Preview 2013: Offensive Line

Submitted by Brian on August 27th, 2013 at 4:22 PM

Previously: Podcast 5.0, The Story, Quarterback, Running Back, Wide Receiver, Tight End and Friends.

Depth Chart
LT Yr. LG Yr. C Yr. RG Yr. RT Yr.
Taylor Lewan Sr.* Graham Glasgow So.* Jack Miller So.* Kyle Kalis Fr.* Michael Schofield Sr.*
Ben Braden Fr.* Chris Bryant So.* Joey Burzynski Jr.* Alex Bars Fr.* Erik Magnuson Fr.*

There's nothing in-between for this offensive line. Either it's the tackles, both redshirt seniors who will get drafted next April, or it's the interior, all new starters in flux. While things almost literally can't be worse

A single zero yard run was –6?

Yup.

I try to keep two things in balance: the same blocks get the same scores and a zero yard run adds up to about the same thing as any other zero yard run, but when three blocks get whiffed and any of them would have been sufficient to blow up the play, well, here we are. Thinking of that picture from the 2007 OSU game.

…Michigan can't tread water here and expect to tread water overall. Denard Robinson's 7.2 YPC is out the door.

The way this went down gives some reason for concern. Not at right guard, where Kalis was the anointed from day one, at the other two spots.It's clear Michigan wanted Ben Braden to lock down the left guard job, and clear that Braden just could not, for whatever reason. His move outside totally withdraws him from the competition on the interior and leaves Michigan starting at least one player by default. Michigan saw what "by default" can lead to last year. While that isn't likely to recur, neither does the situation promise an amazing one-year turnaround.

Tackle

Rating: 5 of 5

9495710418_921b8d558e_c[1]

[Bryan Fuller]

TAYLOR LEWAN
hates donkeys
donkeys end to other T
buries linebacker
clubs Kittredge
does it again
erases Hageman
big kickout
go away DT
agile
able to pull
second level
clowney'd
well that'll happen

You know, you hear a guy comparing some high school kid from Arizona to the best left tackle in the history of the program and you get a little excited but in the back of your head you think of Kevin Grady and countless other hype machines that turned to dust and you try to keep your head on straight. And then the guy shows up and is basically Jake Long, down to his decision to return for a senior year the NFL deems entirely unnecessary.

Yes: TAYLOR LEWAN is back for one last crack at a Big Ten championship. His last outing in a winged helmet was a titanic matchup with Jadeveon Clowney in which he held Clowney to three tackles (unfortunately one of them was a crushing TFL on which Clowney beat him straight up, see right) and no quarterback pressure.

Lewan is a returning All-American who kept Clowney quiet until he turned Vincent Smith into mist. (Smith immediately reassembled himself, T1000-style, and jogged off the field. Vincent Smith is from Pahokee.) In fact, you and I can both remember the only time last year when a pass rusher got the best of Lewan for a sack: it was Adolphus Washington in the Ohio State game. So… pretty much the worst time to give it up, but we'll take it.

FWIW, Lewan accumulated a total of –10 across 13 games in pass protection. This was significantly higher than his –4 last year, but 2011 Taylor Lewan didn't take on Alabama, suddenly great Notre Dame, and South Carolina. Adjusted for quality of competition, Lewan was on par with his sophomore year. The NFL liked it enough to project him around 10th in the draft.

But wait, there's more! While Clowney did secretly beat up on Lewan on the ground, he was far and away Michigan's best run blocker a year ago:

Opponent + - Total Notes
Alabama 2.5 1 1.5 Above zero!
Air Force 8 - 8 Blew some guys off the ball; locked out edge guys.
UMass 7.5 1 6.5 Dominating in this game.
Notre Dame 8.5 2 6.5 Got quality motion.
Purdue 10.5 4 6.5 Best drive blocker on the line.
Illinois 5.5 4 1.5 Would have been fine but pulled on a spring counter going his way.
MSU 6.5 4 2.5 Busted huge on one 6 yard loss, otherwise good.
Nebraska 2 2 0 They aren't really running any plays on which his blocking is relevant. That is bizarre.
Minnesota 8 1 7 Iso counter and sprint counter got tackles more involved.
Northwestern 5.5 2 3.5 Okay for him.
Iowa 7 1.5 5.5 More involved. Like it when he is involved.
South Carolina 4.5 9 -4.5 Clowney is like the endboss of Donkey Kong.

He picked up some big minuses for busts; other than that he was impeccable. So why are those numbers topping out at +8 when a guy like David Molk regularly got into the mid-teens?

It's the same story from last year: pulling folks was futile. For whatever reason, Patrick Omameh was able to get out to the second level on zone plays like a mofo but never got the hang of pulling. Canonical example:

When the right guard does that on the regular, it's difficult to get your face-mashing left tackle involved. Darryl Funk inadvertently sums up the entire problem with Michigan's ground game in one painful joke:

I was kidding actually Taylor about this the other day.  Every year we kind of recycle some pictures in the line room and I’ll get some action shots.  I told Taylor, geez, ‘Schofield is in every one of these pictures and where are you?’ (Laughter). 

That's too close to home, too near the bone, man.

Lewan's lack of impact in the run game is a problem with the offense, not Lewan, and it's one Michigan has to fix. You cannot have an All-American tackle that you can't use in the run game and be any good. Meanwhile if they can do that, the run game instantly becomes credible.

