Preview 2018: Offensive Tackle Comment Count

Brian August 29th, 2018 at 10:44 AM

[Bryan Fuller]

Previously: Podcast 10.0A. Podcast 10.0B. Podcast 10.0C. The Story. Quarterback. Running Back. Wide Receiver. Tight End And Friends.

Depth Chart

LT Yr. LG Yr. C Yr. RG Yr. RT Yr.
Jon Runyan Jr Jr.* Ben Bredeson Jr. Cesar Ruiz So. Mike Onwenu Jr. James Hudson Fr.*
Jalen Mayfield Fr. Chuck Filiaga Fr.* Stephen Spanellis So.* Stephen Spanellis So.* Juwann Bushell-Beatty Sr.*
Andrew Stueber Fr* Andrew Vastardis So.* Phil Paea Fr.* Joel Honigford Fr.* Nolan Ulizio Jr.*

PICKING UP THE PIECES from the very worst Michigan offensive line in living memory—you're off the hook, 2008—is going to be a difficult and unfortunately extended process. The mercifully fired Tim Drevno shot airballs at tackle in his first two recruiting classes, coming up with only flier Nolan Ulizio in Michigan's transition class; this is doubly painful since the only tackle who can block a Rutger recruited by Brady Hoke was Grant Newsome. Newsome will be your senator someday. He will not be on the field this fall, or ever again.

So even if the coaching transition from Drevno to Ed Warinner goes as blindingly well as DJ Durkin to Don Brown, this is going to be a survive-and-advance-down-the-field-a-bit situation. Warinner inherits some potential Dudes on the interior and has an excellent backup plan if something should go awry there. Tackle? Don't talk to me about tackle.

There is some good news. Michigan's late season surge on the ground was preceded by a couple of weeks where they were almost there...

The run game is close to putting it together. Unless they don't in which case I said none of this. But seriously folks: PSU was an average-ish P5 run defense and Michigan's blocking was pretty good, with gains held down by the nonexistent passing game and one guy blowing way too many plays.

... all in all it was probably the best run-blocking OL in Ann Arbor since 2011 or possibly even before. PFF graded out Ben Bredeson and Mike Onwenu at 72/100 or better despite what could not have been acceptable pass pro grades; those guys are legit good on the ground. Add in midseason revelation and locked-in starter Cesar Ruiz promising an organization upgrade at C plus an established elite college OL coach and the words "night" and "day" should be in your lexicon.

Just don't talk to me about tackle.



Fine! Fine. It's fine. We'll talk about it. Last year's preview featured this totally awesome GIF...

giphy (1)[3]

...and asserted that GIANT COMPUTER-ANIMATED QUESTION MARK [recruiting profile] would bookend Mason Cole. This year the question is who's bookending the Giant Computer-Animated Question Mark.

From the perspective of a program outsider just trying to read tea leaves, the worst case scenario was this: Michigan moves Juwann Bushell-Beatty to left tackle because they have no one else, and they insert Jon Runyan Jr at right tackle because they have no one else. No underclassmen even poke their head in the direction of the job. Michigan gets whatever marginal improvement JBB manages in his fifth year and plays a 6'3", maybe 6'4" guy on the other side.

This was exactly the situation as reported out of spring.

So it's with some relief that I can report this situation has changed slightly. They've slid Runyan over to left tackle, you see, and slid Bushell-Beatty back to the right. The deck chairs are repositioned.

[After THE JUMP: look nobody's paying you to read this, it's ok]


plz be daddish [Paul Sherman]

So. JON RUNYAN JR [recruiting profile]. Has the name, for sure. Has the size? Eh... we'll see. Runyan competed at right tackle last year and was actually the guy this space predicted would start. This was incorrect, but almost certainly should have been correct. It still says somethin' about somethin' that Runyan was not immediately and permanently distinguishable from Nolan Ulizio and Bushell-Beatty, especially the former.

Since Runyan was seemingly out of the RT battle Michigan moved him back inside; he semi-regularly spotted Onwenu early in the season, first when Onwenu started the Florida game with some wild misses, then again versus Air Force late—that one was seemingly about conditioning. Scattered snaps across a few more games got him a total of 8-2 = +6 in UFR, which should be taken in a garbage-time-against-Minnesota-and-Rutgers context, and then he finally got a start in the bowl game. With Bushell-Beatty out for undisclosed reasons, Runyan got the nod. He did not perform well in an offensive outing that was all-around gross. This is the only clip I had for him:

#75 RG pulling

Pretty good pull and kickout against a bad run D. The end.

