time then became a decent center as a 5th year senior. Jason Brooks (★★★★½) was the supposed jewel of the class but was dismissed from the team while still an underclassman. steve-hutchinsonTodd Mossa (★★★★) was lost to injury, and Ben Mast (★★★) had a Henige-like career as the 2000-'01 line's sixth Beatle.

1998: Dave Petruziello (★★★★½) started a couple of years but was never better than serviceable. Joe Denay (★★½) was a skyscraper of a contingency who got some play as a situational dude.

1999: Another big haul year that netted good but non-world-destroying returns. Would-be LT Demeterius Solomon (★★★★★) was a basically a bust—he started most of his RS sophomore year and was a problem. Would-be RT Tony Pape (★★★★★) didn't match the hype but still put in a much appreciated Schofield-like three-year starting career, with some hardware. Expected guard Dave Pearson (★★★★) became a very serviceable two-year starter who anchored and defined "The Daves." Expected guard Courtney Morgan (★★★★) got a few starts as a junior but was mostly a liability eventually displaced by the Class of '01. Andy Brown (★★★★) was lost to injury, necessitating various Daves playing center. Jonathan Goodwin, a junior transfer from OHIO!, turned out to be an important part of the 2000-'01 lines.

2000: David Baas (★★★★) was easily Michigan's best interior OL since his redshirt year and the second-best since, putting in two progressively good to great seasons at guard before shifting to center as a senior. Andy Chistopfel (★★½) and Jeff Gaston (★★★) were contingencies who didn't earn 5th years.

2001: Dan Simelis (★★★★½) was supposed to be the prize but a medical thing ended his career before it could get underway. Leo Henige (★★★★) was mostly a 6th OL who finally became an okay starter his 5th year. Matt Lentz (★★★½) and Adam Stenavich (★★★½) were the overlooked part of the class yet both ended up becoming solid three-year starters.

2002: "The Silent Js" (I was particularly fond of naming things in my college years) were the first OL class to come with positional rankings. It also could have been called Mike Kolodziej (★★★★, 13-14th OT) and stuff. Kolo turned out to be just that. Reuben Riley (★★★, ~50th G) was a sometime 6th OL, sometime liability of a starter, and Mark Bihl (★★★, ~55th G) worked his way onto the field as an eventually serviceable starter. Tom Berishaj (★★★, ~60th G) lost his career to injury.

Long - Purdue12003: Jake Long (★★★★, ~16th OT) was a late riser, a come-lately to football described as having quick feet, a mean streak, a lot to learn but a ceiling surpassing that of mortal men; he ended up the 1st overall pick of the NFL draft. Adam Kraus (★★★★, 17th OG) was ranked as a tight end until late in the process, and listed as such originally at Michigan before becoming very good at plowing furrows for the burrowing Hart. Jeff Zuttah (★★★½) wasn't cleared to play by M's physicians but ended up having an okay career at Stanford. Pat Sharrow (★★★, ~59th OG) lost his career to injury in '07.

2004: This is the class we were shaking our fists at as 2008 approached, even before it got as bad as it did. Brett Gallimore (★★★★, ~12th OT) was far overrated and ended up as career depth. Alex Mitchell (★★★½, 3rd OG to 53rd OT) was a planetary object who sparked disagreement between everyone until he turned out to be just a planetary object. Jeremy Ciulla (★★★½ ~22nd OG) was kind of a contingency who turned out to be a liability in a few starts in '07, and Grant DeBenedictis (★★★, ~60th OT) was a sleeper who never woke. Only Mitchell ever started long-term, and nobody returned for a 5th year.

2005: Another big, rebuilding haul that netted distressingly small returns, for various reasons. Cory Zirbel (★★★★ ~15th OT) was the highest-rated and he seemed to be on track for some solid late-career contribution before injury ended him. David Moosman (★★★★ ~14th OG) may have been a better complementary player who was left exposed in the wrong system; it's hard to judge a guy recruited as a MANBALL pulling guard for ending his career as a bad snap fountain while spotting an injured Molk at center of a spread 'n shred. Justin Schifano (★★★★ ~16th OG) never moved up the depth chart and left football after his sophomore year. Mark Ortmann (★★★ ~43rd OT) and Tim McAvoy (★★★½ ~26th OC) were, to fans, considered backup plans who were never meant to start; Ortmann did and did okay for his talent level, while McAvoy was apparently worse than a guy who'd been a defensive tackle a week before.