Lewan is likely to repeat as an All-American for a lot of reasons: talent, momentum, media profile after the Clowney matchup. He should be close to the same player he was in 2012, but with fewer mental mistakes and hopefully more involvement. Everything else should be about the same but the UFR chart, which should have consistent double-digit positive performances as long as Kyle Kalis is what he's cracked up to be.

[After THE JUMP: Schofield, Kalis, and then doubt. Plus backups, tons of 'em! Eventually!]

8647593632_d60a4bc243_b[1]

Bryan Fuller

On the right side, MICHAEL SCHOFIELD returns for his second year there and third overall as a starter. He had a rough start to the season and struggled throughout the season against large people in the run game. His mobility was a consistent asset, though, and his pass protection was quality.

Schofield picked up a total of –13 in pass protection for the season, which conveniently averages out to –1 per game. You get –2 for getting pwned, FWIW. While that's not Lewan-level dominance—especially given that Lewan is the guy drawing the top-shelf rushers—it is solidly above-average. If he takes a reasonable step forward as a senior he'll be an All Big Ten level performer in that half of the game.

As a run blocker, Schofield was up and down. UFR chart (Ohio State was not charted for reasons of national security):

Opponent + - Total Notes
Alabama 1 9 -8 woof
Air Force 3 2 1 Not tested that much.
UMass 3.5 0.5 3 Got beat once in pass pro, but fine. Think people got a little panicked because of Alabama.
Notre Dame 7 6 1 Roughed up a little, but came through okay.
Purdue 10 8 2 Gets pushed back more than the other linemen.
Illinois 9.5 - 9.5 Pulls and operation in space and DE kicks; best day at M.
MSU 6 1 5 Rush, a smaller guy, didn't give him much trouble.
Nebraska 2 1.5 0.5 --
Minnesota 10 1 9 Coming on strong after awkward start.
Northwestern 2 3 -1 Got bashed back a couple times.
Iowa 4 1.5 2.5 Bit of a recovery.
South Carolina 6 3 3 Took on Not Clowney, enjoyed not playing Clowney.

Our general guideline is that you want a 2:1 ratio for overall success in the run game. Schofield almost never did that. He either obliterated the competition, barely kept his head above water, or was imploded.

A lot of those run positives were based on his ability to move, which he can really do. Ask Jeremy Gallon:

"Michigan's tackles can move in space really, really well." -me

MICHAEL SCHOFIELD
very good in space
throwback screen cut
second level shove 
Illinois seal
can also pull
rides this stretch forever
can get some movement
gets push for first down
 fights to get around and seal
buries DT
pounds dude out of hole
will whiff
never turn around!
can get blown back
almost loses this badly

When Schofield was at guard, Michigan preferred to pull him instead of Omameh despite the fact that pulling Schofield makes Taylor Lewan's donkey-murdering ways irrelevant. At tackle, he is a key component of those throwback screens.

At the point of attack he is not Lewan. He has had trouble dealing with large angry people, especially 3-4 defensive ends. When he does get a good block it is generally delivered with less authority. Funk:

"I’ve got a lot laundry list for him that I’ve been very clear and specific on what he needs to do and probably the number one concept is that he has to understand is that he has to play at more confidence and more of a nasty streak.  If he does that, yeah he’ll take his game to another level. He's got a lot of talent."

Schofield did have a couple of promising DT-obliterations in the bowl game and in his final year improved strength and technique should bring this part of his game up from acceptable to good.

When Michigan tries to take advantage of Schofield's mobility, good things happen. Michigan should be able to do that more consistently if—yes, this again—they can be a left-handed team that makes people freak out about Kalis pulling to Lewan. In those situations, your counters are going to include screens in space with Schofield out front. Those are pretty good plays.

Schofield should be an All Big Ten level performer as a senior. Maybe not first team, but it'll be a surprise if he's not somewhere in there.

BACKUPS

11290091[1]8649791494_8f2b5f338b_b[1]

[Oblig. Braden photo via Tim Sullivan, The Wolverine/Bryan Fuller]

Left guard BEN BRADEN was just one of those guys who you could feel would defy his recruiting rankings. An early commit to Michigan with zero interest in the camp circuit, he spent half of his high school career playing hockey until a growth spurt took him into Zdeno Chara land, from which only Zdeno Chara escapes playing hockey. The other half of his career he spent crushing West Michigan competition

"I've never seen a human being move as well as that Ben Braden at this level. I was standing on that field, and I didn't feel good about putting my kids in front of him. He's huge, and he's a really good player."

…and going to Michigan's camp, and only Michigan's camp. The local evaluators marveled at his combination of size and athleticism, noted his rawness, and slapped a generic three-star eval on him.

A year into his Michigan career, the recruiting evaluations mostly hold, if not the ratings. Braden's massive physical talent has drawn awed raves from teammate after teammate. This is quite a statement from a projected first-round NFL draft pick who has presumably used a mirror at some point in the past twenty years:

"Genetically, he's a freak. That's how it is. He's unbelievable. … He's the most physically gifted individual I've ever seen in my life. He's 322 pounds, 6-foot-7 and he has 12 percent body fat." …

"He just has to put it all together," Lewan said. "Finish through the whistle, play with technique, know his plays all those things.

"But physically? Ask any player. Go up to anyone and say 'what's Ben Braden like as an athlete?' They'll tell you, 'he's unbelievable."