But here he is. Sayin' stuff like this about true freshman Aidan Hutchinson:

“He’s a ginormous kid for being a freshman. He’s bigger than me. ... He gives me a couple fits every now and then, but I still got his number!”

This is our concern, Dude. Also in "our concern, Dude":

"If I can win eight out of 10 times against Rashan and Chase, I feel like I can do pretty well against anyone on our schedule.”

The law of large percentages multiplied a lot kicks in here: a line that has five guys executing at 80% gets it right 33% of the time. Not everyone on the schedule is going to have Michigan's DEs, but some are, including all of the most important games on the schedule; if that's the actual win rate things will not be going well.

Runyan has been locked in at a tackle spot since spring practice started, and while that is somewhat encouraging, the deck chairs event described above gives a fair amount of that back: high upside guys were on the left in spring but weren't panning out enough so the relatively steady, low-upside guy slides over because he's got a higher floor. Hypothetically good, until we start talking about the other floors. Runyan-related talk has been largely about his spot on the depth chart...

As things stand today, I feel very confident that Runyan would be the starter against Notre Dame at left tackle based on what I am told.

...while actual "this guy is good!" talk like you've seen about a number of WRs has been scanty, if it's even extant.

So what's the upside here? Well, Runyan is very mobile. He just about swept the OL section of Michigan's winter combine last year, finishing second in the one event he didn't win. In an ideal world that means he can get to the right spot on a pass set and hopefully not get run over; it also means that some of the Mason Cole tricks that Michigan's used to good effect—screens and offset draws and the like—over the past few years should also be within Runyan's toolbox.

And he's got the bloodline, and OL take a while to get there, and... he's got the bloodline. But what you're really banking on is an OL coaching transition from "Tim Drevno was actively sabotaging the program out of spite" to "Ed Warinner is a golden god." That and a Patterson-based offense obviating big chunks of what almost has to be bad pass protection.

I dunno, man. I want to believe but not even the talk is trying to make me, you know? How far can someone come in one year? Can they come from behind Nolan Ulizio and Juwann Bushell-Beatty to become an average Big Ten starter? It seems like the answer is no. But let's hope otherwise.


run blocking: good [Patrick Barron]

On the right, well... Michigan lined up JUWANN BUSHELL-BEATTY with the rest of the starting OL when running drills at the open practice and per insider reports he will start against Notre Dame. This space does not think that decision will last, and if it does that bodes extremely unwell. Bushell-Beatty was the presumed starter at RT last year when Ulizio popped up out of nowhere and ascended to the starting spot. That went about as poorly as can be imagined.

When Ulizio got yanked halfway through the Michigan State game, Bushell-Beatty immediately demonstrated why Michigan had called the Ulizio Hail Mary in the first place:

RT #76 top of line

Literally his first snap of the year.

This surprised nobody. Everyone had just watched four and half games of a guy who beat Bushell-Beatty out. They had not gone well. Anyone who pays obsessive attention no doubt remembered that JBB's 2016 start against Rutgers featured two ole blocks in just 15 pass pro snaps and immediately saw Ben Braden flipped out to tackle so a true freshman Bredeson could play. Bushell-Beatty's pass protection is—or at least should have been—a non-starter.

PFF charted 16 pressures allowed by JBB last year in about half of Michigan's snaps, which extrapolates out to... lots. Their 44.9 grade for him is the lowest number I've seen released to the public since they moved to their 0-100 system by about 20 points. That grade is not even backup quality. It is a radioactive grade. FWIW, Bushell-Beatty's 15 pass pro minuses were by far the worst on the team on a per-snap basis.

Even your author, who has spent much of the offseason actively dreading what is apparently set to become reality in a few days, isn't as down on Bushell-Beatty as that. It was not a coincidence that Michigan's run blocking improved dramatically upon his insertion. And it was both dramatic and immediate. I spent sections in both the MSU and PSU UFRs explaining why the pretty decent run blocking grades didn't match up with the dismal yards per carry—"safeties are now also linebackers" is your number one answer, let's play the Feud!

Bushell-Beatty participated in those grades, scoring acceptably for most of the year (+3.5, +4.5, +2.5, +12 (Rutgers), +3.5, +1.5) before participating in the line-wide collapse against Wisconsin. Unless PFF handed Bushell-Beatty a flat zero for pass protection, which is admittedly possible, they were harsh on his run blocking.

