|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:
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!
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.
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]
[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.
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.
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.
Rating: 2 of 5.
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:
|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.
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.
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…
|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.
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.
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:
|CMU||10.5||2||8.5||Consistently got his helmet across playside DT.|
|Notre Dame||4||4.5||-0.5||This may be okay.|
|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.
Hoke says Jack Miller is ahead of Graham Glasgow right now. Not just because of the suspension. He's out-played him at center.
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) August 14, 2014
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."
“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.
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.
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.
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.