Preview 2014: Offensive Line

Submitted by Brian on August 26th, 2014 at 5:55 PM

Previously: Podcast 6.0. The Story. Quarterback. Running back. Wide Receiver. Tight End And Friends.

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Depth Chart

LT Yr. LG Yr. C Yr. RG Yr. RT Yr.
Mason Cole Fr. Erik Magnuson So.* Graham Glasgow Jr.* Kyle Kalis So.* Ben Braden So.*
Logan Tuley-Tillman Fr.* Kyle Bosch So. Jack Miller Jr.* Joey Burzynski Jr.* David Dawson Fr.*

starters arbitrarily decided to be people who started at least 7 games

I apologize. Last year's edition of this post started with an assertion that "things almost literally can't be worse." It wasn't sunshine…

The way this went down gives some reason for concern. … Michigan [will be] 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.

…but I didn't recommend that you find a bunker and stock up on pudding pops. Last year did not recur. It went the other direction, hard.

In 2012, Michigan decided to flip their left guard to center on the eve of the season. In 2013, they got four games in before making the switch. Things were already bad. That switch made them worse, not so much because of what was happening at center—Graham Glasgow established himself a pretty good player over the course of the year—but what was happening everywhere else.

Specifically, what was happening around him. The Bentley Library lists starters through the years and one glimpse at left guard shows you the chaos:

image

A 6'1" walk-on got a start. A true freshman got three. A guy who retired after the season because he couldn't get breakfast without injuring himself got two. A 285-pound redshirt freshman got the other three. Reality mowed them all down, and by the end of the year the pile of skulls around the OL was not the enemy but Michigan itself.

Then their starting tackles went in the first three rounds of the NFL draft. Have fun storming the castle!

TACKLE

Rating: 1 of 5

I mean, maybe it'll work out. Maybe this rating will seem very silly at the end of the year, an overreaction to past events that was not a good prognostication of the future. I dearly hope this is the case. Gardner claimed he'd been sacked once during fall camp. It could happen!

Unfortunately, I can't make a reasonable case that you should expect much other than problems. Michigan has zero (ZERO) upperclassmen. The projected left tackle is a true freshman. The projected right tackle was supposed to be the starter at left guard last year but got pulled from the lineup after spring practice. He was not an option during the anarchy when literally every other OL on the roster was. Backing these guys up are two redshirt freshman who were huge projects and are still that. Oh, and the starting guards.

Maybe it will all work out. These guys are universally touted recruits, after all. If only that meant very much on the OL.

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He blocked Clark! Probably! It's a still shot! [Bryan Fuller]

Might as well start with the big flashing DANGER sign: MASON COLE [recruiting profile], true freshman, is your starting left tackle. This was all fun and games in spring when Erik Magnuson was out, but things got very real very fast this fall and the guy hasn't moved from LT since his arrival and campus and Brady Hoke is just like

"Who knows what will happen. You ask me today? Yeah, he would start. We're not at Aug. 30 yet. But he's more ready than most freshmen are."

…so he's the guy.

Since he's a true freshman I don't have anything more on him than exists in the recruiting profile published about a month ago, which notes that 1) the entire world offered him early, 2) he was possibly the most polished guy at the UA game…

it was clear that the Michigan commit was one of the most polished and skilled offensive line prospects on the East squad. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound Cole projects as an offensive guard long-term, but we aren’t so sure he could not be an excellent tackle in Ann Arbor during his college career.

…3) that he has the requisite athleticism and knee bend to be effective on the edge:

He is very athletic and plays with a lot of energy. Cole is able to bend and play low, giving him the leverage advantage over most opponents, though he needs to do so more consistently.

Cole is quick out of his stance and climbs to the second level using good angles. His feet allow him to play with good balance, which helps him not overextend for defenders.

All of this is great and Cole's trajectory is great; beating Magnuson inside authoritatively when Michigan seems to have a ton of guard bullets is impressive and there has been zero waver in any of this from day one. This is the profile of a guy who is going to be a draft pick very easily. We can discard the usual caveats about high school OL profiles because he has blown past all expectations immediately. Hooray for the long term.

This year? I don't know man. Let's check out

A RECENT HISTORY OF TRUE FRESHMAN TACKLES

Well, here's a thing: mighty Alabama is putting freshman Cameron Robinson out as their starter this fall. The slight difference: Robinson is a Peppers-level prospect, in fact ranked one spot ahead of him on the 247 composite. At 323 he's less of a size question than Cole.

