How To Have A Football Team Without Tackles Comment Count

Brian September 5th, 2018 at 11:26 AM

[Bryan Fuller]

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.



September 5th, 2018 at 11:41 AM ^

A question for the numerous coaches who frequent here--is there a way to scheme a functional offense when your tackles are this bad?  Or is it automatic DEATH?


September 5th, 2018 at 1:03 PM ^

This is what I believe the shift to RPOs is about.  You can't have a functional offense without tackles.  But if your tackles struggle with pass pro, seems like RPOs may mitigate that by allowing them to run block more often.  

Desert Wolverine

September 5th, 2018 at 8:50 PM ^

I disagree that you can't have a functional offense without Tackles (assuming you mean road grading bounce defensive ends into the stands level personnel as tackles).  You do have to change the expectations from a Pro style set.  Rich Rod, for all his other failures, was able to put points up without that hefty line.  We need to re-set playcalling to include more quick hitters and enough 7-12 yard passes to back the front seven out a little.  After that, variability to play calling has to be included or the QB situation is going to revert to the hospital ward it has been the past few seasons.


September 5th, 2018 at 11:44 AM ^

So Stueber, Mayfield and Hudson all see the field this year, and we're still thin at tackle next year but hopefully with functional starters.

Shouldn't Logan Tully-Tillman be on this as well?


September 5th, 2018 at 11:45 AM ^

The question I have is how much longer do we have to suffer through such poor o-lines?  Is it one year, two years, three years, etc?  Is it reasonable to think Hudson & Mayfield will be good enough to not be terrible in '19 or even possibly the second half of '18?  If they have the higher ceiling it really seems like we're better off taking our lumps the next few games, assuming they are somewhat proficient by the time conference play opens up.


September 5th, 2018 at 12:51 PM ^

Hypothetically you'd prefer everyone be 3rd, 4th, & 5th year players.  However, assuming Bredeson doesn't go early you'd have a Sr (Bredeson), Jr (Ruiz), Jr (Onwenu), in the middle, So (Mayfield) & RS So (Hudson) at the tackles.  That's only one guy that's below his third year in the program.  I don't think that's bad assuming Warriner returns and we don't have a major change to our scheme.  And, obviously it would help Mayfield & Hudson if they got some experience this season.

I Like Burgers

September 5th, 2018 at 1:15 PM ^

If we're talking next season, that's still a pair of tackles who are only in their second season of action at the position, so its still going to be a giant red flag and a big weak spot for that OL.

2018 is likely just going to be a really bad year for the OTs and the OL in general -- worse than last year.  2019 might see them get back to a plus version of 2017's bad OL.

2020 is going to be the year that there's actually some depth, experience, and age across the OL.


September 5th, 2018 at 12:23 PM ^

I agree, I just don't understand how this happens?  Take a ton of tackles each year, knowing that many will be guards or even a center.   Then you find a few good tackles in the bunch.   I also don't understand why Bredeson can't play tackle?  He seems to have the size for it.    

Seems the staff has been taking a ton of guards and TE's hoping they could find a tackle.   


September 5th, 2018 at 2:42 PM ^

It explains "how", but that does not placate someone who would consider it to be an integral, NO exceptions aspect of job performance.

I mean, I could explain to you "how" - thru a series of incidents of poor planning, poor judgment & plain ol bad luck- you came to have no product to sell when the market was ripe for a killing.

But you'd be just as fooked either way, whether it was plainly your "fault" or not! You failed at the most important aspect of running your business!

And firing your procurement officer (Drevno) 2 years down the road of miscalculations may NOT ensure your business survives thru the winter!

I Like Burgers

September 5th, 2018 at 12:32 PM ^

That 2016 class failure is just so, so bad.  Whatever impact you feel Newsome's injury may have had on the program the failure to recruit a single tackle in a class that should have had four of them is just so much worse.  It will continue to drag the offense down for at least this season and the next.

Goggles Paisano

September 5th, 2018 at 8:52 PM ^

 Take a ton of tackles each year, knowing that many will be guards or even a center.   Then you find a few good tackles in the bunch.

This is like college baseball teams recruiting a bunch of shortstops as they are often the best athletes on the field.  I would assume that most college lineman play tackle in high school.  I think the problem in recruiting all tackles is that college sized tackles don't grow on trees.  There just aren't that many of them, which is why we are in the boat we are in.  There are a lot teams in the same boat.  ND's tackles didn't impress either.  This may be why college football is no longer a pro-style offense type of game.  


September 5th, 2018 at 1:15 PM ^

It's probably just the randomness of recruiting vs a deficiency at recruiting one particular position. If by random chance we whiffed on a lot of guys at some other position, we'd be reading an article about how that's killing the program now.

Michigan also is working uphill in terms of academic standards, geography, and very likely large bags of money. It's not like you can offer someone anything more just because you really really need them, other than just more attention. 

I Like Burgers

September 5th, 2018 at 1:20 PM ^

Michigan also is working uphill in terms of academic standards, geography, and very likely large bags of money. It's not like you can offer someone anything more just because you really really need them, other than just more attention. 

I don't buy that for a second.  Wisconsin, Iowa, MSU, ND, etc all have the same limitations Michigan does.  Stanford too.  But they all manage to field offensive lines that aren't crippling to their offenses.


September 5th, 2018 at 2:16 PM ^

All those have recruiting limitations because of those factors. Michigan, on average, recruits as well or better as those, but a step behind the football factory schools. The limitation just happened to manifest itself very acutely in one position in the case of Michigan. Whether that's Drevno being a moron or just dumb luck is anyone's guess, but I tend to think it's the latter. 


September 5th, 2018 at 11:49 AM ^

Thanks?  I mean, this post is a rehashed kick in the groin.  But I can think of 27 posters off the top of my head that needed the refresher!

Can I still be hopeful that Hudson is plowing ahead and will take over LT during, or just after, WMU?  I think I'm okay with JBB on the right, seeing that he was largely okay against the run last year.  Surely he'll get back to that level by this week, right?

(To answer my own question - yes, I'm still hopeful Hudson has upside that, so far, has been stymied by the playbook...)


September 5th, 2018 at 12:59 PM ^

I think they will improve.  That was their first game action together as one unit and did not get a couple of patsy-type games to iron things out.  I think the o-line will round into form.  It did improve last year as the season went on, still not great, but there was noticeable improvement.  I don't think everything needs to be a "narrative" like a lot of people on here seem to need.  We have tackles on our team, they just had a bad game.  (And if there is a narrative to that game, it wasn't the offensive line, it was a really poor defensive performance with players out of position, failing to stop crucial third and longs, and committing brutal penalties that contributed directly to all three ND touchdown drives).

True Blue Grit

September 5th, 2018 at 11:50 AM ^

I wonder how Drevno was presumably able to scare off so many good recruits.  With all the other great selling points of coming to Michigan (academics, top flight facilities, academic support, Harbaugh, etc.) why did all of them still choose other schools?  Maybe he had really bad breath.  


September 5th, 2018 at 12:53 PM ^

By Signing Day 2016 I was convinced drevno is not a good recruiter. I think he's probably a good guy but too trusting and not enough of a sales guy to stay on recruits and convince them they're a priority. All of that blindsiding was on him and I remember reading about Becton falling off and then Michigan having to send Harbaugh and Partridge to try to fix it. He should have fired drevno right then. He's paying for it now.