2006: Justin Boren (★★★★½, 3rd OG) and Stephen Schilling (★★★★★ ~2nd OT) were the highlights of an '06 class that could have used more of them. Boren was immediately serviceable—the only true freshman in this entire period who managed to pull that off—but a mid-career transfer to Ohio State (and the awful O-line coaching they were doing over there at the time) kind of kept him from ever raising the bar much higher than that. Schilling was out of place as a young OT who just wasn't built for pass pro, but managed the transition to spread 'n shred guard pretty well, ended up a four-year starter with two of those years up to par. After those guys were reaches. Perry Dorrestein (★★½ ~66th OT) was the Coner of the offensive line except forced to start for two seasons. John Ferrara (★★★½ ~72nd DT) was the afore mentioned defensive lineman who switched to guard mid-week, leapt past McAvoy, and juuuust beat out a recycling bin to see time as injury replacement his junior year.

 HuygeOSUPostgame-Heiko2007: Undersized, underappreciated David Molk (★★★½ ~5th OC) was the first player recruited for Michigan's switch to zone blocking in '07, serendipitously providing Rodriguez with the perfect spread center; injuries included his career mirrors that of Long, minus the apparent value to NFL teams. Unfortunately the only other OL recruited for this shift was Mark Huyge (right: Heiko) (★★½ ~83rd OT), who turned out to be as limited in pass pro as his rankings indicated, yet unkillable as a starter, as each time a healed senior or budding youth threatened his spot another position always seemed to open up.

2008: The OL had grown rickety and Carr already had most of a full class signed when he left. That included headliner Dann O'Neill (★★★★ ~10th OT) who transferred to Western Mich when the season went to shit and he couldn't crack the depth chart. The rest of the Carr guys were Kurt Wermers (★★★ ~23rd OG), who reportedly couldn't find the right balance between football, school, and pwning neubs; Rocko Khoury (★★½ ~69th OG), a career backup who lost his last season and best shot at starting to injury; and Elliott Mealer (★★★½ ~32nd OG) who grew a mountain beard but never really grew into more than a mediocre center. To that Rodriguez added spread-oriented Ricky Barnum (★★★½ ~9th OC) the apparent Moosman of the switch back to MANBALL, and Patrick Omameh (★★ ~100th DE), a system sleeper and 3½-year starter who peaked as a spread 'n shred downfield blocker as a sophomore but never learned how to pull effectively.

2009: Taylor Lewan (★★★★ ~16th OT) is Jake Long 2.0, and fortunately hates college donkeys more than pro donkeys. Michael Schofield (★★★½ ~23rd OT) played guard pretty well as a sophomore and turned into a more-than-solid right tackle as a junior; he seems on track for an All-B1G season.

2010: Christian Pace (★★★ ~10th OC) had the Molk-ian things being said about him and seemed on track to be the Molk-ian heir apparent until an injury ended his career and left Michigan without a 2010 offensive lineman.

2011: Lost in The Process™ was an opportunity to address getting only three linemen in the last two classes, leaving Michigan with the planetoid project Christian Bryant (★★★ ~30th OG) , hopeful Molk 2.0 Jack Miller (★★★ ~35th OC) , and a few brief moments with Tony Posada (★★★ ~40th OG) before he transferred.


"So I reach the 3-tech, THEN flick off the camera; got it!" | Heiko

2012: Brought in Kyle Kalis (★★★★★ ~4th OG) , Erik Magnuson (★★★★ ~17th OT), Ben Braden (★★★ ~43rd OT), and Blake Bars (★★★½ ~40th OT). All redshirted.

2013: Patrick Kugler (★★★★½ ~3rd OC) , Kyle Bosch (★★★★, ~4th OG), David Dawson (★★★★ ~5th OG) , Chris Fox (★★★★ ~9th OT), Logan Tuley-Tillman (★★★★ ~18th OT) and Dan Samuelson (★★★ ~50th OG). All hail Hoke.


So chart again? Chart again. (With 100% more epic Tony Pape pointing)Big Tony

Michigan O-Linemen
Classes of 1993-2011

Year in Program:

1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th


All-B1G+ 0 0 1 9 13
Solid Starter 1 6 13 13 12
Liability Starter 0 3 6 10 6
Backup 0 47 31 17 8
Redshirting 65 0 0 0 0
Injured 0 6 2 2 0
Playing defense 2 1 1 0 0
Not on team 1 6 13 16 28


% Available 95.7% 88.9% 78.5% 75.4% 58.2%
% Solid + 1.4% 9.5% 21.5% 33.8% 37.3%
% All-B1G+ 0.0% 0.0% 1.5% 13.8% 19.4%

Boring, explanatory things: All B1G+ means what you think it means; the baseline is David Molk in 2009 and better. Solid starter is your standard upperclassman Adam Stenavich year; baseline is anything that wasn't making you pull your hair out or go searching the depth chart for possible relief. Liability starters include all of this year's interior OL—picture Omameh at the top of that. Years cut short by injury are only counted as "Injured" if there weren't enough games against real competition to draw a baseline. "Not on Team" for a freshman means he transferred to Michigan later on in his career. Players were rated as how they performed in the offense of that year. If you're wondering why the 1st and 2nd years in program include 69 players but the other three columns add up to 67, that's because I'm supposing Lewan and Schofield will both be all-conference types in 2013, however Bryant and Miller are counted only for their first two years in the program.