In terms of guys who did play:

  • Oregon State started Sean Harlow at right tackle. The Beavers were middling in pass protection… and 109th in YPC.
  • Virginia played Eric Smith, also at right tackle. UVA was also middling in pass protection… and 91st in YPC.
  • Maryland managed to start true freshman left tackles in consecutive years(!). Mike Madaras left abruptly after his first year, paving the way for Moise Larose to get four starts before a foot injury ended his year. Larose is now suspended for 2014. Feel the Terpitude. The 2012 Terps were completely terrible in all line-related stats; last year they were okay at pass protection.
  • Virginia Tech started Jonathan McLaughlin all last year, and I don't even have to look their stats up to know they were a tire fire. Aaand yup: 99th and worse.
  • Ole Miss started Laremy Tunsil, a Robinson-level five star. Mississippi was… okay! 42nd in YPC, 74th in sacks allowed.

So… that's not at all encouraging. Cole was a much more highly touted prospect than all of those guys save Tunsil, at least, and he 1) enrolled early and 2) came from one of those super serious Florida high schools that are almost college programs in their own right. Also the way he was the LT starter from about a week into spring without challenge is a hopeful sign.

The occasional freshman tackle can cope. I think Cole is one of those guys. But is he going to blow a guy off the ball and provide a big ol' lane at 292 pounds? Probably not. Our hope here is that Cole is a solid, agile pass protector in year one who is a meh run blocker. Chances are he has a wake-up call or two coming.

[After THE JUMP: large men, vague hope]

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

On the right, BEN BRADEN [recruiting profile] appears to be the guy. Braden, this site's co-sleeper of the year two years ago (he shared it with Jehu Chesson), was reputed to be the leading candidate at left guard during 2013 spring practice, but after Jibreel Black zipped by him more than once in that spring game-type substance he was shuffled out to tackle permanently. He did not re-emerge, or even threaten to, during the deepest panic midseason. That was a worrying sign.

At least this year's narrative is reassuring. Mason Cole took aim at Magnuson's spot, not his, and while that was partially injury-related there was no murmur that either Cole or Magnuson would displace Braden when both were available this fall. His only competitor was Graham Glasgow, who looked quite capable on the edge in spring and has the requisite size to be out there. Even as Jack Miller threatens to push his way into the top five Glasgow is bouncing around at guard, where Michigan has a number of options, instead of threatening Braden. Magnuson is also competing at guard. Braden's spot has been as definitively his as Cole's.

And the drumbeat about Braden's ability has been consistent. Hoke was positive on him after spring:

"I thought Ben Braden really had a tremendous spring. He really, at right tackle, did a very good job."

Braden was in fact the first guy Hoke said had earned a starting job:

"I think the development (with what) that unit has done has been real positive," Hoke said. "A guy like Ben Braden from Rockford, right now, he’s our right tackle. And I’d expect him to be our right tackle [in the opener]."

It is always a positive when you're the new guy who is unquestioned.

If Braden's put it together, his upside is huge. A big chunk of the hype he was getting last year was based on his sheer enormity. Taylor Lewan, a guy who knows what a physical marvel looks like because he's got a mirror, summed up his appeal:

"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."

The desire here is the opposite of the one we have for Cole. Braden has the potential to be as much of a DE-obliterating, donkey-hating force as Taylor Lewan as early as this year. He's going to be a guy you don't want isolated on a top-shelf rusher, but maybe he can put that top-shelf rusher on his ass from time to time. Darrell Funk on Braden's strengths and weaknesses:

Ben Braden has really come on.  He’s got a little work to do in some areas of his protection game and he is getting better at that.  As a run blocker, even with the huge cast on the one hand, he couldn’t get his hands and latch on where you’d like to and all that.  He’s a physical run blocker now and has really come on."

Michigan may not have an upperclassman anywhere but at least they've got the right guys in the right spots… maybe. Again, the relative lack of competition makes this a real wild card. Maybe Magnuson is real good and Glasgow can play RT and we're fine. Maybe neither of those things is true and the other tackle options are still very implausible and we're screwed.

Whenever you pick the edge of the distribution in a preview you're out on a limb and likely to be wrong, because usually things aren't great or awful; usually they're bad or good. If you put a gun to my head I'd say these guys would be bad, not awful, but I try to make these ratings a reflection of the expectations of a Big Ten contending club, and the tackle situation is as far from positive as I can imagine. But hey, I'm probably wrong. Gaussian distributions are cool like that.

BACKUPS

If one of the starters should get knocked out or underperform his replacement will come from the interior of the line. Probable starting left guard ERIK MAGNUSON was the probable starting left tackle until Cole blazed onto the scene, and he is almost certainly the guy at either tackle spot in a pinch. Probable starting right guard or center GRAHAM GLASGOW took that spin at right tackle in the spring and is a viable option there. Both of those gentlemen are discussed more extensively below.

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Tuley-Tillman and Bars will hopefully wait a year [Fuller]

Beyond existing starters, Hoke brought up BLAKE BARS [recruiting profile] at Big Ten Media Day, which is something of a surprise. Bars looked way behind in spring practice and was supposed to be more of an interior prospect.