There's a different world where Michigan isn't caught in an OL hell of their own devising where Bushell-Beatty is a long-time respected guard. His insertion gave Michigan an old-school right side of the line and was one of a few catalysts for Michigan's late-season rushing surge. Dude can mash. DTs that met Onwenu and JBB double teams frequently got ejected from the hole with bonafide velocity:

OG 50 and RT 76 to top of line

The resulting gaps were sometimes more of a cavern:

RT #76

This was not just the case against the basket-cases on the end of the schedule,as the numbers above testify. The Wisconsin thud does imply that there was a level of opposition for which JBB was unprepared for; the kind of guys who can rip your arms down and rip you past them may have been a bridge too far for a guy who has never been particularly balanced. It is worth noting that Indiana, which is frequently the opposition when JBB does some mashing, was a solid run D last year—33rd in S&P+ despite getting mauled by Michigan.

Is there hope? There's a modest case for it, maybe. Bushell-Beatty has never looked particularly put-together in his time at Michigan and in there is the main non-Warinner reason for optimism in 2018. Both Warinner and Harbaugh have implied that Bushell-Beatty had not maxed out his determination and professionalism in previous offseasons, and that there had been one of those last-rodeo improvements. Harbaugh:

"Juwann Bushell-Beatty, I really see a better focus, a stronger guy that's now more confident who played last season. You could see him getting better and better as the weeks went on. In the weight room and in the drills, he realizes this is it. If he's going to start this year, if he's going to have a pro career in front of him, this is put up or shut up time. It's been positive, really positive for JBB."


“I saw a lot of growth. I saw a lot of change. I think he learned a lot about what we’re doing offensively, the system,” Warinner said. “He got smarter as a player, but he also learned what his weaknesses were and then he attacked them aggressively. … Right now, he’s at the lightest weight he’s ever been since he’s been here. He’s under 320, training hard, different body, different look, different demeaner, confident.

“He’s gotten his body and his mind right. Now he has to play up to that. I think he can. ... He isn’t guaranteed a starting spot, but he has done everything he should have done from the last day of spring ball until right now, to put himself in the best position possible."

If Bushell-Beatty can reduce his pass protection events by a third and get incrementally better on the ground he could be a below-average but survivable RT. That is within the realm of reason. Is it more than 50% to happen? Probably not. Would it be a shock? No. And given the rest of the team, a below average tackle should be good enough to win most games. That's the ticket.



The Great Offseason Hope was that redshirt freshman JAMES HUDSON [recruiting profile] would blow through the opposition and claim a starting spot as soon as humanly possible. The end of spring practice would have been lovely. That did not happen. It seemed like it was about to happen in fall camp as Runyan secured his spot and JBB and Hudson got moved away from the blindside. Until a few days ago insiders were asserting that Hudson was their guess for the starting job. Those always had the air of "I've seen the other guy so you might as well," and never had much conviction behind them:

One source said if it remains this close that Hudson would likely get the nod as the ceiling is higher there. Again, nothing appears to have changed on this front; both are taking snaps with the 1s.

Still, it would have been nice. Hudson is not proven to be a walking offensive segfault and comes with a lot of positive insider chatter.

Hudson was a touted defensive tackle coming off an explosive, Willie-Henry-esque senior season when Michigan moved him to OT. This wasn't a shock; until his blowout senior year on defense Hudson was projected on offense about as often as he was on defense. But it was a bit of a surprise since he had that senior season and Michigan was going to be in need of some defensive tackles. Michigan moved him because his OT upside was large, and also the rest of this section. Warinner:

"James is extremely talented. Talented (enough) to be a starting tackle at Michigan, and talented enough to be an honors winner, conference-wise. When that occurs? He controls that.

But, I saw him take steps from offseason conditioning in January and February, to spring ball, through this summer. … I’m excited about him because his ceiling is so high. He is so talented.” ...

Added Warinner, citing pre-snap adjustments and handling varied defensive looks as two areas of difficulty: “He has quick twitch, he can react, change directions, he has enough power… he’s competitive. I mean, he has the traits of an NFL offensive lineman. … His thing is consistency of technique and consistency of effort.”

That was before the fall, and during it there were various mentions that Hudson had taken the step forward everyone had hoped. Bredeson:

"James has picked up the playbook really well. Increased his speed of the game, increased his technique. ... He’s become much more consistent. There’s been some days where James was lights out, couldn’t get by him. And then there’s some days that that was not the case. Overall, he’s been able to stack a few days. So far through camp, we’ve had the pads on, I think four or five days now? He’s been stacking some good days up.”

“The jump for James from spring ball to camp has been huge. I think from a maturity standpoint he’s growing up, been learning the playbook better. He’s really gotten into football. Really bought into the O-line. He’s been killing it.”

