Tenuous OL Leaders And Other Spring Depth Speculations Comment Count

Brian March 13th, 2013 at 11:45 AM


your obligatory Kalis/Braden shots (left: Thomas Ondrey, CPD. Right: Tim Sullivan, The Wolverine)

Recently, Brady Hoke sat down with ESPN and answered questions posed to him about the football team he's in charge of. This business resulted a bunch of personnel questions, and the responses were quite a bit less vague than they might have been.

Offensive line stuffs. The thing that leaps off the page:

Well, I think the interior of both lines, there's going to be a lot of competition. We've got to find a center, and that's between [Jack] Miller and [Graham] Glasgow, and Joey Burzynski will try to figure that out a little bit, too. At the guard positions, Ben Braden is going to move down inside and start out at the left guard, but he'll have a lot of competition because Burzynski is back and so is Blake Bars. Kyle Kalis will move into the right side, and it will be interesting again with [Kyle] Bosch and some of the guys who have been here a little bit. I think it will be a really good competition at all three of those inside positions.

Okay, so.

  1. Kyle Kalis was at left guard and is flipping to the right for some reason.
  2. He and Ben Braden sound like your tenuous leaders at the guard spots.
  3. Graham Glasgow is your #2-ish center at this instant.
  4. Chris Bryant does not get mentioned, probably because he's still recovering from injury.

The Braden move puts him on the same path Michael Schofield took to the starting right tackle job: an apprenticeship at LG and then lockdown at RT. Braden's listed an inch shorter than Schofield on the official site, if you're worried about guys getting under him and blowing him up. FWIW, Hoke also talks up Schofield extensively ("really good winter" … "real bright spots" last year, "special deployed").

I'm not sure why Michigan would flip Kalis, but for whatever reason it seems like they prefer future right tackles getting their first playing time to hang out at left guard instead of right. Maybe it's about spatial orientation: when a left guard pulls he ends up on the right side of the line, and if that pull turns into pass protection it's more natural for Once and Future Right Tackle to execute that. Or maybe it's about having Kalis pull to Lewan's side of the line, a prospect that Hoke must be drooling about after a couple years of having the (relatively) slight and inexperienced (at pulling, anyway) Patrick Omameh as the guard pulling to Lewan on power plays to the left.

Hoke also acknowledges that the three tech and SDE spots are close to interchangeable:

Willie Henry, Ondre Pipkins, Ryan Glasgow, Richard Ash and Chris Wormley are all guys who can either play the inside tackle or the strongside end. We'll find out the guys who are competitive.

The other Glasgow is thrown in there, yes; Hoke also brings up Strobel and Heitzman separately; Ondre Pipkins is oddly in this heap of guys. Implication: they will give him a shot to win the three-tech job and if it happens they'll find a backup for Quinton Washington somehow (Ash or Henry, probably). If I was betting I'd put my money on Wormley with Pipkins getting extensive time behind Washington or both guys.


norfleet obsession: still poppin' (Melanie Maxwell, MLive)

Keeping Derrick Green's seat warm. Norfleet is at running back, as you know, and Drake Johnson is building on a bit of bowl practice hype. Then there's this telling sentence:

Thomas Rawls is coming back, and I think he learned a lot last year about the vision he needs to play with, and I like how he's competed through the [winter].

He's the third back mentioned, behind Norfleet and the redshirted Johnson. I'd say he'd still have a role as a short-yardage back, but 1) he wasn't any good at that last year and 2) DeVeon Smith and Derrick Green, especially Green.

Exit? At linebacker it's just a bunch of names, but should we read something between the lines when Hoke brings up Kaleb Ringer returning from injury but not Antonio Poole? Michigan is currently at 87 players. Due to Big Ten rules they've already had to explain to the league where those two scholarships are coming from, so it's just a matter of announcing it.

Dollars to donuts we get the announcement of a couple of departures/medical scholarships Thursday, when the Hoke has his first presser. One guy apparently not on that list: fifth-year-to-be Mike Jones, to-date little used and previously seen to be a candidate for a firm handshake. Hoke brought him up in the linebacker procession of names.

Other stuff. Rittenberg asks about the other position groups as well, but nothing there is particularly surprising. I think Hoke mentions literally every scholarship DB on the roster save Delonte Hollowell*; linebacker is obvious to all; Blake Countess will do "some things" this spring, so his injury is still hampering him. The first WRs up after the senior slots are Darboh and Chesson, and then this is a little worrying:

And I think Jeremy Jackson has had a very good winter; we're very excited about some of the progress he's made. Joe Reynolds is a guy who walked on here, and he's done a very nice job. And Bo Dever, his dad played here and he walked on.

Options other than those two guys include two walk-ons and Jeremy Jackson. Really could have used an instant impact WR guy in this class. Obvious sentence is obvious.