Elsewhere in gushing quotes, here's an interaction between Sam Webb and Brady Hoke:

I remember walking through this summer and Brady stopping me and he said, 'man Sam, look at that guy!' And it was Ben Braden.  He said, ‘that’s how they are supposed to look.’ 

When on earth does Brady Hoke say that?

I'd heard much the same from various folks who had experienced Ben Braden's high school career before 2012's co-MGoSleeper Of The Year (along with Jehu Chesson).

But.

But Ben Braden did not win the job at left guard. Why? Well, I remember one pass play in spring where Jibreel Black tore through him like he was not there. Darryl Funk gave an idea of the kind of things he was having issues with:

"Ben, he struggled early with some things.  It’s different cutting off the nose guard or double on the nose guard, versus power on a 260 pound defensive end that is fast.”

This space says that Braden's footwork was not fast enough on the interior and that he lacked the outrageous agility Schofield displays on that screen above to pull. You can play guard if you're a Rodriguez-era nimble guy who happens to be 300 pounds. Braden's assets don't include that.

So he's a tackle. He's the first guy off the bench in case of injury and Lewan's heir apparent. There are worse things.

UM-scrimmage-Lewan-Magnuson[1]

here's some advice: be like me

Redshirt freshman ERIK MAGNUSON [recruiting profile] has a Steve Everitt-approved name and plenty of recruiting hype; he is likely the #4 tackle after the starters and Braden. Unfortunately, after a year in the program he's still listed at 285. That's not unacceptably slight, but these days it is suboptimal.

Magnuson is a left tackle in the making with great feet and pass protection skills; he won't have Lewan's hatred for donkey if he can't climb above 300 pounds. The donkey-hater himself:

“Magnuson’s been doing a great job. I think his strong suit is the pass [protection]. He could do a little bit better and have some improvement in his run game, but everyone’s doing pretty well.”

That may not be a huge negative if Braden develops into a Runyan-esque road grader on the opposite side. As fourth options at tackle go he's a pretty good one.

There is no scenario save Armageddon that will see a true freshman tackle step on the field. In dire straits Michigan will flip their guards outside and bring slightly more experienced guys into the fray. But those freshman are guys to keep in mind for the future.

CHRIS FOX [recruiting profile] comes in highly touted; unfortunately, he also comes in after a serious knee injury (ACL plus double meniscus) and has ballooned up to 338 pounds according to the fall roster. He is a lock to redshirt and will need at least two years before he's a real threat to play.

LOGAN TULEY-TILLMAN [recruiting profile] is sushi raw and coming off a massive summer weight fluctuation that saw him climb from 280 to 340—or more—and then drop back down. He has the frame of an NFL first-rounder; it'll just take him a while to get there.

INTERIOR LINE

Rating: 2 of 5.

This was the most embarrassing section of last year's preview. A collection of folks who couldn't get anyone not named Denard Robinson more than a yard got a 4 of 5 in our ranking system. To be fair, the klaxons started going off about a day after last year's edition of this post went up when Michigan flipped its starting LG and C on the eve of the season. That boded unwell. All bodings were redeemed in full, with INTEREST OF PAIN tacked on.

Those guys are all gone, leaving Michigan to start over with gentlemen less experienced—zero upperclassmen are in contention to play—but far more suited to do the things Brady Hoke would like them to do. As a bonus, Michigan actually has options in case things aren't working out as well as they'd like them to. Superior options? No. But one option is one more than they had last year.

Kyle_Kalis_Action-thumb-646x547-83764[1]

At right guard, KYLE KALIS [recruiting profile] emerges into the starting job he thought—I thought—you thought—he'd claim last year. There's no reason to wonder why that didn't happen, as multiple coaches have been blunt about why he was stuck on the bench even when Michigan couldn't block an inside run to save their lives. Borges:

"When Kyle came in, he wasn’t really ready to play yet. It was a little overwhelming from a systematic perspective, as much as anything. Not so much physically, but just learning how to play big-time football. …

"Early on, (Kalis was) still battling some of the systematic growing pains that go with a new player. It was all awareness. Just playing with each other a little bit and having a feel for exactly what the other guy is going to do."

From Kalis's perspective it was obvious:

“Taylor knew coming in what kind of guy I was,” Kalis said. “He definitely saw when I actually started playing with him that I was the same kind of guy he was. Right off the bat, it started last year, it was a long process. All last season, I was playing like an idiot during practice.”

As problems go, being mentally overwhelmed as a freshman is the best one to have. It wasn't about size or strength or technique, it was just about knowing where to go on play X. As long as Kalis progresses as normal in that department, he is still on track to live up to the epic recruiting hype. Even Taylor Lewan redshirted.

People began to get worried early in spring when Joey Burzynski was running ahead of Kalis, but about midway through the light went on. Borges again:

"Kyle, from the first day to the last day, really improved his game. He’s a powerful kid who can run-block and is learning the technique in our passing game."

Funk:

"About halfway through spring, all of a sudden, he quit blowing assignments and started to become consistent. He did a good job from the middle of spring on, where I got a comfort level with him."

Since then he has been a mortal lock to start. That death lock on a job is something to believe in. Maybe not as much as it will be next year or the year after since options at the other guard spot are thin, but it's still something you can lend your confidence to. When Hoke is saying stuff like ""He really just has been so consistent," which is not anything like things he says about other players, confidence follows.