A little while after that press conference Webb asserted that Hudson was "pushing much harder" in fall and had "added a few more" practices to his strong run. And then... not so much. There have been a couple of assertions that Bushell-Beatty's spot atop the depth chart is much like John O'Korn's start at Penn State last year: preferring an older player over a younger one because a night game against a tough opponent is coming up. If that's the case it won't take long for Hudson to take over, and this space projects there will be some bumps but no looking back if and when that happens.


50 pounds ago, but in a good way [Isaiah Hole]

The backup left tackle is some variety of large and unprepared freshman. With redshirted 2017 recruit ANDREW STUEBER [recruiting profile] suffering some nagging camp injuries it's true freshman JALEN MAYFIELD [recruiting profile] who seems to be #2 coming out of fall camp. This is alarming, naturally, but no more so than the rest of the position group. And hell, if anyone wants to volunteer to be freshman Mason Cole I'm sure the staff is listening.

Mayfield might be. His recruiting story and explosive growth are convincing arguments that he will be a high-quality tackle, and soon. Per Webb, Mayfield veritably burst out of the gates in fall camp:

...revelation. The hype about him being a definite starter has been off-base, but it’s not totally unfounded. ... one observer said, “it wouldn’t be surprising to anyone if Hudson and Mayfield are the starting tackles at some point this season.” You can now add me to the list of those that wouldn’t be surprised.

Greg Frey's single-season cameo as an OL coach may have brought chaos and woe as too many cooks competed to set up pass protection, but by God the man can spot 250-pound future NFL all-pros and Mayfield is on track to be the next man up in that department. A few recruiting profile highlights:

  • ...  athleticism is immediately evident in his first step.  ...frame is probably about as close to textbook as I've seen since I started doing this. He's athletic, long and most importantly is already pretty stout despite being 18-20 pounds lighter than he will be when he plays his college ball.
  • his athleticism/flexibility and ability to get to different spots on the field to make blocks [are his best qualities]. He can really bend, he can pull...
  • ...prototypical Greg Frey tackle. The first thing that stands out on film is how athletic he is. He's quick and so is his footwork; it also happens to be technically sound. His slide step in pass protection is excellent, as is his foot placement when drive or down blocking. His pass protection is a byproduct of his ability to reset his base quickly and it’s really well developed.

Mayfield was self-reporting a weight around 290 over the summer and when the phonebooks came in they listed him at a just-about-ready-for-prime-time 296, an expansion doubly stunning because Mayfield still looks like a slender, developmental tackle. If the Runyan talk, such as it is, is just happy Johnny Sears stuff, Mayfield will be starting by game five. And that feels just fine in context.

STUEBER, meanwhile, was the Mayfield prospect last year but hasn't generated a ton of buzz since. He's got an inch or two on Mayfield but that's not too helpful if Mayfield has a perfect LT frame, as a number of people suggested and Frey pounced on. He is Frey-ish, though: a large guy who needed to fill out with impressive mobility. Drevno:

"very athletic … possesses great initial quickness. We love his athleticism. He has a great frame and going to put the right kind of weight on … will play with great strength and can be a force for us."

Unlike Mayfield, Stueber was stuck in virtually unscouted Connecticut and didn't get an Army eval, so he's more of a wild-card. I still thought he had a good shot at working out and at 6'7", 323 he's close to ideally sized. Harbaugh:

I don't want to leave out Andrew Stueber ... you look up right now, he's a mountain of a man who is really moving well and is responding in the weight room and so is Joel.

It's too early to get skeptical about any OL, let alone one from the hinterland who missed a chunk of fall camp. But it still would have been very, very nice to hear some "he's a BEAR and he's COMING FOR YOU" quotes over the offseason. Radio silence likely means Stueber needs another year in the oven before he's a real contender.


i don't want to go on the cart [Eric Upchurch]

The guy who actually started last season, NOLAN ULIZIO, has dropped so far down the depth chart that your author had to double-check that he was still on the team. He is. In almost every visible way he is not. If he is included in an insider report or press conference answer it's one that dutifully mentions everyone on the roster competing at a spot.

This is not a surprise. Ulizio's rise to the starting job last year was so late that this preview filed him as a backup, noting he'd been "a total nonentity on this site" for the previous year. When he was real bad against Florida the UFR asked for patience since he "had to be terrible" given his context:

Redshirt sophomore, first start, barely entered the conversation until a couple weeks before the end of fall camp: had to be bad. Was bad. I saw some hopeful assertions that he was functional on the ground and bad in pass protection, and I don't think those are accurate.