The absence of the two most tackle-y tackles they've got from the above list tells you all you need to know about their readiness. Both CHRIS FOX [recruiting profile] and LOGAN TULEY-TILLMAN [recruiting profile] came to Michigan as enormous-upside projects and are still some distance from the field. Fox was way behind on his conditioning thanks to a serious knee injury; Tillman had just yo-yoed from 285 to 340 and back. A year later both are approaching the appropriate weight and are still so far away from looking like legit options that they were passed by the guys above. There is no reason to give up hope on either—they were always "check back in three years" guys. Don't expect either to break through this year.

Freshman JUWANN BUSHELL-BEATTY [recruiting profile] will redshirt, as he is in the same vein as Tuley-Tillman: raw upside personified.

INTERIOR LINE

Rating: 2 of 5.

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VIKING BEARD WILL SAVE US [Fuller]

With Cole a sudden fixture at left tackle, ERIK MAGNUSON is set to reprise his role at left guard. Magnuson bounced literally everywhere except center last year, taking snaps at both tackle spots when starters were knocked out temporarily and starting games at both guard spots. Through it all he was… well, he was 285 pounds. And a redshirt freshman.

He played like it. Magnuson struggled to move anyone off the ball last year; it was common to see him get his hands into a defensive tackle only for him to go "and?" as he drove Magnuson a yard or two backwards.

His chart indicates a guy who was not yet up to it against big and stronk opponents:

Opponent + - TOT Note
Penn State 3 8 -5 Pressed into duty he's not quite ready for.
Indiana 10.5 7.5 3 Lightness can crop up problematically.
MSU - 5.5 -5.5 My god Taylor Lewan is a terrible interior line.
Nebraska 3.5 6 -2.5 Struggled with those pickups.
NW 10 5.5 4.5 Executed assignments usually; still unfortunately light.
Iowa 1.5 5.5 -4 Freshman, this is Carl Davis. Have fun.

Even when it worked it often felt like a struggle. Magnuson is the right guard here and just about loses his guy to close off a big Green run:

He palpably lacked power last year. This is no surprise since he played it at 285. This year he's… 294. Better. Probably not good at guard. In a world where Magnuson is taking on 270 pound DEs most of the time he's fine. In this one I expect him to get shoved backwards frequently.

At least he is likely to be a pretty good pass protector. He got snowed under against Michigan State just like everybody else and there was one time against Iowa he got beat clean by a spin move; other than that he kept guys away from Gardner. I'll take that amidst the chaos last year, especially since he bounced from position to position weekly. Some of those minuses are for bad decisions, not bad blocks. Reduce those given more experience and less position-swapping and Magnuson should be an asset in pass pro.

Magnuson should not be a guard. Coming out of high school he was praised for his agility and ability to mirror pass rushers, with little mention of anything approximating power. He bore out those descriptors on the field last year and is approaching his maximum size. That he is in there instead of outside is not optimal; we just discussed the track record of freshmen tackles. Magnuson's place at guard says some negative things about the folks competing with him there.

Bottom line: I'm just hoping he's able to move guys once in a while and a competent pass protector. 

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[Adam Glanzman]

At center, this preview projects that after GRAHAM GLASGOW serves his one-game suspension for an offseason DUI he will reprise the center job he had for the final nine games of last season. While there were some rumblings about Jack Miller outplaying Glasgow from the head man, Brady Hoke press conferences are best interpreted as public motivation exercises. Accuracy has never been a priority.

Even if Miller has made a tremendous offseason jump, Glasgow is going to play somewhere. He was clearly Michigan's best interior lineman a year ago. If you don't believe me on this point, here's Anonymous Big Ten opponent:

"…their center [redshirt junior Graham Glasgow] was someone we took notice of.

"The guys next to him were a little slow, and you could split the gaps against them really easily. That was the point you attacked, but the center was strong. If you went one-on-one, he held his own. But you never had to do that because there was always that opportunity between the guards and center, and the guards and tackles. They didn't do a good job communicating or combo-blocking."

I am in agreement with that guy. Even with guys getting mauled all around him, Glasgow stood out as an actual offensive lineman early and maintained that status through the season. By UConn I was ready to Kovacs that walk-on business:

But Glasgow's a walk-on?

I'm about a month away from giving him knighthood in the Order of St. Kovacs, whereupon the fact that he is a walk-on becomes a quaint historical fact relevant only to Tom Rinaldi.

He's got to show it against Big Ten foes, but Glasgow is good. He is just good. Even when Michigan is not picking up yards on run plays he is firing off the ball and getting push, consistently.

A few times in this game he'd club some guy only to see another player mess something up such that Michigan could not take advantage of it. Maybe he won't perform as well against Big Ten teams—he struggled against Nix—but he is definitely Michigan's best interior lineman.