If Kalis has the mental part down, all the other pieces are in place. Reputed to be the strongest guy on the team, his work ethic is unquestioned

"He has had another monster summer.  Every time I talked to Coach Wellman or anyone down there, they say in some way, shape, or form, ‘man Kalis is killing it!’  He is in great shape.  He is right about 300 pounds.  He is running better than he ever has." –Funk

…and he was reputed to be an extraordinarily advanced technician coming out of high school. That and the strength get you the five star ranking. If he's making the right decisions, he'll be blowing people off the ball.

Insider practice buzz has been positive—Kalis is a "huge upgrade" as a puller—and is a much more natural fit for Michigan's offense than the departed Patrick Omameh, who was agile but struggled with big, strong defensive tackles. Kalis should be an upgrade in year one and on a stardom track in year two.

8647559334_4580e9b90a_b[1]

The left guard spot has undergone significant turmoil since the end of last season. Initially, it was Braden's job to lose. He acquired that pile of hype above during this period. Then, GRAHAM GLASGOW was a serious threat in late spring:

Graham Glasgow seems to be making a serious push for playing time. He got plenty of snaps with the ones at both guard spots and center. He was the nominal starter at left guard over Ben Braden; at the very least it seems like he'll be the first interior lineman off the bench in the event a starter is hurt. He's their utility infielder.

Then Braden had locked the job down and the only battle was Glasgow/Miller at center, then Braden was suddenly flipped out to tackle and Chris Bryant was playing with the ones and looking really good (despite having a knee drained). Now it looks like Glasgow.

No sugarcoat: this bodes unwell. You can have a level of confidence about the right guard spot because one guy emerged mid-spring and has not been challenged since. The melee at left guard signals that no one has the coaches' confidence.

In any case, Glasgow is the man, or at least the man with the first shot. As a walk-on, Glasgow has no recruiting profile. All we have to go on are quotes, like this one from Lewan:

"He's 6-6 and nasty. He does whatever you ask him to do. If it's the end of a long practice and they want us back out there, he's the first one."

Encouraging! But is walk-on. Is this doom? Normally this would be extremely ominous, as it was last year when walk-on Joey Burzynski was the sixth OL.

It's still a little bit ominous, but Glasgow has three things going for him that Burzynski does not:

  • SIZE: at 6'6", 305,—and growing—Glasgow has five inches and twenty pounds on Burzynski. As ESPN is wont to say, he has the size for the major level of competition.
  • BACKGROUND: Glasgow was originally going to walk on at Ohio State before flipping, and his similarly massive brother is pressing for playing time on the defensive line. Either could have gotten scholarships at smaller programs if they were interested.
  • CONTEXT: Burzynski beat out only lightly recruited true freshmen and other walk-ons to claim his spot as the #6 guy; Glasgow is competing with Chris Bryant (injured last year), Blake Bars, Ben Braden, and touted early enrollee Kyle Bosch.

It's still not ideal, but OL come from weird places and it sounds like Bryant is offering stiff competition. If Glasgow isn't up to it he'll get yanked. Michigan couldn't do that a year ago. It is encouraging that Michigan deployed Glasgow all over the place in spring:

I can't tell you I noticed a lot of details live, but one thing did jump out: Graham Glasgow seems to be making a serious push for playing time. He got plenty of snaps with the ones at both guard spots and center. He was the nominal starter at left guard over Ben Braden; at the very least it seems like he'll be the first interior lineman off the bench in the event a starter is hurt. He's their utility infielder.

He has been competing for a spot for a while; he has the mental flexibility to play various places.

This is a huge X-factor. Glasgow could be average-to-good; he could be a replay of last year's struggles. Anyone telling you which is guessing.

molkmiller-Heiko_1[1]

“For the record I’d like to point out that I’m bigger than David. He was able to show me a couple different ways that I can get by, so I was really lucky to have him for a year.” –Jack Miller

At center, it's a battle that has a tentative but not definitive resolution. Redshirt sophomore JACK MILLER [recruiting profile] is the guy snapping to Gardner in practice and will get the job.

The bad news is that he's almost won the job by default if we are operating under two assumptions: Braden was just not cut out to play guard and Michigan can't rely on Bryant to stay healthy. If those things are true, Michigan is wise to have Glasgow focus on left guard whether he ends up starting or not and Miller hasn't really beaten out anyone.

The good news is that this is Miller's third year of playing center, and only center. Last year the incredibly late flip of Mealer to center—literally two days before the Alabama game—boded unwell. While Mealer had been splitting reps there during fall practice, the reason he was doing that was Barnum's lack of ability. Michigan is upgrading in experience here despite going from a senior to a sophomore.

If he's going to be good, he's going to have to be like Molk: agile, mean, and sound. Miller on Miller:

“It’s no mystery that I’m not the biggest center, the biggest offensive lineman, so I need to be technically sound at all times,” Miller said. “I don’t have the longest arms, I’m not the heaviest guy, so if I’m not perfect in technique, then I’m not afforded the luxury of being able to make up for that.”

“I need to be perfect. If I can do that then I stand a chance.”

It's a little worrisome that Miller was not considered for playing time last year even as Michigan struggled immensely. He was a redshirt freshman at that point, undersized but even so you'd think rolling him out is an option when you can't identify the middle linebacker. But Michigan barely discussed moving Barnum or Mealer out of the starting lineup in favor of Miller, let alone tried it.