An astounding –12.5 run block grade was largely Michigan running a bunch of inside zone and Ulizio running to the second level without hitting anyone on the first; that got better. Ulizio became vaguely functional as a run blocker.

He was always and constantly a wreck trying to pass protect. Getting run over by some dudes at Florida is one thing. Those dudes are dudes. Might have dreads. Definitely can throw a car at you. Getting back-to-back –7s in pass pro against Air Force and Purdue is end-of-the-world stuff, and while this wasn't quite the last straw it should stand as the briefest possible summary of Ulizio's 2017:

RT #70 to top of line

He'd racked up another five protection minuses in that game when Michigan finally pulled the plug just before halftime.

It is deeply unlikely there is any way back from the above. Ulizio was a late flier in Harbaugh's first recruiting class with little to recommend him other than a Kentucky offer and Tim Drevno's keen eye for talent, so the above was as a third year player. The complete radio blackout about him is meaningful when the two guys he temporarily beat out are certainly on the two-deep. And his main advocate is gone. Unless there is (another) biblical plague, Ulizio will watch and then grad-transfer out.

Finally, freshman RYAN HAYES [recruiting profile] is another Greg Frey tackle to stack meat on for a couple years and then find out what you've got. Rumbles about Hayes playing tight end were always far-fetched except in the "bonus OL" sense, and sure enough as soon as he stepped on campus he was working at tackle. This is the correct thing to do for a 6'7" guy who's already 270 pounds. He's a holy lock to redshirt.


Communist Football

August 29th, 2018 at 12:45 PM ^

Both the sacks in the MSU game Brian posted here look to me like O'Korn didn't throw to the wide open shallow receiver. I feel like Shea is going to make much better decisions with the ball, and that will dramatically reduce the number of sacks all on its own, even if you assume there is no OL improvement under Warinner (and I assume there will be significant improvement).


August 29th, 2018 at 4:10 PM ^

Also, while Shea is far from Denard, even the threat of mobility provides the extra seconds needed to get the ball downfield.  O'Korn was mobile, yet terrible at decision making and throwing the football.  The fact that Shea is prolific outside the pocket buys him more time in the pocket where Harbaugh and Co. have hopefully had significant impact.


August 29th, 2018 at 10:56 AM ^

Jesus this post makes me sad.  Anybody wondering why Michigan isn't "MEECHIGAN" on the football field like the good old days needs to look no further than this portion of the 2018 preview post.

From the very early days of Bo through the end of the Carr regime the one thing you could hang your hat on as a Michigan fan was a dominant offensive line that was usually led by a soon-to-be pro left tackle or center (or both).  You KNEW going into the year that Michigan was going to be loaded at O Line and that while other positions might be in flux the offensive line, and most notably tackle, was a constant and it was going to be very, very good.

Bo said something to the effect of "you win or lose football games with your offensive line."  It was true then and it's true now.  How in the fuck did we let ourselves get so far away from something so basic and fundamental to winning football?


August 29th, 2018 at 11:24 AM ^

"How in the fuck did we let ourselves get so far away from something so basic and fundamental to winning football?"

A significant change in OL recruiting and body type philosophy for 3 years under RR, and then 4 years under Hoke with lousy recruiting and even more horrible OL coaching.

And then under Harbaugh an OL coach with an excellent track record as OL coach elsewhere who was Peter-Principled into an OC position he wasn't well-suited for that diluted his attention and then combined with another OL coach with a good track record who nonetheless was a poor fit philosophically for the offensive approach overall.

That's a full decade of changes in changes in HC and OL coaching philosophy combined with less-than-stellar recruiting + bad injury luck + unwise coaching staff decisions.

Contrast that with the stability and excellence offered by Jerry Hanlon's 22 years on staff through '91, and his influence and guidance for years beyond that. I still think that Funk should have brought Hanlon back as a special consultant to help him figure out what the hell was going wrong and how to fix it.

Also contrast it with what Wisconsin has done since Alvarez took over as HC in '90. Ever since that time, regardless of the changes to Bielema, Anderson, and Chryst, the Badgers have not changed their recruiting philosophy for OL or their approach to offense in general: huge mashing OL fronting a powerful running game. And until quite recently, the vast majority of their OL recruits have not been 4- or 5-star recruits—they've been 3-stars or less, many of them coming from small towns and out-of-the-way areas that aren't heavily mined by the more "prestigious" programs. That's almost three decades of stability coupled with success at a pretty high level.

Fun fact: since the 2008 season, Michigan has had 3 OL named to All-Conference teams: Molk, Lewan, and Omameh. The last one recruited was Lewan in 2009.