A lot of that was because Glasgow was adjusting to things on the fly a lot better than his compatriots. From the game previous, a long discussion about how Michigan looked like a team that didn't know what it was supposed to do down to down alighted on Glasgow as a lone flickering hope that someone had a clue:

If you want a little hope in this department, watch Glasgow on one of Gardner's two big inverted veer gains:

Schofield gets pushed back, cutting off Glasgow's route to where the play design is, so Glasgow decides to end that guy and go get him a linebacker. That is one huge crease up the middle all of a sudden and Gardner's off to the races. That's the kind of thing I'm talking about. That kind of instinct under fire is a long-developing thing.

Glasgow may not play center. He was the second option at right tackle in spring and has the requisite size at 6'6" to play on the edge—he is in fact taller than Mason Cole. To my eye he looked very plausible out there, and Darrell Funk told Sam Webb that Glasgow "really could play any of the five positions." As of then Funk was not thinking about guard

"He is a viable alternative at tackle.  He’s 6-7, 310 pounds.  He’s getting stronger and he’s a great looking kid and physically.  He has really come on.  He can play out there.  I don’t envision him having to play guard.  It would likely be that right tackle spot or center."

…but in the fall scrimmage Glasgow was at the unsettled right guard spot. The first game looks like a Mexican standoff between Jack Miller, Braden, and whoever it is at right guard to see which of them will survive Glasgow's return.

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Kalis, I guess [Fuller]

Finally: right guard. Your guess is as good as mine. This is currently Kyle Bosch OR Joey Burzynski on the depth chart; Hoke said Kyle Kalis would be a starter except for some back issues he has been struggling through; Miller may bounce Glasgow out to guard.

I have to pick one guy, though. My shot in the dark is KYLE KALIS, because Kalis got the most time last year, suffered through a couple of injuries that caused him to play poorly, and finished the year as the starter. In between he got yanked for Bosch and, briefly, Burzynski, but he's got the best combination of experience and size. So he's the guess.

But it is a guess. Kalis did little to distinguish himself in last year's melee; he was clearly behind Magnuson and Glasgow. His early-season matchup with Sheldon Day went poorly:

That was emblematic; there were other issues. We did not hear about the ankle injury until after the season, but hopefully it was a major problem against Penn State. Otherwise…

Opponent + - TOT Note
Notre Dame 3.5 5 -1.5 Rough, rough time in pass pro.
Akron 7 4.5 2.5 Not as consistent as the other G.
UConn 4 4.5 -0.5 Got lost on screen for big minus.
Minnesota 7 5 2 A little more consistency at finding dudes please.
Penn State 3 14 -11 Absolutely brutal.
Iowa 4.5 6 -1.5 This qualifies as good?

I actually don't mind the Iowa number there since their DTs were very good veterans, and Kalis had a solid OSU game as well. Funk noted that Kalis picked it up at the end of the year:

"He ended up sitting for four games or whatever it was, and then when he came back and he wasn’t dominating like he will, I think at some point here in the career, hopefully very soon.  He was a lot better in those three games than he was (previously)."

Like Williams, in a stable program Kalis would be the promising recruit no one had seen yet; let's not judge him too harshly based on a half-season spent partially injured.

BACKUPS

Michigan rotated through a ton of guys here last year but true depth—as in depth that could plausibly be good—did not exist, as described in the opening to this piece. This year that problem is less severe. It's not a great situation like it will hopefully be the next two years; it is unlikely anyone unearths a true freshman or implausibly sized walk-on.

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Miller hopes to be powerful enough to play. [Fuller]

Again, with the zone focus and depth chart, it's likely that Michigan shifts guys around in the event of an injury in an effort to keep their best available five on the field at all times. With Glasgow viable at a lot of different spots, JACK MILLER is the likely sixth. Unless he's the fifth.

Miller started four games at center last year, whereupon he was booted in favor of Glasgow and the guard carousel began in earnest. And, yeah, it seemed like a good idea at the time:

Opponent + - TOT Note
CMU 10.5 2 8.5 Consistently got his helmet across playside DT.
Notre Dame 4 4.5 -0.5 This may be okay.
Akron 3 8.5 -5.5 Oof.
UConn 7 13 -6 Pass protection uglier.

Miller had two pass protection minuses against Akron, a depressing seven against UConn, and that was that for his season. It's weird that he held up okay against Notre Dame's monster line and then fell apart, but that is what happened.

Given the chaos that ensued without Miller popping up again, most had left him dead and buried for the duration of his career. Miller was a middling recruit who won the center job essentially by default; even this preview's excessive optimism about the line (I gave the interior a 2) declared that "mediocrity would be a win" at C.