Then Michigan decided Braden was the guy and had Glasgow compete with Miller. Hopefully that's just a bias towards size, because if Miller is as shaky as those things imply Michigan is going to be slogging forward in fits and starts. A mediocre performance would be a win here.

BACKUPS

Braden's move outside promises to be temporary if injury strikes on the interior. Michigan has depth and talent on the way, but right now that depth is mostly true freshmen.

Chris-Bryant-thumb-646x429-120388[1]8646208539_30978329f0_b[1]

Bryant and Bars in spring 2012 and 2013, respectively (AnnArbor.com, Bryan Fuller)

The only guy it seems like Michigan might prefer over Braden if they have to reach to the backups is CHRIS BRYANT [recruiting profile], who Rich Rodriguez inexplicably recruited despite the fact that he's an enormous road-grading guard more suitable for MANBALL than the spread. Yes. Miraculously, a Rodriguez-recruited lineman remains on the team.

Bryant is equal parts promise and peril. The peril is obvious: he missed all of last season with a broken tibia, was still not ready to go in spring because of that injury, reportedly was experiencing pain in his shin as late as this fall, and missed Michigan's first scrimmage because he had to have his knee drained of fluid. Even if he is healthy enough to play, how long will that last?

The promise is that Bryant is not a man you want to see pulling if you are a linebacker. Kenny Demens gave some scoop to Sam Webb in March:

I’ve always been a fan of Chris Bryant. That has been my favorite offensive lineman since his freshman year.  I remember his freshman year he was on scout team… whenever he pulled, I don’t care if you were Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, myself, whoever… when Chris Bryant pulled, you were nervous.  You were nervous!  Chris Bryant brings the pain.  There’s no doubt about it.

James Ross said something similar. Sam Webb relates it:

…in talking to (James Ross), I asked him ‘who’s the guy you don’t want to see?’ He said ‘I’ll see anyone, but the guy I have to prepare for, Chris Bryant. He really is bringing it this fall.’

Borges makes it sound like if Bryant had not had the injury last year he would have started, which is 1) obvious and 2) encouraging:

"When Chris got hurt last year we were in the second week of two-a-days or whenever, and he was really playing good.  He was coming off the football, his weight was down, and he was looking more athletic than I have seen him.  … When Chris gets underneath you, you’re going back.  … he was vying for a starting position and probably in position to take one.  … he has got good leverage.  He is strong.  He is tough."

Bryant is more guard-shaped than the other suitors for that spot at 6'4", and if pulling is a strength Brady Hoke would like to subscribe to your newsletter. Insider scuttlebutt that has reached my ears has been super-positive about both his ability and his spot on the depth chart, but then you get reports from the Mott practice and Glasgow is definitively ahead of him. And then the depth chart.

We'll see if Bryant's spot on the depth chart is a precautionary one that changes mid-season. Bryant moving into the starting lineup would be a positive long term… as long as he says healthy.

Michigan also has BLAKE BARS [recruiting profile], a redshirt freshman who is amongst the least-heralded linemen Michigan's recruited in the last few years. This means he's a guy on the 3/4 star borderline with Penn State, Florida and LSU offers, but it is what it is. He has not been mentioned much since his enrollment and didn't' show up on the rough two-deep provided by the Mott practice. He needs more time.

Kyle Bosch[1]rec_e_kuglers_576[1]

Bosch, Kugler with the damn paterfamilias (unknown/ESPN)

No offense intended to Bars, but if you ask me to guess wildly at who the next man in on the interior is, I'd name one of two freshmen. Guard KYLE BOSCH [recruiting profile] had a who's-who of offers and accolades when he kicked off Michigan's eight four-star weekend about a year and a half ago; he also enrolled early. That'll give him the edge on his classmates; his health gives him an edge on Bryant; his size and nastiness gives him an edge on Bars. Ideally Michigan redshirts their entire OL class, but if push comes to shove Bosch will shove back. Lewan:

Kyle Bosch "isn't the most athletic guy in the world," he said, "but he's a football player. A football player."

The other freshman with a slim chance to see the field is PATRICK KUGLER [recruiting profile], who is as close to a sure thing that exists in the murky world of offensive line recruiting. Kugler is the son of Sean Kugler, who was so good at being the Pittsburgh Steelers' OL coach that he leapt directly from that job to the head coaching position at UTEP this offseason. Kugler comes with piles of accolades for his frame, strength, toughness, technique, and mental acuity—ie, everything.

The only catch is a torn labrum that required surgery shortly after Signing Day. That is a rather large catch when you're talking about a true freshman attempting to supplant a couple veterans. Any setback costs you time and strength you don't have. Kugler will be in serious competition for playing time by next year at the latest, midseason at the earliest. Midseason cannot be considered a good sign despite the pedigree.

david dawson[1]665674[1]

Dawson, Samuelson (twitter, 247)

Michigan also has a couple more freshmen who will likely end up on the interior line. DAVID DAWSON [recruiting profile] comes in with a lot of hype after a star-crossed recruitment that ended happily. He is a Cass Tech kid, though, and those guys usually take some time. With Bosch an early enrollee it would be a major upset if Dawson didn't redshirt. DAN SAMUELSON [recruiting profile] is another inside-outside swing guy; Michigan grabbed him away from Nebraska late. As the least hyped of the offensive linemen he'll need at least a year of development to start defying those recruiting rankings.

DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW MUCH LONGER THIS SECTION IS THAN LIKE THE LAST FIVE YEARS? WOOO! (Woo for next year, mostly.)

Comments

M-Wolverine

August 27th, 2013 at 4:43 PM ^

And determined the week before the first game everyone comes back, vs. say, two weeks before the first game? Because it seems like you could create traffic flow over a greater period of time by spreading these out over two weeks rather than cramming them all in in one week (along with all the regular features) and having people have to rush through them (and have very little to give them some days in the last few weeks). But maybe you've already determined that the numbers go up starting game week 1, and then drop after the bowl game that the net gain is better if you keep people on here all day this week because you have more eyes then. Just wondering.

Wolverine 73

August 27th, 2013 at 5:07 PM ^

That seems a little conservative to me.  I think they will be at least average (3/5) this year.  I think each of the three players will be marginally better than the player he replaced, and Kalis may be a whole lot better. 

But wait till 2015 when the two huge OL classes are redshirt juniors and sophomores!

jsquigg

August 27th, 2013 at 5:24 PM ^

I'm really interested in how the line progresses, because it regressed last year.  Hoke raves about the point of attack.  These are his guys coming in so the interior line better not be a dumpster fire.

TheDirtyD

August 27th, 2013 at 5:45 PM ^

I could have sworn that I read somewhere that Braden moved outside before fall camp oir very early into camp since Bryant had been performing so well. Speaking of Chris Bryant I had also heard he had the LG spot won until his leg issue, in fact the staff wanted Braden to be the first OT off the bench and Glasgow to be the first G,C off the bench. I am almost 100% certain on that. Either Glasgow has flat out beat Bryant or he's still hurt. Putting Braden inside wouldn't help his devlopment in anyway since he and Magnuson will likely start at both OT spots next year.

UMaD

August 27th, 2013 at 6:01 PM ^

Kalis vs. Omameh

I'm willing to buy that Kalis could run-block better than Omameh - he has more talent and is a better fit for the scheme - but the recent arguments on this blog would have you think every run play involves the LG pulling.  Furthermore, it'd be a pretty big surprise if Kalis ended up a better pass blocker. In aggregate, this is a POSSIBLE upgrade, but far from a slam dunk. 

Apparently August is a time to look down upon departed seniors from the previous year.  It's worth remembering that Omameh was a pretty good player. A "B or B+" player, according to this blog.  Not an NFL player, but a good solid veteran Big 10 linemen.  As was pointed out last year - Omameh beat out Schofield; he was no slouch.  Replacing a 4-year starter named to an all-conference team is a high bar, even if said OL wasn't good at pulling.

As for Kalis, remember this was a a guy who couldn't beat out, not only Omameh, but also Mealer and Barnum last year.  Being a freshman is a viable excuse if you're projecting his NFL potential, but he's still a RS freshman and consistency will still be an issue with him, like any mortal.  It is possible he is Steve Hutchinson, but you're talking about an NFL hall-of-famer - chances of that are pretty slim.

Barnum vs. Glasgow

Barnum was a highly touted recruit who pushed for playing time whenever he wasn't hurt and 5th year Senior.  He could not snap, but he played tackle and guard adequately.  This year; he's replaced by a walk-on.  Preferred walk-on or not, big walk-on or not, there is no way this is an upgrade. Barnum beat out Glasgow and everybody else last year, and he would again if he had a 6th year on the team.  This is not doom, but it is not good.  We have little real evidence that Bryant or Burzynski or Braden are actually "stiff competition".  The coach's comments need to be taken with a grain of salt.  All we really have is hope. 

The fact is: a walk-on with no significant offers is starting on the OL. The last time this happened things went very badly.  Won't be that bad this year (the competition is deep enough that there's little worry Glasgow isn't at least decent) and Glasgow certainly appears better than your typical walk-on, but that doesn't say much.

Miller vs. Mealer

"Michigan is upgrading in experience" is LOL-rationalization.  Mealer didn't play much, but he had been practicing for nearly 4 years on this team while Miller has played even less and been practicing for 2.  Center or not, this is not more experience. 

It isn't "a little worrisome" that Miller didn't compete for playing time it's VERY worrisome.  The first guy in was Burzynski, not Miller.  Miller was not a true freshman, he was a 2nd year player that Rodriguez recruited.  He was small, but he's still small, and the even smaller Burzynski was in ahead of him.  Unless he made a major leap, this is going to be a downgrade and potentially a very very bad one.  The competition with Glasgow would indicate he did not make the leap.

This is scary.

Summary

The logical leaps made above are uncharacteristic for this blog.  It's unusual to ignore red-flags like walk-ons and newbs and failures to win jobs without any real competition. Rationalizing them away with arguments like "he's bigger than burzynski" and "he has practiced the position for 2 years so he is experienced" is less than convincing.

The OL play absolutely CAN be worse than last year. If they tread water this year it'll mean Hecklinski did a great job.

With Bryant back and the freshman off their red-shirts this is a deeper group, that much is true.  Depth is nice, but the starters are likely to be a downgrade on the inside.  Maybe the tackles and TEs (Williams is the worst blocker in that lead video) will improve enough to offset the downgrade on the interior.  But maybe not. 