Thing Things: The first and most obvious thing is 90% of Michigan offensive line recruits will have you pulling your hair out if they play before their third season removed from high school.

In two decades Michigan has had one true freshman capable of coming in and playing as a solid starter, or play on the offensive line at all for that matter. Last year we took quotes about how if any freshman in the country was ready to step in right away it was Kalis, yet he ended up being at best a guy who was close enough to Mealer that it wasn't worth burning his redshirt. This year people are using Kugler's background to suggest he could be factor. If he starts and performs markedly better than Mealer did this year, it would be a very rare thing indeed.

One thing this hasn't accounted for at all is how highly rated these guys are. The 2012 class is actually pretty in line with Michigan's historical recruiting over this period, but the incoming 2013s are noticeably higher. Show? Show.

Class of Players Avg Stars
1993-'2011 69 3.61
2012 4 3.67
2013 6 3.94

And yes it makes a difference. There was barely any between 3-stars and 2-star so I lumped them all together. Here's the percent of players who manage to reach that "solid starter" or better threshold by x year:

Year/Stars: ★★★★+ ★★★ or ★★
RS/Fr 3% 0%
Fr/So 19% 3%
So/Jr 31% 14%
Jr/Sr 44% 23%
5th 56% 34%
Players 32 35

You get the point: recruiting rankings do matter. Sadly I don't have enough data points to make this linear (qualifying the careers of 70 offensive linemen over two decades is hard enough okay?!?) but I'm happy to cut a major corner and project this onto the current roster, putting Miller, Bryant, Bars, Braden and Samuelson on the 3-star track and the other guys all on the 4-star track.

Name Pos Class STARs PosRk 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Taylor Lewan T 2009 4.0 16.0 100% x x x x
Michael Schofield T 2009 3.7 22.7 100% x x x x
Jack Miller C 2011 3.0 34.5 14% 23% 34% x x
Chris Bryant G 2011 3.3 25.7 14% 23% 35% x x
Kyle Kalis G 2012 4.7 6.7 19% 31% 44% 56% x
Erik Magnuson T 2012 3.7 17.3 19% 31% 44% 56% x
Blake Bars G 2012 3.3 48.0 3% 14% 23% 34% x
Ben Braden T 2012 3.0 42.7 3% 14% 23% 35% x
Patrick Kugler C 2013 4.3 3.3 3% 19% 31% 44% 56%
Kyle Bosch G 2013 4.0 5.7 3% 19% 31% 44% 56%
David Dawson G 2013 4.0 5.0 3% 19% 31% 44% 56%
Chris Fox T 2013 4.0 8.7 3% 19% 31% 44% 56%
Logan Tuley-Tillman T 2013 4.0 17.7 3% 19% 31% 44% 56%
Dan Samuelson G 2013 3.3 47.7 0% 3% 14% 23% 35%
Total if I add the %s together:* 2.87 2.34 3.72 4.24 3.15

*This is probably illegal

Unscientifically speaking, unless Funk can do much better with these guys than OL coaches previous (not unheard of), expectations for the next couple of years' offensive lines should stay relatively low, especially once Lewan and Schofield graduate and at least three starters are sophomores or younger. The filth of Saruman doesn't wash away in a day; you kinda have to sit in a mucky flood plain for awhile.

The good news is the 2016 o-line is probably going to rock, especially if the recruiting keeps going like it has been and there's a bunch of 4-star redshirt sophomores reinforcing Kalis and co.

How do the 2013 freshmen and redshirt freshmen compare?

Different coaches and training staffs and whatnot, but in general I think the 2012-'13 haul is quite similar to the two-year project of 1996 and '97. In that span Michigan recruited nine linemen with an average of four-star hype. A third were lost to injury or other stuff before becoming upperclassmen. One of the six remaining was a career backup, one was a backup until turning in a decent starting season as a 5th year senior, and one dicked around on the defensive line, limiting his contribution to Michigan to a single great season before running out of eligibility. One was a longtime solid starter. And then two became four-year starters with cases of conference awards and productive NFL careers.



I would set expectations for the 2012-'13 classes just above that. That's not to say that Kalis is the next Steve Hutchinson and Braden another Backus. But what we've got here is 10 or 11 offensive linemen coming in at about the same hype level as the nine from Carr's early years. None of those guys have any known personality issues, and none of them harbor dreams of becoming a 6'7 defensive tackle.

You have to give them time; the epic '96-'97 haul was epic, but what it produced was the offensive line of 2000, and much gnashing of teeth on the way. Hutchinson and Backus were assets to the national championship team, however it was having Jansen and Ziemann and Adami around that gave Griese enough time to look for Woodson, realize Woodson is on the sidelines, then set up a picnic and wait for Tuman or Streets to get open.

