Site note: due to an extensive and very frustrating search to replace the media file conversion program step in the UFR process things are going to be delayed a day. Finding a non-scammy FFMPEG wrapper is the hardest thing to do in the world, except recruit tackles, I guess.
You may ask yourself "how does a bonafide P5 team of some repute enter a season with no functional tackles?" Well, here's how. Bolded players are recruits who are not on the roster whether via decommit or other reason.
Michigan enters the season with—surprise—an insufficient number of tackles due to poor recruiting. The late RichRod era's recruiting collapse saw literally zero junior or senior tackles make it to the 2014 roster. Erik Magnuson, an early Hoke pickup, flips out from guard to start a fairly good three-year career at right tackle. None of the other recruits are ready; most will never be ready.
The most ready of the unready: Mason Cole, a true freshman. He starts at left tackle. He is a very good freshman offensive lineman, which means he's barely surviving. Michigan has to play him; a stable program with guys in the pipeline gets a redshirt on him, and likely makes him available this year.
The dissolution of the Hoke era is in full swing at this juncture; Michigan only picks up one other OL in this recruiting class. That's Juwann Bushell-Beatty, who gave up seven pressures on Saturday.
[After THE JUMP: more of this post]
The Hoke era implodes spectacularly, taking Michigan's recruiting with it. Hoke does manage to leave Harbaugh one parting gift: Grant Newsome. Newsome looks to be on his way towards a productive career when a Wisconsin defensive back submarines him on an edge run, leading to a 40-day hospital stay and eventually Newsome's medical retirement.
The only other OL in the class are Jon Runyan Jr, who just gave up eight pressures on Saturday, and Nolan Ulizio, who had a brief and rather disastrous starting tenure at the beginning of last year. Runyan is a legacy recruit Hoke acquired. Ulizio is the first OL recruit of the Harbaugh era, a wild swing in the dark at a Kentucky commit. Michigan does pick up Ty Wheatley Jr, a tight end who Michigan wants to move to tackle for basically his whole career because he keeps showing up near 300 pounds. He refuses and eventually transfers.
Harbaugh's first full class has no tackles in it. Michigan does pick up Ben Bredeson, who's listed as an OT by recruiting sites but after an offseason battle with Newsome for the LT job as a true freshman gets moved to guard and is apparently never again a consideration to play outside.
Hamilton (right) is the most painful decommit in a minute
Devery Hamilton decommits late in the cycle, which blindsides Michigan despite the fact that Hamilton's high school coach has a kid on the team. Hamilton sees significant LT snaps for Stanford as a redshirt freshman and is now starting at guard for them. Erik Swenson is booted from the class in December when Michigan had to know many months before that they didn't want him. Michigan replaces him with Stephen Spanellis, who looks like he'll be a good player but who has also gotten no consideration at tackle.
Michigan airballs on a ton of guys who they seemed in play for at one point: Aaron Banks, Alex Leatherwood, Isaiah Wilson, Jedrick Wills, Kai-Leon Herbert (a decommit), and Mekhi Becton all head elsewhere. A number of those are the sort of guy who can play immediately. Some do not because they're at Alabama or Georgia or Notre Dame; Becton immediately walks into Louisville's starting lineup.
Michigan takes Chuck Filiaga,—another guy who is permanently a guard—Andrew Stueber, and Joel Honigford. They move James Hudson over from defense in fall camp. All redshirt, so hooray for that. None were able to push through the starting tackles. So boo to that.
These are true freshmen who should not be expected to play. Michigan may have gotten lucky on Jalen Mayfield, a man growing by the day, and could end up inserting him so he can be Mason Cole. Ryan Hayes is about 30 pounds too light to play.
There is a world where Michigan has Newsome and Cole at tackle, but we are clearly not on the good timeline. Even so, the number of bolded names here is too low to point the finger at the general bloody-mindedness of the universe, and three of those are bad decisions or recruiting by the Michigan coaching staff: trusting the commitment of a kid who visited Stanford, not pulling the trigger on Swenson fast enough to find a real replacement, and taking and then losing Herbert.
The rest of it is a litany of recruiting misses by Drevno. Some of those are understandable and a natural cost of going and getting a sitting NFL coach. When Harbaugh and Drevno hit the ground in 2015 they'd been out of the recruiting game for four years and had three weeks to do anything. Missing there is understandable.
The bomb that just went off is most traceable back to the 2016 class, which should have had four tackles in it and had zero. Michigan swung and missed at a lot of top-end guys in 2017, a class that did almost have four tackles in it. It's a much harder ask to go up against Alabama and Georgia's cash than it is to find a solid prospect who will be ready by year three; once Drevno failed in his second year the goose was more or less cooked. Greg Frey's recruiting style is excellent in the long term but does not usually produce year-one starters.