I don't expect a disaster, but I expect plenty of difficulty.  Some bad sacks, blown assignments, and struggles running the ball against good defenses.  The future of the OL is very bright with all the talent that's been brought in, but the present looks like it could be a struggle, despite having Lewan and Schofield.

WolvinLA2

August 27th, 2013 at 6:34 PM ^

Pulling isn't the only thing that Omameh did poorly. He also couldn't block anyone big. He was good at going out and riding LBs into the sun, but when asked to block down on a DT (or pull, obviously) he was kinda bad.

And the reason we didn't pull much last year is because we couldn't. Expect that to go up this fall.

And your main points use flawed logic. Just because Barnum was better than Glasgow last year doesn't mean Glasgow won't be better this year than Barnum was last year. Or at least a wash.

My opinion is that three OL spots will be better than last year, and two will be about even. That will lead to a net gain.

UMaD

August 27th, 2013 at 9:02 PM ^

The gap between the two was gargantuan last year.  Barnum was the 4th best linemen while Glasgow was...somewhere below Burzynski and (maybe) Miller so... around 7th at best.  I don't dispute that Glasgow improved (i.e., '13 Glasgow vs '12 Barnum is a tougher fight) but he hasn't seen meaningful snaps yet. He's almost certainly not better than a scholarship 5th year senior with experience.

I just searched a couple random UFRs for Omameh:  Nebraska ("Meh", 0 overall - same as Lewan), MSU ("Had a lot of Kittredge duty", 5 overall - tied for best on team), Notre Dame ("I'll take a positive day for him against that line.", 1 overall).  That doesn't seem like the big pile of suck people want to make out Omameh to be these days.

I don't know what it is, but around this time of year it seems that people are on the hunt for reasons to bag on departed seniors.

In regard to the "3-2=win" argument.  Lewan and Schofield will be better but not worlds different this year, expect marginal improvement.  The other 3 spots are highly questionable.  I think one of the spots could improve relative to last year (i.e., Kalis) but we could also have an epic drop off at 2 other spots.

The bright spot is that there are alternatives if one of these guys falters, whereas last year was a straight-up cliff.

Again, I don't think we're in for disaster but the argument that "it can't be any worse" is outrageously simplistic and optimistic.  Experience isn't everything but it sure is a lot when assessing the potential floor of your season projections.

WolvinLA2

August 28th, 2013 at 11:15 AM ^

I don't think UFR is a good metric, since one reason Omameh had fewer screwups is because the coaches stopped asking him to do the things he couldn't do. I'd rather his UFR numbers be lower but because he was doing the more difficult stuff (like pulling).

UMaD

August 28th, 2013 at 1:59 PM ^

But if play-calling can cover up his deficiencies that's not the worst thing in the world. It supports my argument that Omameh did a lot of things pretty well.

Was he complete player that succeeded with whatever was thrown at him - no, but that goes for a lot of good solid football players (e.g., Funchess blocking, Vincent Smith running)

TheDirtyD

August 27th, 2013 at 7:11 PM ^

Just because Glasgow was a walkon doesnt mean anything. Braylon Edwards would have had to walk on to just about any school in the country other than Michigan if his dad didn't play here first. Eric Fisher was lucky just to play football in college coming out of high school. Just because you weren't good in high school for whatever reason doesnt mean you wont be good later. Perhaps you couldnt focus on football or didn't get the best coaching. The guy beat out Bryant who wasnt a walk-on. The guy also beat out Ben Braden another guy who got a free ride. I think the O-Line will be fine. I have zero worries. I have a feeling Miller will be better than expected. Jordan Kovacs was a pretty solid walk-on for Michigan...

UMaD

August 27th, 2013 at 9:14 PM ^

99% of the time being a walk-on means you can not play at a level that is competitive with starting caliber Big 10 athletes. Your far-flung examples prove my point.  Just as being a 3-star doesn't doom you to failure, neither does being a walk-on. BUT, your odds of being a quality starter are much lower than your typical scholarship player.  [And for the record, Braylon was a track star, 3-star kind of kid, far from Rudy - he wasn't heavily recruited but he had options.]

Glasgow is clearly better than most walk-ons (the preferred status says enough) and clearly he has improved by some bit... but he's still the equivalent of a 1 or 2 star recruit.  Fighting an uphill battle.  Bryant hasn't played a down of college football yet and has been hurt.  The only guy Glasgow has passed over this year that fought with him last year is Burzynski, who is very small for anything other than center.  It's not clear if Glasgow is better than Miller - who probably isn't very good based on all available evidence.

Those 2 guys are huge huge questionmarks because they've won their jobs by default - competing against absolutely no proven players.

 

 

Seattle Maize

August 27th, 2013 at 10:10 PM ^

Don't look at the recruiting rankings or all conference honors for a second and you'll see that meaner, Barnum and ommameh didn't fit a downhill, man blocking scheme very well at all. Neither guard could pull, and none of the three could drive anyone off the ball. We will be better this year.

TheDirtyD

August 27th, 2013 at 11:14 PM ^

I never said Braylon was Rudy don't change my words. Braylon Edwards only offer until half way through his senior year was from Michigan which he got at their summer camp.

A walk-on who is forced to start out of need is one thing a walk-on who beats scholarship athletes is perfectly fine by me. He beat out Bryant. Bryant is healthy right now. 