Likewise I expect at least half of this awesome to turn out to not be awesome, or at least not awesome for Michigan, or perhaps for parts of it to become so awesome they're in the NFL before the other parts are fully awesome-bloomed. I also expect that in 2016 Michigan will have the best offensive line in the conference, and perhaps the country.



January 15th, 2013 at 8:36 AM ^

This is a great "Why I come to MGoBlog" post.

Like many others, I look forward to the possibility of O-line recruiting being restored to a level of greatness not seen since, well, the late '90s. So far, so good ...

If Schofield makes it to the NFL and has more than a cup of coffee (i.e., actually gets on the field for a few regular-season games), the '09 class will wind up being the best in several years (at least by the NFL measure). Unexpected.


January 15th, 2013 at 8:45 AM ^

Great work Seth.  Slightly depressing news for 13 and 14, but very encouraging for the future.

[nitpick]bury the lede not bury the lead[/nitpick]


January 15th, 2013 at 8:55 AM ^

A lovely stroll down OL memory lane and a cautionary tale for optimists like myself.

I take heart from the fact that the projected '13 OL has just one guy with only 2 years in the program.... and he's KALIS.  That core will be quite seasoned by the time we have to break in two new tackles for the '14 season.  Those two will likely have 3 years in the program at that point so with a bit of luck and good coaching we should be more than fine.


January 15th, 2013 at 9:02 AM ^

Good stuff!  It's tough seeing all those past 4 stars that didn't pan out for various reasons.  Also, we have a mascot, as far as I'm concerned.  His name is Steve Everitt.


January 15th, 2013 at 9:08 AM ^

That post was very informative and is both awesome and depressing at the same time.  It's logical that offensive lineman take time to develop, but I guess my general assumption is that they would be more ready a year earlier.  The highlight is that in 2016 we may have one of the best lines in the country.  I know our line is young and may struggle next year, but I guess I kinda thought we would pretty much be good to go in 2014 and beyond.  In my head I kinda pictured next year pretty similar to this year with maybe a little better record due to an easier schedule, but similar struggles, then in 2014 an appearence in the B1G championship game (a victory could go either way), then in 2015 to begin our reign of being in the national title hunt for X number of years.  It is hard to imagine how we can win the conference without a good line, so it seems my assumptions may just be a year early, which sucks to think we are still in our transition period from changes coaches for at least two more years AARGH!

The Geek

January 15th, 2013 at 9:23 AM ^

I know this has been echoed by other posts, but these in-depth reports cannot be found anywhere but MGoBlog.

It's my feeling that Taylor Lewan was a Michigan Man from an early age. I don't give RR credit for recruiting him... He fell into his lap.


January 15th, 2013 at 9:49 AM ^

Well-known fact. Given that and this excellent analysis, I have one tweak.  I think Ben Braden blew up his senior year of HS, after he committed to M, and so didn't get the hype he deserved.  If the practice reports are accurate, he's more on the 4-star path.  If you write him down as a 4-star, the 2012 class looks just about as good as the 2013 class, which paints a bit rosier picture in 2014-2015?  Just a thought.

I'd really like to know what Coach Hanlon thinks of these recruits, and of Coach Funk.  Coach Hanlon was the architect of pretty much all of the great OL units under Bo.


January 15th, 2013 at 9:59 AM ^

I don't want to make assumptions like that or use the practice reports (which put Kalis and Braden ahead of schedule and Bars and Magnuson on it) because I can't tell who among the 3-stars past blew up late. Molk is a special case but Stenavich, Lentz, Adami, Goodwin, Schofield (4* to Rivals and Scout but ESPN hated him)...who among them charged up the rankings late in the recruiting cycle? This study is a response to the suggestion that two great OL classes (actually one good followed by one spectacular) means the OL will be shortly filled with NFL types.


January 15th, 2013 at 12:13 PM ^

That's why I called my comment a "tweak".  I've just been paying alot of attention to Braden since he was recruited, because I really liked his recruiting film.  It's equally likely someone else was overrated, and balance it out.  But I remain optimistic about these two classes at OL.

Have you ever heard Coach Hanlon speak regarding any interactions he's had with Coach Funk, and his opinions of him?


January 15th, 2013 at 5:22 PM ^

I'd agree about Braden. He was one of our first 2012 commits, and even the final rankings on sites had him either 2-3 inches shorter or 30 pounds lighter than his actual height/weight. They might feel different about him being an athletic 6'7" to 6'8" and 315 lbs+ when he committed than just 6'5" and 285.


January 15th, 2013 at 9:56 AM ^

Why does everyone find this so depressing?  Doesn't that chart say that if you start as a second year player (your redshirt freshman year) that you are favored 2-1 to be a solid starter rather than a liability?  And as a third year player that increases to 2.5-1?  We already know that our LT and RT/RG are ALL-BIG10+, so that leaves us to fill three spots on the line wtih two third year players and four second year players.  Those odds are actually better than I would have thought.