*[Which you might read something into if you were so inclined. Michigan was clearly petrified of putting either Hollowell or Richardson on the field in the bowl game despite the fact that South Carolina's receivers were the best matchup possible for them (ie, short). Richardson can say he's a true freshman. Hollowell not so much. Greener pastures may beckon.]



March 13th, 2013 at 11:55 AM ^

seems like every year people talk about people breaking out at those positions or 'doing really good things' and then it's always 'meh'. I've learned to translate

looking great = fine

doing good things = not doing awful things

Space Coyote

March 13th, 2013 at 12:00 PM ^

I think what you say has some merit, but more so, teams tend to be right hand strong, so they typically prefer to run to the right. My guess is they want Kalis there now and in the future to hold down that key running position. When they run power right, they need to have a plow that can get a DT out of that hole now. Go outside of that and you need to be able to get a solid push on a DE and drive him somewhere.

On the flip side, LG has a few more pass pro responsibilities. With DE playing wider against the LT, there is more room that the LG also needs to make up, and a lot of teams will B gap blitz there, stunt the OLB and DE or DT and DE. So there really needs to be a more pass pro oriented player there, which is why putting your future RT there makes a bit more sense, and your future and forever RG roadgrader at RG.


March 13th, 2013 at 12:33 PM ^

Is it also possible that it's easier to be a guard next to Lewan than next to anyone else?  You can trust that the guy next to you is going to do his job and don't have to worry about helping him double someone.  If so, this could mean Kalis is further ahead of Braden, which makes sense given all of Kalis's "college-ready" hype as a recruit and that Braden is newer to playing guard.

Space Coyote

March 13th, 2013 at 12:42 PM ^

I think Schofield is just as likely to know his assignment as Lewan (remember, Lewan wasn't infallible last year, Smith v Clowney was probably more on him than the TE).

Besides that, doubles typically come from the design of the play more so than the personnel. You double at the point of attack based on the run play called and the defensive alignment, whether those guys are good enough to release and get to a LB or what have you will more likely adjust your play calling than personnel positions along the line. You shift your pass pro based on what you see or who needs help. In fact, if Lewan needs a double, he'll more likely get it from a chipping TE or RB than the LG, so you almost expect the LG to be single blocking or combo with the C on pass pro just as often as you see a RG combo with another O-lineman. You can do little tweaks (last year Michigan actually began pulling the tackles some when the guards weren't getting it done), but for the most part that wouldn't be a reason to swap guards, because you're going ot try to at least mirror your techniques and keys, etc, rather than (for example) have a RG pull but have a LT pull rather than the LG.


March 13th, 2013 at 12:07 PM ^

So if we were to line up in a 5 WR set (which i doubt we'll ever do because it doesn't play to our strengths), the lineup would be something like: Gallon, Dileo, Darboh, Chesson, Jackson by default?


Ack...keep 3 WR sets all day. We need Drake Harris, and we need Chesson/ Darboh/ Damario Jones to come on in practice

Space Coyote

March 13th, 2013 at 12:10 PM ^

Funchess would almost certainly be simply split out in that sort of set. Most likely they would also probably throw someone like Hayes or Norfleet out there. Michigan won't be running any pure 5 WR sets, if they split 5 out, they would use personnel to try to keep defenses in their base package or at most nickel and try to take advantage of mismatches that way.

Still, as you said, I doubt we see any 5 wide from this team. Maybe the occassional 4 wide with a TE split. Also don't write off Reynolds. He's not just good at blocking, he is also deceptive in and out of breaks. He's a guy that seems to understand how to run good routes and get enough seperation to get open underneath (won't stretch the field any time soon probably). He can be a solid third or forth option as a WR.


March 13th, 2013 at 1:12 PM ^

I agree on Reynolds.  From purely an athletic standpoint (not counting knowledge of playbook, work habits, etc.), I would have him higher on the depth chart than Jackson.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't remember any five-wide sets from 2012.  If there's an empty backfield, the "wideouts" will almost certainly include at least one back and/or at least one tight end.

Space Coyote

March 13th, 2013 at 3:19 PM ^

But it was strictly as a way to spread the field out for designed Denard draws, IIRC. I don't think they want to run DG that way often (maybe by the goalline Borges would call a play like this), but I don't see really any reason for them to pass out of a five wide more than a few times at most this year.

I, personally, have always hated 5-wide sets for several reasons: no RB to threaten run; no lead blocker for any QB run; no threat of even a chip or overload blitz pick up. I think you can occassionally sprinkle it in a system (obviously you can use it a lot, as Texas Tech had done in the past with success, but my philosophy, or what I believe Borges' is, doesn't fit that mold) with some quick passing game (slants, hitch, screen, fly (perhaps off a fake screen), fade) and draws, but I think Michigan's long term success doesn't include going to that well often.