And then:

I don't know how much I buy that; I don't know how much Glasgow has even been playing center. But I welcome Jack Miller as a plausible contender. A lot of his problems last year were not physical, but mental. He had a really bad habit of shooting past guys on zone plays without so much as bumping them:

This was just… are you seriously leaving this guy?

In what world is that guy not lined up over you? In what world does Kyle Kalis have the faintest prayer of blocking that guy without a scoop? This is game four and if you're still making enormous, obvious mistakes like that on the stretch while simultaneously being the smallest dude on the line, you're nearing your expiration date.

If he fixes that it goes a long way towards making him plausible; he is now up to 299, which is not too far off ideal weight. It sounds like the coaches are rooting for him to lock it down so they can use Glasgow wherever a fire needs to be put out. Funk:

"Jack Miller is holding his weight.  He’s has gotten stronger.  He really did a nice job at center and guard in the spring.  Obviously, he would be the leader in the clubhouse right now for game one at center and if Jack can make a step up from what he was last year… which I believe he already has… that might give us a luxury of having Graham out there."

And Nussmeier:

“Jack has done a good job,” Nussmeier said. “Really, really smart guy. Obviously we’re going to demand a lot of our center when it comes to making the calls and making sure everyone is on the same page. But we are really happy where Jack has come this last week.”

I just don't know, man. Those ten extra pounds may not prevent things like this from happening:

Miller will get a live-fire audition in the opener. If he can significantly outperform one of his compatriots he may hang on as Michigan flips dudes around to put Glasgow back on the field. More likely he's going to have to cool his heels until injury or a longer period of poor play from one of the starters gives him another chance.

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[Fuller]

If the starting five above is accurate long term your other contender for #6 is probably KYLE BOSCH [recruiting profile], who was part of that guard carousel last year as a true freshman. He was bad, because he was a true freshman. Even when things were going well it was apparent that Bosch was not quite ready:

Oh, I don't know. Bosch did get less push than the other guys on the line. A lot of their isos ended up with Bosch just standing up his guy and Michigan squeezing it out because their other OL did well with it.

Maybe Kalis will do better than that. Maybe not. After this game I'm inclined to leave it alone since they, like, went forward. But Bosch has been up and down, was mostly down in this one, and maybe if they stick with this kind of blocking they think they'll get more push from Kalis.

There has been vanishingly little mention of him; the best I've got is an assertion he is competing with David Dawson to start the opener if Kalis isn't healthy.

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Burzynski's like halfway to Norfleet yo [Fuller]

That hopefully ends the list of guys with a reasonable chance at playing time, but, hey, last year. There is little clarity as to who lineman #8 is. It may in fact be JOEY BURZYNSKI, he of the Worst ACL Ever. Burzynski had just grabbed a starting spot last year when on literally his first drive as a starter his ACL was like lolnope.

He is back, and he is possibly even higher on the list than this preivew projects or wants. He's listed as a co-starter for the opener with Bosch—Kalis's back injury is apparently going to hold him out—and repped ahead of Bosch at both the open fall scrimmage and the closed one. At the open one he was the second-string right guard behind Glasgow, ascending to the top spot when Glasgow tweaked his ankle. ronpaulitshappening.gif.

I want to believe and all that but that cannot be good. Unlike Glasgow, there's an obvious ceiling on Burzynski's ability that has to do with his height and weight. When he got an extended crack at playing time in last year's Penn State game things went about as you'd expect:

Unfortunately, Burzynski was not an upgrade and was just physically incapable of doing anything to the players Penn State presented him with. He kicked things off by forcing Gardner to make an awesome play lest Jones sack him; later on a stretch a PSU DT fended him off with one arm, like he was Taylor Lewan and Burzynski was some guy who plays for CMU.

I don't expect things to be much different if he sees the field again this year; that he is seriously in the conversation to start over Bosch and Kalis is a worrying sign.

People with a real shot at playing time save insurrection and injury end at Burzynski. There are a number of guys developing behind the top eight.

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Kugler and Dawson wait in the wings [Fuller]

PATRICK KUGLER [recruiting profile] entered with everything you could want from an OL recruit: rankings, offers, lol-worthy recruitment that started with a half-dozen visits to MSU and ended with one to Ann Arbor, father who was the OL coach of the Pittsburgh Freakin' Steelers for forever. If you could ever say "this offensive lineman is a sure thing," it would be about Kugler.

You cannot, obviously. I don't need Kugler to bust through as a redshirt freshman or anything, but it would be nice. It has been all silent on the Kugler front since he enrolled, and while it's a little silly to be getting concerned about that already… I am a wee bit concerned.