January 15th, 2013 at 10:13 AM ^

for why predicting 11-1 or 12-0 for 2013 is the triumph of hope over reality.

This strengthens my belief that taking a 7th OL isn't a bad idea, should Hunt want to commit.

Great piece of real journalism that makes me wonder why anybody would bother to read any newspaper.


January 15th, 2013 at 9:59 AM ^

Great work, Seth. One thing that may not come out in the data was that for years Michigan's linemen didn't need to play until they were upperclassmen due to the depth of the roster at that position. Guys like Kalis may not have seen the field until they were juniors and perhaps not until their senior years. Doesn't necessarily mean they wouldn't have been solid earlier, just they didn't get the opportunity. I'm still optimistic that the line will be better next year than this past season.


January 15th, 2013 at 12:06 PM ^

Depth + experience was a luxury enjoyed by UM squads for many years. Conversely, experience (not depth) existed this year and the interior OL struggled.

HS kids have much better access to training (camps, video, nutrition, facilities) than 20 years ago and kids are maturing faster.

Miller & Bryant will be 3rd yr while Kalis, Braden, Mags and Bars are 2nd yr - there should be 3 solid starters in that group for 2013 with Tayler and Scho.


Wolverine 73

January 15th, 2013 at 9:59 AM ^

Hard to argue with the numbers, but I have a feeling this line will be good a year earlier than the numbers suggest.  I think maybe it's because of the emphasis that has been put on the OL by this coaching staff and their focus on recruiting OL.  I just expect the coaches to be able to accelerate the development of these guys a little more quickly than the historical averages.  I look for a very good line by 2015, which, I firmly believe, is our year of the run for the National Championship.


January 15th, 2013 at 10:01 AM ^

Awesome work Seth.  One request:

Could you take a look at the number of Solid Starters you would project based on the roster for 2011 & 2012 (fill in these blanks):


Year Total Solid Starters
2013 2.87
2014 2.34
2015 3.72
2016 4.24
2017 3.15

I'd really like to know (1) what the expected change was from 2011 to 2012 (since everyone says it was so terrible), and (2) what the expected change is from 2012 to 2013.

Also one comment: Our 2013 projection if Lewan doesn't come back is 1.87.  /shudder. Wooo!


January 15th, 2013 at 10:45 AM ^

Well the projections are for those two classes--it's going to look different if I'm including every class. Do you want to know what it would have looked like at this time last year? Because the assumptions at that time were that Barnum and Omameh were proven commodities who would go upwards; they both went downwards. Elliott Mealer was the only question mark. In 2011 we were just replacing Schilling. Anyway:

2011: 4.60

2012: 4.47

Name Pos Class STARs PosRk 2011 2012
Kyle Kalis OG 2012 4.67 6.7 x 3%
Erik Magnuson OT 2012 3.67 17.3 x 3%
Blake Bars OG 2012 3.33 48.0 x 0%
Ben Braden OT 2012 3.00 42.7 x 0%
Chris Bryant OG 2011 3.33 25.7 0% 3%
Jack Miller OC 2011 3.00 34.5 0% 3%
Taylor Lewan OT 2009 4.00 16 100% 100%
Michael Schofield OT 2009 3.50 22.7 14% 100%
Elliott Mealer OG 2008 3.67 31.3 23% 35%
Ricky Barnum OG 2008 3.67 8.7 23% 100%
Patrick Omameh OG 2008 2.33 100 100% 100%
David Molk OC 2007 3.33 4.7 100% x
Mark Huyge OT 2007 2.33 82.3 100% x
TOTAL         4.60 4.47

The thing last year was the opposite from the thing in 2014. What we had was four returning starters and then everything relying on Mealer. In 2011 it was a little bit dicey but the question was whether we could find one starter out of Mealer-Barnum-Schofield, who were all upperclassmen.

The numbers here aren't very accurate because I'm treating returning starters as 100% and non-starters as projected freshmen--by the time Barnum was a redshirt junior there was a much greater chance than 23% that he'd be ready to play because he'd already survived three years of stuff that knocks dudes out. So the above numbers are meaningless. They're only worthwhile in the article because we're projecting lots of freshmen.


January 15th, 2013 at 10:07 AM ^

Really great work. 

However, I think there's one piece that needs a more precise look.  You've stated that the %starting stat in actuality means 'number who are starting/total in class year.'  However, you've read the %starting stat to mean 'number who are CAPABLE of starting/total in class year.'   So though you've concluded from the low percentage that 'redshirt freshmen and redshirt sophomores aren't typically capable or ready to start,' I don't think we can say that.  We can only say 'redshirt freshmen and redshirt sophomores typically don't start.'  