March 13th, 2013 at 4:57 PM ^

"Brady, go out and win it" mode, how many wide receivers they used in formation. I know what they did was very much what you said in an above post - a TE out, or the back running into a slot.  I pretty much agree that teams with 5 receiver sets as a staple aren't usually putting out an NFL terror out there as their 5th or even 4th receiver. Even when Michigan had great receiver depth (and it wasn't a TE or HB) the last guy was more likely to be a reliable senior/walk on type going short than a freshman uber-talent.  Freshmen receivers have rarely had big first years at Michigan.

Space Coyote

March 13th, 2013 at 12:24 PM ^

Like all things with Hoke, there is more than a possibility for a ton of coach speak here. "______ had a good winter" is about as easy of a thing to say as there is without throwing a kid under the bus. The only thing I really take from that means that they at least weren't lazy over the winter.

For RB: no mention at all of Hayes makes you wonder a bit. It's possible they are going to try to move him around a bit and see what else he can do. (EDIT: nevermind, Hayes mentioned right after Rawls in the actual article, though what was said of him sounds a bit like the point I made; Hoke almost seems more positive about him than Rawls).

WR: Jackson is case and point for "had a good winter". It means nothing. This team is scary thin at WR this spring.

Pipkins: My guess is he rotates in as a back-up at both Nose and 3-tech. I doubt they go with someone other than Washington or Pipkins at nose unless Ash has made good progress or passing down is obvious. Henry I don't think fits there at this point. There are plenty of guys that can step in and play the 3-tech that Washington or Pipkins should be able to get the rest they need and not have to play someone else at the nose.

Center: Sounds not sold on Miller yet, which, yeah... that could stretch out through the summer.


March 13th, 2013 at 12:55 PM ^

Maybe it's just me, but I took literally nothing out of that interview. Hoke hasn't had a problem misleading the media, and I've never really found a strong correlation with what Hoke says in pressers to what actually happens outside of the obvious starters who have positions locked down.


March 13th, 2013 at 1:14 PM ^

Yeah...Nathan Brink, Devin Gardner, Barnum vs. Mealer, etc.  Hoke understands that the media don't have to know everything that goes on behind closed doors.  And while it's sort of a refreshing trait, it also makes for somewhat boring interviews/press conferences because there's a good chance that everything coming out of his mouth is spin.

Blue in Seattle

March 13th, 2013 at 1:33 PM ^

The one thing I've noticed about Hoke, especially in the spring, is that everything is practice, nothing is performance.  He puts players in odd/new positions to try things out.  Also he seems really intent on getting stuff on film for later review by the players, so he cycles through a lot of formations in addition to the player swaps.

I expect 2014 is the first year he could do a true scrimmage for the spring game.  But that won't change the rest of the practice time being "all business".

the only aspects he can't hide are which players are still injured too much to participate.

And if one of your assistant coaches has a son on the team, I'm pretty sure he's going to get mentioned and it will be positive spin fluff.

and it's like Russel Bellomy has left the team, at least in the fans minds.  I think he is a key guy to watch in spring practice to at least see if he's shaken off his "shell shock" injury from Nebraska.



March 13th, 2013 at 3:21 PM ^

I guess what I meant is they can backdate as many as they want as long as they are at 85.  I think you can only backdate up to 3 in the B1G regardless if you have room.  I am probably completely wrong about this though. 

True Blue Grit

March 13th, 2013 at 1:01 PM ^

doesn't seem to bode well to me.  Even if it just means he won't be able to play in the spring, he'll still have a ton of catching up to do.  With the lack of depth at OL, that would mean an even less experienced player at the guard spot.  Hopefully it will work out fine though.


March 13th, 2013 at 12:31 PM ^

Trying to decode and make sense of coach-speak is no easier than trying to figure out what the North Koreans have up their sleeve based upon the dear leader's latest speech.

And about as accurate.


March 13th, 2013 at 1:07 PM ^

but, coming from somebody who played Rockford every year in football, their runningbacks are generally 5'5" max. They go the short and stout route and the guy standing next to him is in that same mold.

Interesting tactic really. Considering the talent pool they have to pull from I'm sure they could find a 6' bruiser but I can't argue with their numbers. They were always very successful running the ball with those smaller guys.

Edit: I'm speaking about Braden. Thought I clicked reply to somebody commenting on his ability to consume the player he is standing next to in the picture.


March 13th, 2013 at 1:15 PM ^

I understand that Fitz is hurt and won't participate this spring (at least in full pads), but to not even mention him when you are mentioning Deveon Smith and Derrick Green doesn't seem fair. Fitz was starting to look pretty decent between the tackles (despite pathetic interior line play) the last couple games till the injury, his weakness were those ridiculous wide sweep plays we had him running. On those plays the blocking sucked by the WR's and he also couldn't turn the corner most times.