Space Coyote

August 29th, 2018 at 11:45 AM ^

I'm going to look at this in a slightly different way.

For a long time, you basically had a factory build on a strong foundation with consistent usage. There were good players as upperclassmen backed up by talented underclassmen and what those guys needed to do to succeed was obvious. It was demonstrated day-in and day-out, over and over and over again so that there was an expectation of success and what was needed to achieve that success.

Toward the end of the Carr era it started to fade but still existed, Rich Rod took over with Frey and they still produced a quality OL but the foundation had shifted a bit because of a talent gap that existed in 2008, so the they in some ways needed to rebuild a deteriorating foundation. They pretty successfully did that on the top, albeit with a new philosophy, but never rebuilt the depth. Then Hoke comes in and there is an obvious lack of depth. He goes about quickly trying to rebuild that depth, but now there is a gap in that production again and the hand-me-down of success and what goes into that success is broken fully from the old Carr-Bo era; it's now something of its own making. But Michigan has Funk, a guy not prepared to establish that new foundation and build that old era of producing OL. And along with the last remains of Frey (Lewan and Schofield) is a ton of young guys that have basically taken over a new OL room. They don't get coached up enough, another transition occurs, and because of that, boom, depth is destroyed again. So now we're onto Harbaugh.

Harbaugh losses JBB, he loses Newsome, a high level recruit flips at the last minute and they are unprepared to adequately replace him, another high level recruit seems to be coming your way and essentially flips to Georgia. You take some swing guys that aren't a terrible likelihood of panning out but you basically whiff. That's 4 potential OTs gone, that would have helped start that rebuilding process, re-established that foundation, and weren't there to do so. They are still trying to rebuild, and at some point it has to come together for this thing to work. But it's piece parts and custom builds right now, it isn't the well-oiled factory it once was. Production needs to get back up and running in the meantime.


August 29th, 2018 at 12:40 PM ^

Don't forget Jean Deleance! The coaches, heck everyone was sure he was a lock to Michigan. I think his grandma forcing him to choose Texas over his desires to go to Michigan really blindsided them and their recruiting plans.

There have been others (guy who went to Louisville whose name escapes me now) but that one sticks out in my mind. 


August 29th, 2018 at 11:49 AM ^

I thought we were going to recover finally when Hoke landed that monster 2013 OL. Fast forward 5 years and that class did a shocking amount of nothing. Then we followed that up with not a lot of bodies the next year (Cole and JBB), then 2015 had Newsome, Ulizio, and Runyan

Seem like a combo of bad luck (Newsome and literally the whole 2013 class failing) and then just recruiting no one. Harbaugh is still digging himself out of it

This preview would be a whole lot friendlier if Newsome was still playing :(

Magnum P.I.

August 29th, 2018 at 12:19 PM ^

Yeah, the 2012 (Kalis, Magnuson, Bars, Braden) and 2013 (Kugler, Bosch, Dawson, Fox, Tuley-Tillman) classes were stacked at offensive line. Hoke whiffed in 2014, but overall you can't fault his OL recruiting. Both the 2012 and 2013 OL classes were better than any OL class that Harbaugh has yet to put together. From a recruiting standpoint, OL has to be considered the biggest disappointment under Harbaugh to-date. 


August 29th, 2018 at 6:48 PM ^

Thing is it's a good class from recruiting stars standpoint, but when in reality, it's an awful class overall because they had two contributors and both are meh.

It's nice to land elite recruits, but it's their performance that determines the success of the classes aka All-Conference, All-American, NFL draft picks.


August 29th, 2018 at 12:17 PM ^

I'll try to answer here..

first off, I have been bitching about the OL for a decade now, especially after each recruit would commit, I'd be screaming that its YET another guard, and where the F are the tackles....


LLoyd was getting shut out of Ohio his final few years, thanks to Martin holding him over... (THANK YOU BILL MARTIN FOR THIS WORST DECADE IN MICHIGAN HISTORY)

RR was really shut out of Ohio and had alot of trouble recruiting the midwest... still lands Lewan and Schofield, but thats it (though those two were great)

Hoke tried but had a ton of misses at tackle, when he couldn't afford it.....  Chris Fox injured, Bosch transferred out, LTT got in deep trouble and booted, Newsome hurt...

Then Drevno comes in..... and the California guy now has to recruit in the midwest, with midwest high school coaches, etc....  it didn't go well, and he kept missing out on tackle recruits, over and over...  he belongs in California, not here.  Late misses too, such as Isaiah Brown...