Speaking of DAVID DAWSON [recruiting profile], he's hanging around, waiting for an opportunity at guard or tackle. Word out of insider circles is that he has a ways to go and to check back next year. Ditto for fellow redshirt freshman DAN SAMUELSON [recruiting profile]. The need for additional seasoning with both is as expected. Cass Tech guys tend to take some time to round into form and Samuelson was the least-touted of Michigan's six-man 2013 OL class. Dawson is probably in front at this moment.

Comments

MosherJordan

August 26th, 2014 at 8:33 PM ^

"A guy who retired after the season because he couldn't get breakfast without injuring himself got two."

I like the write up, but have to say that I think Chris Bryant deserves more respect than this. I know it's a fine line between being glib to make for entertaining writing (which I think generally is), but this makes Chris sound like a kid who ate too much and worked out too little. Frustrations of the line are understandable, but unless you have evidence to the contrary, Chris deserves the respect of a Michigan man whose body failed him despite his best efforts to contribute.

Next time, stick to a simple "was injury prone", when talking about guys who suffered broken leg in effort to be the best he could be.

/end rant

Eye of the Tiger

August 26th, 2014 at 8:53 PM ^

...that Cole at LT and Magnusen at LG may have more to do with Glasgow's suspension than anything else. I suspect, given what we've heard about Miller, that the starting five for ND will be:

LT Magnusen/Cole

LG Glasgow/Magnusen

C Miller/Glasgow

RG Kalis/Burzynski

RT Braden/Cole

The other possibility is to flip Magnusen and Cole at LT and have Magnusen back up multiple positions. But I doubt Magnusen will start at LG after the first game. Just a feeling...

 

turd ferguson

August 26th, 2014 at 9:11 PM ^

My sense is that it will be very difficult to identify a traditional two-deep this year.  Instead, I think we'll be better off guessing what happens under individual scenarios (e.g., if Magnuson goes down, then ___; if Kalis struggles, then ___).  For example, if you're right about the starting five for ND, then I'd bet that Cole is the first guy off the bench if any one of those guys gets hurt.  That's not to say that Cole would be second on the depth chart at each position but rather that the coaches would reshuffle in a way that put Cole at LT and moved the other guys around accordingly.

Mr Miggle

August 26th, 2014 at 11:31 PM ^

I expect to see him at LT against ND. If Magnuson is a better LT, then why give him so many reps at LG and burn Cole's redshirt for just one game against a cupcake? I know you don't take any opponents lightly, but I'm hoping the plan is for a minimal amount of shuffling. 

Eye of the Tiger

August 27th, 2014 at 3:12 AM ^

No matter what, Cole is in the 2-deep, which means he'll play a significant amount of time even if he doesn't start the majority of games. Now of course he may start all the games--I was just speculating. But Magnusen has played guard before, so if he is a better option at LG right now and Cole is good enough at LT, then it would make sense. But again, just speculating. I expect both Cole and Magnusen to get a lot of PT this year.

(Plus our coaches seem to like burning redshirts.)

Mr Miggle

August 27th, 2014 at 8:58 AM ^

Magnuson was in the two-deep for all of 2012 and redshirted. Braden barely played last year, despite everything. OL is a position group that typically doesn't see much, if any, rotation. I will grant you this doesn't look like a typical season.

I should also add that Magnuson missed spring practice and spent the second half of last season at guard. If the plan is to plug him in at LT, I'd think he could use a lot of reps there.

blue in dc

August 26th, 2014 at 11:40 PM ^

I think you might be right, but if the coaches believed that, I suspect that Magnuson would have spent more time at tackle. While I know we don't know about what happened in every practice, Magnuson at guard seemed to be a constant. If he was really tge presumed starter for game 2 and beyond, I suspect he would have spent more time playing it in practice.

alum96

August 26th, 2014 at 9:04 PM ^

Amazing how the prospects of this team would be different if the 2010/2011 classes had 3 OL between them that were top class starters (i.e. 2nd/3rd team type Big 10 even).  Shows you how mistakes today can hurt you 5 years down the road.

Utah will be very interesting to me.  They are not a great team but obviously they did something right to beat Stanford - a team strong in the trenches.  If we are totally dominated by their DL in that game, I see a season no different than last where Devin is running for his life and chucking up balls and we have no running game of merit not named Devin.  If we can hold our own I'll presume there is at least a trajectory upward later in the year. 

Zarniwoop

August 26th, 2014 at 9:49 PM ^

I know this is weird.

But, I NEED Kalis to be awesome this year. Not because of some thing I have for him as a person. Somehow I have convinced myself that his turning into a beast will start some chain reaction that will transform our OLINE into one from the 80s and 90s.

It's difficult to explain. But, somehow with his high rating coming in and his obviously high ceiling, I just somehow have emotionally pinned all my hopes on him turning into some sort of savage cross between a human and a walrus.

Every time I read that he's not even ON the depth chart ... I mean its not like Barry Sanders retiring bad or even on the same planet. But, Jesus let's develop some players here.