Thats like a buy one get one free. For all your walk-ons you think are going to bust and be epic failures I raise you, Kevin Grady, Ricardo Miller, Will Campbell, Marvin Robinson, etc just because you got some scholarship out of high school doesnt mean you deserve it. The great thing is we're going to find out in less than two weeks who the interior line ND has is a good one.

reshp1

August 27th, 2013 at 8:32 PM ^

That's the part I don't get about the "but he's a walk on" doom and gloomers. OL is so developmentally intensive that it's probably the hardest to project in terms of recruiting. Blue chippers routinely bust out and guys from small or 2nd tier schools routinely make the draft. It's really not that big of a surprise that a guy that was overlooked at 17-18 years old can develop into a good player at 21-22, especially a guy like Glasgow that has the prototypical size for the position. No one knows for sure until Saturday or probably even until ND, but he should get the benefit of the doubt until he shows he can't hack it.

ShadowStorm33

August 27th, 2013 at 7:22 PM ^

Random question, but is there a reason Kalis went to RG as opposed to LG? I get the deal with tackles, but guards seem more interchangable, and I wasn't sure if there was a particular reason to put him on one side instead of the other.

gwkrlghl

August 27th, 2013 at 7:28 PM ^

It's very nice that both tackle spots and RG are locked down with autoritah. Glasgow's emergence is hazy, may be good, may be bad. Miller...I don't know.

At the very least, we have 3 spots that are solid. Super solid. And then hopefully we can cobble together 'average' from the other two guys and I think we'll do alright

ShadowStorm33

August 27th, 2013 at 8:06 PM ^

I've felt a lot better since the post a few weeks ago talking about Glasgow. I was surprised that Brian didn't mention the fact that Glasgow only played one year of high school football. To me, at least, that's huge. That fully explains the lack of recruiting hype and why he was a walk on (i.e. why no one big took a chance with a scholarship); until his senior year, he was a complete unknown. When he did play, he seemed to play at a pretty high level (all-state).

It may be the eternal optimist in me, but I see no reason to categorize him as "OMG PANIC WALK-ON" until he gives me a reason to, on the field. He has the size and meaningful experience (3rd year in a college program), and at this point I don't see a reason to treat him as anything other than an un-tested 3* or 4*. Hopefully come Saturday he'll prove me right...

OysterMonkey

August 27th, 2013 at 8:01 PM ^

At this point theory is underdetermined by facts. Maybe the series of events at LG is explicable this way: Braden was the early leader even though he's naturally more suited to play T bc the coaches didn't think Glasgow or Bryant would be up to it.

But then they watched them in fall practice and thought there was no reason to delay Braden's development at tackle since either of the other two options could hold down the fort. The Borges presser today implied that Miller won the C job, but Glasgow was still good enough that they wanted him to play somewhere.

I guess I understand the pessimism given how the line struggles at times last year, but I think something like what I've sketched here is as supported by the info out of the fort as the pessimism I've seen around the boards. At any rate, we'll find out soon enough.

Seattle Maize

August 27th, 2013 at 10:00 PM ^

Good post. Between this and the comments in the article about Bryant looking good in practice - I think Glasgow may just be the real deal, and miller may be pretty solid at center. If that's the case then we have the makings for a pretty good OL this year. I really hope the positive insider news about Bryant is true because then, even if miller or Glasgow doesn't work out, we have someone pretty good to come in.

blue in dc

August 27th, 2013 at 10:28 PM ^

Lewan has said that one of the reasons he came back was to be part of a more successful team. He was in a better position than any of us to project whether this years line would be good enough to win a big ten championship. The fact that he decided to come back tells me he thinks just that. This is what makes me confident that this line will be significantly improved.

robmorren2

August 27th, 2013 at 11:01 PM ^

I don't think you can really make many predictions based on last year's performance. With Devin at QB, it will be a completely different offense. Defenses will have to stay honest bc of DG's playaction capabilities, and they won't.be able to cheat in with.DG's ability to see the field and make the quick pass. We have 3 O-linemen that 90% of FBS teams would kill to have. I have a hard time believing that the other two starters are even as bad as what lower level BIG teams are deploying. Even with a shaky line, we went up & down the field against a solid SEC defense in the bowl game. Gardner makes a world of difference. I think his abilities alone will make things easier for the O-line.

mgobaran

August 28th, 2013 at 8:55 AM ^

You're worries that Miller didn't get a shot, or takeover the Center job as at RS Freshman(!) don't bother me that much.

It seems to me that the last thing Michigan wanted to do is mess up chemistry on the O-line during last season. I think both Kalis and Miller would have been better in the long run for the O-line last year, but it wasn't (in the coaches minds) worth disrupting the chemistry the current line had. 

This is how I see it, so I could stop panicing. Center was/is Miller's 100% all the way. LG is Chris Bryant's now that Braden didn't cut it. The surprise came in the form of Glasgow. Brady Hoke & co. saw something in this kid. To the point where he is officially 6th man in. They had him at guard & center during fall so that he is prepared in case there is an injury at either position. That injury came in the form of Bryant's drained knee, and now Bryant has been set back far enough that Glasgow gets the spot. 

So instead of the line being 1-5-4-3-2, it is 1-5a-4-3-2. Which doesn't scare me. Also, IMO there is no better place for the weakest part of your line to be standing, then next to the best LT in 'murica.