Frey stockpiled a few before he left, though I noticed the OP made no mention of Joel Hongiford.


August 29th, 2018 at 1:09 PM ^

2011 was the last time all 5 of our OL played at their best positions. Since then we have been rotating our best interior linemen to play OT out of necessity. This will be the 7th straight season where at least one OT is better suited as a OG or OC. That is hard to fathom. We need to over recruit the OT position until we have enough "hits" on tackles that we finally have rectified the problem.

The Maize Mafia

August 29th, 2018 at 11:00 AM ^

This unit will be better this year. One question is, "How much better?" The other question is. "How much better is necessary?"

They might be just slightly better, and that might end up being good enough. Or they might be substantially better, and it still might not be sufficient. 

The optimist in me says that we will be pleasantly surprised by the production we get across the line. Of course, if Harbaugh can't field a competent offensive line in year four and after overhauling the coaching staff, what does that mean for this program?

Shop Smart Sho…

August 29th, 2018 at 11:07 AM ^

Are there supposed to be pictures or videos around this paragraph? Because there is an inordinate amount of white space.

"Is there hope? There's a modest case for it, maybe. Bushell-Beatty has never looked particularly put-together in his time at Michigan and in there is the main non-Warinner reason for optimism in 2018. Both Warinner and Harbaugh have implied that Bushell-Beatty had not maxed out his determination and professionalism in previous offseasons, and that there had been one of those last-rodeo improvements. Harbaugh:"

And the image link appears to be broken right above the Steuber section.


August 29th, 2018 at 11:08 AM ^

I don't get this narrative that there's NO WAY a unit could improve THAT MUCH in a single off season. Let's take a look at how we thought the 2011 defense would be, which went from transparent dysfunction and lack of cohesion to a much more simplified and straight forward philosophy.

The narrative was that Mattison would be a genius IF he could get the defense from around 120th to the top 50. They ended up 23rd, according to s&p+. You could argue that there's been a similarly massive upgrade in terms of coaching and lack of dysfunction.


August 29th, 2018 at 11:29 AM ^

I don't recall offhand if the 2011 defense was full of highly regarded dudes that GERG GERG'D UP or if it was a collection of middling recruits that Mattison did miracles with.  I feel like it was the former.

Runyan was a middling 3* who is obviously a legacy and JBB was a 3/4 fringe kind of guy.

I feel like the case for optimism here is that we survive ND with the competent-ish veterans, beat them with our defense, have the youngsters get significant playing time for the rest of September and by the time Wisconsin comes to town, the higher upside freshmen are playing and hopefully that goes OK.

yossarians tree

August 29th, 2018 at 12:35 PM ^

Eh, I tend to be optimistic. First, this unit could be very good at run blocking especially with JBB in there, who can mash. The interior guys are some hogs. This helps pass blocking because it keeps the defense more honest. And then with Patterson we have a guy who can hurt you if you overcommit to the run. Let's face it, as bad as the protection was last year, we still should have beaten every team we lost to (except Penn State) if we had even average QB play. This offense is not going to be as good as the really good Michigan offenses of the past, but I think they are going to surprise some people because the triggerman is good and the HC knows how to use a good triggerman. 


August 29th, 2018 at 6:50 PM ^

It's not just LT, you need two good bookend OT to combat pass rushers. DC will find weaknesses on OL and will attack them by putting their best pass rushers against them. If LT is strong, they're going to move their best pass rushers away from them and just put them against RT which is why RT has to be strong in pass protection.

The days of blindside tackle being the best pass protector is long over because all OL has to be good in pass protection or it's going to be a long day for the QB.


August 29th, 2018 at 11:56 AM ^

That's a great point. The only thing I would have to say against is that, isn't it generally accepted that it's much easier and takes less time to learn and master defense rather than offense? At least when it comes to the line positions?

Assuming this is the case, then I think it's possible that it takes the line 2-3 years of quality coaching under Warinner to actually become a good / great O-Line.

Hopefully this isn't the case obviously, but it COULD be an actual obstacle that the line has to overcome.


August 29th, 2018 at 12:11 PM ^

A 2011 transformation requires that the talent was there but needed the direction of one Greg Mattison.  Someone correct me but our OL against talent (MSU from 2012 to 2017 less 2016) was abyssmal.  Tackles just missing things or being drawn offsides in a systemic fashion beyond repair.  IMHO the OL survived in 2016 because Pepcat and other workarounds.  They are a historically bad OL and have been for some time.  Grant Newsome was supposed to be an anchor from which to build it back.  Hoke did not recruit and Harbaugh maybe did not have a guy who could recruit OL positions.  This conversation re: OL is now 10 years old.  I personally winced when I saw JBB get his name called in 2016 and 2017.  It meant either an offsides or blocking issue.  We just have not been a draw for OL talent.  The press on the matter citing improvement means nothing until we see it Saturday.  (Sits down at table with "Prove Me Wrong" sign).