Why aren't they starting?  As you stated, for some it's because they aren't capable of starting... they just shouldn't be on the field.  But there's another group of folks that wasn't starting that has been ignored the redshirt freshmen and redshirt sophomores on those past teams who could've started and done fine... they were just stuck behind better more experienced redshirt juniors and redshirt seniors.

Ultimately... pretty cool stat about the true freshmen.  They don't start, period.  But I think there's a little hope that the 2nd and 3rd year guys can fill in more capably than you've concluded.


January 15th, 2013 at 3:03 PM ^

That's a great criticism. I went to go respond to it and ended up writing that long response to another guy who mentioned the same thing. Basically, yeah there's a chance a few guys were ready to start earlier but if you look at all the individuals who proved they could play at that level before they did play at that level, there's only a few who might have been held back  by the depth ahead of them.


January 15th, 2013 at 10:20 AM ^

Great analysis. One thing I would add to your last chart is to differentiate between starters and non-starters on the two-deep. My thinking is, even though someone like Erik Magnuson has a 19% chance of being "solid" in 2013, we don't really need him to be, because we've got Lewan and Schofield locking down the tackle positions. On the other hand, Kyle Kalis also has a 19% of being "solid," but we really need him to be solid since he'll likely be a starter. Here's my attempt at differentiating these minutae:

Name Pos Class STARs PosRk 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Taylor Lewan T 2009 4.0 16.0 100% x x x x
Michael Schofield T 2009 3.7 22.7 100% x x x x
Jack Miller C 2011 3.0 34.5 14% 23% 34% x x
Chris Bryant G 2011 3.3 25.7 14% 23% 35% x x
Kyle Kalis G 2012 4.7 6.7 19% 31% 44% 56% x
Erik Magnuson T 2012 3.7 17.3 19% 31% 44% 56% x
Blake Bars G 2012 3.3 48.0 3% 14% 23% 34% x
Ben Braden T 2012 3.0 42.7 3% 14% 23% 35% x
Patrick Kugler C 2013 4.3 3.3 3%(?) 19% 31% 44% 56%
Kyle Bosch G 2013 4.0 5.7 3%* 19% 31% 44% 56%
David Dawson G 2013 4.0 5.0 3%* 19% 31% 44% 56%
Chris Fox T 2013 4.0 8.7 3%* 19% 31% 44% 56%
Logan Tuley-Tillman T 2013 4.0 17.7 3%* 19% 31% 44% 56%
Dan Samuelson G 2013 3.3 47.7 0%* 3% 14% 23% 35%
Total if I add the %s together:* 2.87 2.34 3.72 4.24 3.15

Bold/italic = Projected starter
Italic = Non-starter, on two deep
* = Redshirt

I put a question mark next to Kugler, since many are thinking he may get some PT as a true freshman.

Projecting the two-deep beyond 2015 is extremely subjective (shoot, projecting the two-deep for next year is extremely subjective), and likely won't turn out anything like this chart. Things will change, guys will get injured or transfer, someone from the 2014 class could step in, etc. But Seth extrapolated out to 2016, so I did too. Just take it with a grain handful of salt.


January 15th, 2013 at 10:19 AM ^

In reading over the narrative, it seems to me there weren't very many true "busts" among highly-rated prospects.  The only four I see are Gallimore, Solomon, Alex Mitchell, and Justin Schifano.  The rest of the time, when a 4- or 5-star guy didn't work out, it was usually because of injury, off-field problems, transition issues, etc.--not because the guy couldn't play.  


January 15th, 2013 at 10:27 AM ^

I have a coworker who was the starting OC at GVSU under Kelly (was already there when Kelly ascended), so i take his consultations on OL play and intricacies pretty seriously. He gets all bent out of shape when we call WRs, and RBs "skill positions". In his estimation, those are talent positions and playing the line is skill position because it requires so much learning to do well as opposed to being born able to run really flippin fast.

Because of the learning and ability to apply the learning instinctively, he maintains that linemen don't become really good until their junior/senior seasons. That doesn't bode well for UM in the next year or two. I guess we'll just have to hope that there are some real gems in these two classes, the kind that can come in and contribute early. That may not produce outstanding OL play in 13 and 14, but if it can produce decent play now, then 15, 16 and beyond look very bright indeed.

biakabutuka ex…

January 15th, 2013 at 10:37 AM ^

I have one optimistic counterargument.

Anyone who played his first or second year was deemed not just as good, but better than the upperclassmen ahead of him. That's an important distinction. It's no surprise that that would be rare, but it doesn't mean 90-99% of RS or true freshmen were unfit to play, or liabilities--they could have been merely less good or as good as the talented upperclassmen on the team. So I think the percents are conservative.

In other words, not starting != not serviceable and not playing at all != liability when the depth chart ahead of a player is loaded with upperclassmen as it has been most of these years. I'm excited to see these players next year and believe that 2-3 of them will be serviceable rather than the 0-1 (approx. 0.62) that these numbers predict.