I think Fitz will come back next year with something to prove, and I also think the interior line will be more built for straight ahead run blocking for between the tackle running, giving him some good holes. The loss of Denard (which will cause everbody else to have to step up their production) and, most likely, the improvement of our passing game with Gardner, Funchess, Gallon, and (hopefully) Chesson or Darboh stepping up should spread the defense out a bit, and open up running lanes. I think next year, even though no Denard, Roundtree, or Smith, we have a more diverse cast of wepons that will keep the Defense guessing, plus better interior line and RB play. I do think Green will contribute, especially come B1G play when we need more depth and playmakers.

My completely opinionated and un-called for predictions for the production of our running game in 2013:

Fitz- 1000 yds, 10-12 TD's, at least 4.5 ypc.

Green- 500 yds, 4-7 TD's, 4.5 ypc

Gardner- 500 yds, 7-10 TD's, 6 ypc

Norfleet- 350 yds, 3 TD's, 6-7 ypc

Rawls- 200 yds, 3 TD's, 3-4 ypc (lots of short yardage)

Hayes- 150 yds, 1 TD, 4-5 ypc

Johnson- 120 yds, 1 TD, 5 ypc

Smith- redshirt


I hope I am right too.



March 13th, 2013 at 1:25 PM ^

2,820 rushing yards?  That's a hell of a lot of yards for a team with an unproven interior offensive line and, most importantly, without a quarterback who can run for 1,200-1,800 yards.

There's no way Michigan will get that kind of production unless something miraculous happens and Barry Sanderson comes out of retirement with college eligibility remaining.


March 13th, 2013 at 2:55 PM ^

this is more of a best case scenario, obviously...i know these are all scewed well in our favor. I do think we will get much better production from our backs next year...at least enough to give the defense some rest....remember, our 1997 team had a lot of unproven young linemen as well. Couple that with the fact that we have a favorable schedule and the B1G will still be down as a whole. I do think that Toussaint and Green will be our 1 and 2 rushers.

Space Coyote

March 13th, 2013 at 3:24 PM ^

I honest doubt Michigan has a 1000 yard rusher this year. I think Fitz, if healthy, has a much more limited role and is around 800. His backup, Green probably, is around probably in the 600s. You then probably get in the 300s from DG (not nearly as many designed runs, sacks going against him), and then mop up duty from Hayes, Rawls, Johnson, WRs, FBs, etc for another 300s-400s.

That puts the team around 2100-2200 for the year. This puts them ~50 nationally, but the offense will be much more balanced and the passing numbers will go up. For perspective, Michigan ran for around 2400 last year.


March 13th, 2013 at 2:01 PM ^

What can be read from Hoke's tea leaves I have no idea.

But this I know ... I love all this nuts-and-bolts talk about positions.  Fascinating.

I've also come to accept my football addiction.  God help me, I love it.  I love it so.


March 13th, 2013 at 2:32 PM ^

Hoke says "I think inside, we get Jibreel Black for another year and Quinton Washington. But once you get through that, there are a lot of young guys ..."

That tells me he anticipates Black (who is not mentioned above) and Washington as the two clear-cut starters.  While Black could slide over to SDE, it sounds like he is 'inside' for now.

There's one open starter job and a great deal of positional flexibility.


March 13th, 2013 at 2:42 PM ^

Hoke did bring up the starting tackles, but he didn't go into detail.

If you want circumstantial evidence that EM isn't a concern - when the coaching staff decided to add a 5th OL in the class late in the cycle, they went with a guy who was pure interior OL (Samulson).

The conspicuous ommission is Bryant.


March 13th, 2013 at 3:47 PM ^

Yeah, there is no competition at either tackle spot, so that wash mentioned. If Magnuson is awesome, he's not seeing the field at tackle anyway. Does it say something that Braden was moved and not Magnuson? Maybe, but not that he isn't good, just that he's not as good at Guard in 2013. That doesn't mean he won't be a great tackle in 2014 though.


March 13th, 2013 at 4:17 PM ^

EM is a freshman and could still be a great player, but for now, it's fair to say Braden is clearly ahead.  The fact that Braden is viewed as ready to play speaks well and it's reasonable to assume Braden is more likely to start in '14.   If Magnuson was awesome they'd find a way to play him (at OG). It's not like OT and OG are as dissimilar as QB and DT.


Space Coyote

March 13th, 2013 at 4:28 PM ^

EM isn't an interior player. His body isn't fit to be one. He is long and would struggle to get leverage inside. He's a tackle prospect all the way. On the other hand Braden has a body that can play either guard or RT. So that's probably why Braden is getting looks inside while EM is continuing to get reps behind two solidified starters at tackle.