August 29th, 2018 at 12:21 PM ^

Prove you wrong...

Okay have you looked at the recruiting profiles of the three starters on the interior? Three top one hundred linemen starting inside, which are two juniors and a sophomore. Then you have three options at tackle (as of now) which are a 5th year senior, a RS junior and a RS freshman. The freshman is a 4 star, competing with 3 star upperclassmen. There are elite offensive lines all over the country with 3 star starters. There are playoff teams every year that start true freshmen. I'm not saying this offensive line is going to be elite, but solid seems like an acceptable level for this season when literally every other position group has the potential, if not the expectation of being great or elite.


August 29th, 2018 at 11:11 AM ^

"JALEN MAYFIELD who seems to be #2 coming out of fall camp. This is alarming,"

I wish I had a fiver for everybody who's already opined that the fact that our young OL aren't grabbing starting spots is also world-is-gonna-end alarming.

Make up your damn minds: is it good or is it bad when very young OL get major minutes?


August 29th, 2018 at 11:32 AM ^

Well my default response is that in general it's better for very young OL to not get major minutes because experience is paramount for OL, but I can't count the number of times I've read people getting suicidal here because Mayfield or Filiaga or Hudson or whoever HASN'T already grabbed a starting spot because our upperclassmen OL suck. Brian's alarmed because Mayfield might get some PT.

Steve Hutchinson was a redshirt freshman who started all 12 games in '97 who came into the program as a DL, so the notion that a young OL is automatically terrible is wrong—a guy who turns out to be a future NFL HOFer proves that. It depends on the guy. Are Mayfield or Hudson that kind of guy too? We don't know yet. Hutchinson is a damn high bar—we could use some Backuses too.


August 29th, 2018 at 11:39 AM ^

I think the idea is that it would be better if the older player would win the job over a younger player. So we all hope Hudson or Filiaga would be better news because it would prevent a true freshman from playing; not because we think that Hudson or Filiaga would be the *best* possible outcome.

We all agree that an upper classman taking the reigns is the desired outcome, but Runyan and JBB haven't shown anything. This is why we are hoping that the younger talent would overcome the older mediocrity.

Basically, it's this

Young, talent who's figured it out > Mediocrity > Young, dumb talent > True Freshman

Space Coyote

August 29th, 2018 at 11:31 AM ^

It's good for that individual player, it means he's already better than guys that have been around for a while, which at a position that requires massive improvements in technique and body composition, is a good sign for that player's future.

For the team this year, it is generally bad. Because OL requires massive improvements in technique and body composition that the FR hasn't had yet. It undoubtably adds to the inconsistency and to the ceiling of the unit.

That said, I get your point. People shouldn't be freaking out because Hudson (who didn't camp as an OL and was basically a guy with a good body for the position coming into last year) hasn't taken away the position by the start of his RS FR season. Way too early to tell.


August 29th, 2018 at 11:38 AM ^

With Mayfield specifically, I think the big thing is you really want to redshirt OL in general and especially Frey types who come in undersized and put on a whole lot of weight quickly.  Dude increases his body mass by 20% in a not super long period of time, I can't imagine he's entirely comfortable with the new weight, plus the transition to trying to block elite edge rushers and everything.

Plus ideally you just redshirt every OL ever.


August 29th, 2018 at 12:34 PM ^

It all has to be taken in context. If your upperclassmen are as low upside as ours seem to be, you’d love a younger guy to push through and seize the opportunity with both hands. The fact that Hudson, as a second year player, hasn’t done that gives some pause about his viability this year. On the other hand, the fact that a true freshman might be our best left tackle this year is promising for his future, but is scary because it puts a pretty hard ceiling on how good our line can be, and raises questions about recruiting/depth. 


August 29th, 2018 at 11:16 AM ^

Good heavens, I'm over here quiver-laughing because I'm so excited/nervous for this year. The edit: offensive team is either going to be a force to be reckoned with or they'll be like a puppy; sharp needle teeth that don't do real damage and a bark that scares absolutely no one. 


August 29th, 2018 at 11:22 AM ^

This.....tempered my enthusiasm a bit. I was living off blind hope they would be substantially improved because we as fans deserve some good fortune. This information presented does not appear to support that.