January 15th, 2013 at 1:11 PM ^

Well we know the competition because we know who was on the roster.

Side project: let's look at just the guys who ended up All-Big+ and see who they competed with before they became starters. There's 30 of them.

Adami: Started first as a RS Soph in 1996 due to depth problems on the interior, was a liability.

Damon Denson: Switched to OL in the fall of 1994 so let's just say it's unlikely he'd be ready to start right away as a true sophomore. He was behind Jansen and Runyan as a true junior in '95 (he got one start at guard), so yeah it's possible Denson would have been okay then.

Jon Jansen: Redshirted in '94, started as a RS freshman. Is it conceivable he was ready to go in '94? Not...really. That year the right tackle spot was a problem, with Guynes eventually moving over there when Mike Sullivan didn't work out.

Chris Ziemann: Started most of his RS Sophomore year, which was '97, and you can still find the press clippings from people looking for ANYTHING to criticise Carr for and finding his decision to play Ziemann over Brandt was the most common complaint.

Steve Frazier: I mean his competition was his classmate Ziemann, so if Frazier was always behind Z we can place him appropriatelly.

David Brandt: Started as a RS Sophomore in '98 but was better than Ziemann. You could make a case he might have been competent to play as a RS frosh (people did at the time) however the coaches certainly thought Ziemann was the better option.

Jeff Backus: Started as RS Freshman

Steve Hutchinson: Started as RS Freshman

Kurt Anderson: HERE's the first close argument that a guy was probably held back for depth. Anderson was a highly rated recruit who was trapped behind the 2000 line. HOWEVA it was Frazier and Ziemann he was behind in 1999, and then Jonathan Goodwin beat him out in 2000. It's possible Anderson would have been "Solid" in 2000--remember he was behind Ben Mast that year and passed Mast (that rhymes!) to start in 2001.

Maurice Williams: Same story as with Denson in re: freshman and sophomore years. His junior year, 1999, he had an off-field issue so I don't know if you want to count that as "not ready"--I kinda do. Ben Mast started most of that season (1999), and Mast was enough of a liability there that people still blame him for Tom Brady never getting to be full TOM BRADY in college. Anyway Mo was behind Mast, if perhaps not for ability reasons.

Jonathan Goodwin: Here's an interesting case because Goodwin started at OHIO! as a true freshman and was MAC freshman of the year. That was the mid-'90s MAC, not the Big Ten so it doesn't really count. He couldn't play his RS soph season because of transfer rules, but yeah it's possible Goodwin was ready to play that year. When he came off the transfer redshirt he started and was good immediately.

Dave Petruziello: He was a liability his first year starting (2001) so you can't really argue he was held back as a RS soph by the 2000 guys.

Dave Pearson: Was a solid starter for two years. Before that he was behind Petruziello, and Joe Denay even got some starts at guard. However he did compete with and backed up Kurt Anderson at center, and Anderson turned out to be (surprisingly) okay. Very tenuous possibility that Pearson was ready as a RS soph, with likelihood trending no.

Tony Pape: The 2000 offensive tackle depth charts lied--Ben Mast was backup at all 6 spots--but Pape was indeed on them. It's conceivable, highly unlikely given Mast's known quality that Pape was ready to go as a RS freshman. He started as a RS Soph in 2001.

David Baas: We actually got to see Baas start as a RS freshman at the end of the mess that was the 2001 line, and he was good, and this made us excited for him. That he didn't crack an easy depth chart earlier that year demonstrated he probably wasn't ready until later in the season, which is really saying he wasn't ready until he was a RS Soph.


Leo Henige: I would give you that Henige was ready to play as a RS junior because Carr was always saying Henige could play anywhere. But then it was Reuben Riley who slotted in for much of '04 in Henige's preferred spot (LG) once we slid Baas over to Center because Bihl couldn't hack it. So..not ready?

Matt Lentz: Started as a RS soph in 2003 and was good. In 2002 he was behind the Daves. In the spring of 2002 (according to my edition of The Wolverine from that year) that Lentz and Stenavich were pushing for playing time.

Adam Stenavich: See above. You've got one guy who was maybe ready to play as a RS freshman. Note that neither of these guys--especially Stenavich--was over 300 lbs yet at that point. They were 3-stars for a reason.

Mark Bihl: Wasn't ready when he first slotted in so unlikely he was before that.

Adam Kraus: Kind of wasn't ready when he first started in 2005 but was okay by the end of that season and I gave him the benefit of the doubt as "solid" for that year, which maybe I shouldn't have. Anyway his RS Freshman year he was moving from tight end in the middle of it so let's say no.

Jake Long: They were still teaching him to play football when he arrived. He beat out Kolo for the starting job in the middle of his RS freshman year.

Mark Ortmann: Wasn't very good in 2008 so he wouldn't have been in 2007, when Michigan never ran right because we couldn't find a functional right tackle.