Reader71

August 26th, 2014 at 10:11 PM ^

I know the prevailing notion in 2013 was that the line couldn't be worse than in 2012, but I was one of the few claiming loudly and often that it would be. It doesn't make he happy at all but, I told you so.

I know how bad young linemen can be, because I was once a bad young lineman. I was a bad old lineman, too, so I guess you could say I'm an expert in bad OL.

I'm as optimistic as they come, but I only predicted 8 wins from the team. This year I'm predicting 10 wins. I'm also predicting that Ben Braden is the odd man out when Glasgow returns.

The line wont look a lot better. We'll struggle to run the ball with any consistency. We'll pass protect marginally better, while still being liable for huge whiffs on simple stunts. But we should have far fewer breakdowns, leading to fewer TFLs. That's where the difference will be. And that's going to make our offense feel more blah and less desperate.

One last Borges apologia, amen: we all agree that changing up the schemes was stupid. But isn't the internet definition of insanity something like trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results? Last years line would have gotten many an OC fired. Lets hope they don't take the luster off of Nuss's impeccable image. I don't think they will.

maize-blue

August 27th, 2014 at 10:18 AM ^

Reducing TFLs will be the key. According to NCAA stats, UM was ranked 121 out of 123 in tackles for loss and 105 in sacks allowed. We didn't run great last year (102nd) and I don't expect a huge jump this year, but I'm convinced if the negative plays are reduced then that will equal a huge improvement. Heck, if they were only slighlty better last year then that probably equals 9-10 wins.

Zarniwoop

August 26th, 2014 at 10:02 PM ^

It seems like every time ask what he's doing well, the reply goes something like:

"Boy... well.. he's just really... I mean he's played the position we want him to play... and .. that's what we need out of him."

Okay, obviously that was a ridiculous exaggeration, but here's to hoping that someone gives Braden a bloody nose and he turns into Steve Hutchinson with 80 inch arms.

Note: I don't really want anyone to give him a bloody nose. It just seems like a couple of the quotes above were essentially saying he was too soft.

BornInA2

August 26th, 2014 at 10:55 PM ^

This is not a happy article. It makes me want to go sit in a dark corner an weep in an embarrassingly audible way that I can't control while I long for days of yore and hopefully future where the closest underclass offensive lineman come to the field is when they trip over the headset Hoke left laying on the sideline and stumble onto the field resulting in an unfortunate "too many players on the field" penalty and a brief stint of YouTube noteriety for the young lad who doesn't know whether to feel humiliated or enjoy his ten minutes of fame.

Perkis-Size Me

August 26th, 2014 at 11:29 PM ^

Sheesh that was all kinds of depressing to read. So much talent and we can't seem to do anything with it. Hopefully Nuss and his up-tempo, simplified blocking scheme will allow these guys to gel together and live up their recruiting hype.


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BlueFordSoftTop

August 26th, 2014 at 11:51 PM ^

 
Neo: I'm not The One....
 
Oracle: Sorry, kid. You got the gift, but it looks like you're waiting for something...
 
Neo: What?
 
Oracle: Your next life maybe, who knows? That's the way these things go
 
Neo: [MoarOffensiveLinEus]...he, he almost had me convinced...
 

DualThreat

August 27th, 2014 at 12:11 AM ^

our O-line is practicing against (hopefully) one of the better defenses in the B1G. 

It's always better to practice against those better than what you typically expect.

Thrillhouse

August 27th, 2014 at 1:15 AM ^

I wonder how different this preview/everyone's expectations would be if the starting OL was announced as Magnuson-Bosch-Glasgow-Kalis-Braden. That would at least have indicated a couple of things maybe went right in the offseason.

uminks

August 27th, 2014 at 1:37 AM ^

We're another year or two away from having an experienced OL. I don't think we will have another lag in having senior OL from 2015-16 and on into the future. I just hope our starters can stay and play together through the season. They should improve through the season. By 2015 we will be in better shape and by 2016 we will be in great shape!

maize-blue

August 27th, 2014 at 9:38 AM ^

That is my opinion/stance on the matter as well. I don’t think we should expect this group to suddenly turn into ground pounding monsters. They simply have to be average and serviceable. They don’t necessarily have to be the reason we win games but they can’t be the reason we lose.

My personal opinion is that we’ll start to see this unit take shape this season. It may take half of the season, but I think it will happen. Even though there is plenty of youth/inexperience, I believe there are just enough of those things to start seeing progress. It’s either that or else all of these guys are recruiting whiffs and so far it seems that Hoke has a pretty good ability in identifying good players.