Stephen Schilling: Another guy thrust into the starting role early, in this case by two years. He was a bad tackle as a RS freshman starter and didn't really come around until he was a RS junior.

Justin Boren: Moot since he played as a true freshman, but you could argue that since he has grown progressively worse every year that maybe he was ready to step in as a junior in high school?

Mark Huyge: Was thrust into playing way way way before he was ready so no.

David Molk: Was like 230 lbs. as a true freshman, still got tossed around like a rag doll as a RS freshman.

Ricky Barnum: Was maybe ready in 2010? I dunno. He was behind Schilling and Omameh and as we found out Schofield as well so this one goes as a maybe he was ready as a RS Soph.

Patrick Omameh: We got to witness his maturation as he drew into the lineup late in his RS freshman season so obviously he wasn't held back before that.

Michael Schofield: As a RS freshman was still putting on weight, but it's possible he would have been okay even then. He was behind Lewan, who was battling with Huyge, who wasn't any better than barely serviceable.

Taylor Lewan: Started as a RS freshman, like Long arrived with high potential but way way behind in learning technique, which was still spotty (remember the false startfest vs. Iowa?) as a RS freshman.

So out of all the guys we saw who turned out to be serviceable linemen in at least one season, only one or two were probably ready before they were called up but held back because of spectacular depth. Really there was always at least one spot in the line except for 2000 when somebody who was obviously ready to contribute as a solid Big Ten offensive lineman would not have drawn in.


January 15th, 2013 at 2:38 PM ^

300-lb guys in their 20s are better able to control the line than 288-lb guys in their late teens.  

Just look at the NFL draft.  Even freaks like tackle Matt Kalil, who was the #3 overall pick last year, and Taylor Lewan redshirt and spend at least 3 years playing in college.

Strength and technique make it men vs boys.


January 15th, 2013 at 3:44 PM ^

You lost me.  Looking at your original chart, it seems there could be a maximum of 23 guys who wound up being All-Big+, and it seems unlikely there would be many more than 13.  Is this list of 30 guys maybe the ones who were either solid or All-Big+?  30 sort of seems a little high even for that crowd.

biakabutuka ex…

January 15th, 2013 at 4:30 PM ^

I didn't expect an informative response, thanks!

What I'm reading is, the percent could indeed be higher. But the big takeaway is if you are raw or undersized you don't stand a chance at making an impact. That applies to some of the RS and true freshmen but certainly not all. Hopefully a few of the "college-ready" players step up by the time conference play starts. Some of them, any of them.


January 15th, 2013 at 10:50 AM ^

Great analysis Seth. It's fun to look back at some of those guys that anchored some of the best offensive lines in Michigan history. Especially for someone like me who doesn't really know much about these guys since I only started actually paying attention to individual players in the early 2000s. 

I am super excited to see what the 2012 and 2013 OL recruits will become, but I hope that some of them speed up the process and contribute more than past guys earlier on in their careers.


January 15th, 2013 at 11:00 AM ^

Excellent writeup and analysis.  I have been saying ever since Hoke got here and it became obvious that our O-line was depleted that it would take a while to accumulate the mature talent necessary to have a very good  O-line.  I figured 2015 was when things would really start to click.

One question for those with way more knowledge than I.  Realizing Borges' preferences and no Denard Robinson, is there any type of scheme we can use to mitigate some of the anticipated inefficiences that seems to go with a youthful O-line until they mature? 


January 15th, 2013 at 11:07 AM ^

Basically we are looking at 9 players that started as second year players out off 100 starters over 20 years.  To try and get an idea about whether our second year players will be solid starters in 2013 you should really look at: a) the rankings of the 9 players that did it before (not every recruit because as has been pointed out most recruits are not in a position to start as a second year player because they should be blocked by an upper classman); b) the circumstances that lead those 9 players to start (did they beat out an upperclassman that was highly ranked, were there no better options etc...); c) whether their success varied based on position (maybe it's easier to be young and play guard); and d) whether the experience of the rest of the line had an impact (might be easier to be a successful second year left guard if your LT is an All-American).  I think this kind of comparison would better indicate the odds of the individual linemen for 2013 being solid starters.


January 15th, 2013 at 11:07 AM ^

One thing not mentioned was the OL coach during much of the underachieving naughts..Andy Moeller..a guy who had absolutely no business being anywhere near a major college offensive line. When faced with the underdevelopment (as individuals, and units) of so many talented recruits, at least part of the finger has to point there.


January 15th, 2013 at 1:24 PM ^

Yeah, fuck you Baltimore Ravens. Ray Rice had 1143 rushing yards and 4.4 YPR. Flacco was sacked the 20th most of 32 teams, despite being one of the least mobile of NFL QBs. Their line is pretty good.

Moeller was a very good coach at Michigan. His lines were always good, often times better. What are you talking about?