 For me, I don’t really care if we have a 1,000 yard rusher this season. I just want them to secure the line of scrimmage, as Nussmeier says, and cut down the negative plays. I don’t care if the running backs rush 30 times for 80 yards. If that 80 yards is keeping the defense honest and Gardner is staying upright and the passing game is tearing apart defenses,  the team will win.

Blarvey

August 27th, 2014 at 8:34 AM ^

The number of players that started last year at LG kind of gives me hope. That is four guys who figure to play this year and at least two that will probably be starters. It may not look like much but by late October it could mean at least 3 guys have a season's worth of starting experience.

I also have to believe that Nuss will have better playcalling and tempo on 1st and 2nd down and use more plays that mask a leaky OL. For example teams may want to go after the inexperienced tackles this year so the 2 TE and Big Pistol sets with draws and screens seem like options.

westwardwolverine

August 27th, 2014 at 10:18 AM ^

So we've got two guys who have been in the program for four offseasons (Miller and Glasgow) and we've got four guys who have been in the program for three offseasons (Kalis, Magnuson, Braden and Bars). 

We've got five guys who have played significant, important minutes (Miller, Glasgow, Kalis, Magnus and Bosch).

Last year you could only stick four guys in those first two categories and two guys in the last one. We're on par, experience-wise, with the past few UCLA teams that started a bunch of Sophomores and Freshmen and weren't terrible. If Michigan can't cobble together something respectable out of the experience + potential they have this year, something is wrong with the coaching/recruiting of the offensive line. 

I'm gonna be an optimist and say the line out performs expectations in a big way. 

JFW

August 27th, 2014 at 11:00 AM ^

I had always thought that one if the most important things for an O line was repoing and building playing chemistry. The whole is greater or lesser than the sum of the parts based on this chemistry.

It seems, with a bunch of guys who are roughly okay... Why didn't we pick 5 guys who were doing at least okay an who has the best physical skills and anoint them, then Rep them so many times they could okay together as undead zombies if they needed.

The plug and play o line hurt whatever development we might have seen last season.

reshp1

August 27th, 2014 at 11:12 AM ^

the past few UCLA teams that started a bunch of Sophomores and Freshmen and weren't terrible.

Yeah, about that....

In 2013, the UCLA offensive line (and running backs) allowed 36 sacks which placed them at 109th in the nation in that category. A year earlier in 2012, UCLA allowed a whopping 52 sacks

(Michigan allowed 36 in 2013 for reference).

 

(in 2013)....UCLA had 94 tackles for loss allowed on the season, ranking 112th in the country and 11th in the Pac-12. In 2012, they allowed 117

(Michigan had 113 last year for reference)

funkywolve

August 27th, 2014 at 11:15 AM ^

While the stats for UCLA that you list might be comparable to UM in those years, UCLA's rushing yards per game and yards per carry the last two years are much better then UM.

In 2012 UCLA averaged 190 yds/game rushing with 4.5 yds/carry.

In 2013 UCLA averaged 196 yds/game rushing with 4.5 yds/carry.

reshp1

August 27th, 2014 at 11:38 AM ^

TFL and Sacks are a better indication of OL performance though (which is also why we're so focused on them). A TFL or sack is almost completely on the OL or TE/RBs asked to block. Rushing yards of course depend on OL performance too, but so many other things factor into it like scheme, RB ability, QB ability to check into plays, etc. In other words, it's much more of a team metric where TFL and Sacks are more focused towards the OL performance.

Either way, it's pretty obvious their lack of experience also caused some pretty serious problems, like they did for us.

reshp1

August 27th, 2014 at 2:22 PM ^

Yes, but we also probably wouldn't have fired our OC either. There were other issues beyond OL last year, issues UCLA didn't have or were able to overcome despite attrocious sack and TFL numbers. I'm just saying, if you want to make a case for a young OL being competent, UCLA isn't a very good example.

msoccer10

August 27th, 2014 at 1:36 PM ^

that Cole is going to be really good in a couple years but that we are going to burn his redshirt for one or two starts. Once Glasgow is off suspension and Kalis is healthy, I don't see him keeping his spot. Maybe the coaches think he is good enough that he won't be here five years anyway and they want him to get experience against App State in case they need him in an emergency later, but it is very unfortunate that our interior can't push Magnuson outside. 

Reader71

August 27th, 2014 at 6:37 PM ^

First, the best 5 should play. If he's one of them, he should be out there.

Second, we are missing the two guys who opened the season for us at guard last season. Kalis has a bad back and Glasgow is suspended. How many good guards do you think most teams have? If any team loses two guards, they will suffer. Maybe Mags moves outside if/when Kalis and Glasgow come back. But maybe Glasgow is needed at center or Braden can't cut it.

You make it seem like our interior is our weakness, when in reality, we have 0 starts at tackle and a center who keeps Magnum up at night. Our guards were poor Las year, but they are our strength (when healthy) this year.