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 6:22 PM ^

But ability superscedes optimal physical traits. If Lewan was needed at tackle he could play it - just like Schofield did.  Braden has weight on Magnuson right now but they're both 6'6.

There's nothing wrong with taking a bit longer to develop and Magnuson hasn't even entered his freshman year yet, but there is some correlation with contributing early and long-term results (i.e. most great players can usually at least help out pretty quickly.)


March 13th, 2013 at 6:57 PM ^

I don't know if ability always supercedes optimal traits, depending on how far apart Braden and Magnuson are in ability.  If Braden's physical traits are a much better fit at OG than Magnuson's are (which could be the case) it's possible Magnuson has every bit the ability that Braden has or even slightly more, but Braden just makes a better guard.  Some guys have a skill set that makes them more versatile, and some guys do one thing really well but aren't as flexible to move to other spots. 

Or, as you alluded to, it could just be that Braden's body is more ready for Big Ten football than Magnuson's, which means very little going forward since I'm sure Magnuson will catch up.  Lewan's body wasn't ready as a RS frosh either (both he and EM were "underweight" recruits), and I promise you we wouldn't have heard from him that year if M had 2 5th year senior returning starters at the tackle spots. 


March 13th, 2013 at 7:30 PM ^

The positions have different demands, certainly, but they are tweaks on the same traits - either way you have to block people and move around.  They are far more similar than different.  Most good OL can play multiple positions if needed.  Most of our OTs in recent year could have played OG if needed to (Lewan or Long would have made good OGs too but obviously there services were more needed at LT)  Here we're talking about 2 guys who are the same height and same age.  One guy is clearly ahead of the other.

"it could just be ___'s body is more ready, which means very little going forward since I'm sure ___ will catch up"

Are you really sure?  That's not how it usually works.  I don't deny that EM could catch up but it's far from certain.  Not always, but often, the better players emerge quickly as contributors.  Being prepared sooner, getting more experience/familiarity -- that has long term benefits. If BB starts next year he'll have a leg up relative to EM.  That doesn't doom EM but it's an advantage.

That's why I'm so excited about Ross, Bolden, Pipkins.  Not only did they play early but they passed veterans who could have played instead.  They'll keep getting better.  That's what it appears Braden is heading for as well - he's showing enough ability for them to move him to another position to address an immediate concern - things look more promising for him than they would have if he was 'just' a backup at OT.


March 13th, 2013 at 8:12 PM ^

Fine, agree to disagree.  I think Braden playing says good things about Braden certainly, but I don't think it says anything bad about Magnuson.  I also think you're over-simplifying the differences between those two OL positions.

As for your third paragraph - yes, that is how is usually works.  Some guys show up near-ready physically and some need to bulk up, but that tends to even out after a couple years.  Every OL we've recruited lately, regardless of whether he hit campus at 240 or 300+ finished his career between 300-310, with very few exceptions.  Lewan was only about 280 as a RS frosh, but he added weight just fine.  I think Magnuson will do that same.

My main point is that we don't know the coaches' reasoning for playing Ben Braden over EM at the guard spot, but concluding "this means BB will be a better OT than EM" is taking it way too far. 


March 13th, 2013 at 9:18 PM ^

If you say something good about one guy, you aren't necessarily saying anything bad about the other -- but you're also not putting them on even ground anymore.

I'm not trying to say anything bad about EM, I'm just saying BB's early ascension would bode well for his future.  I didn't say "this means BB will be a better OT than EM", I simply said he's off to a better start.  It's a relative comparison.

One guy gets an A+ on his first quiz and another gets a B-.  It doesn't mean one will always finish with a better grade, but it's the first bit of info and it often reflects the future. 

I do agree that the weight difference will even out over time, generally. But we don't know - BB may end up at 335 while EM is 305. FWIW BB and EM were within 10 lbs of each other as recruits, according to rivals.  That may just be inaccuracy or maybe BB is doing a better job adding weight, working hard, etc.

I don't know and I won't pretend to know - I'm just saying one guy is off to a great start - about as good as it gets and one guy is still an unknown, more or less. 

Braden and Kalis have gotten more buzz and praise so far than Bars and Magnuson and I really don't think positions have a whole lot to do with that.  The coaches will play the best 5 OL they have.  Right now, that group seemingly will include 3 tackles - so they moved one.  Next year they'll move him back - no biggie.


March 13th, 2013 at 8:23 PM ^

I think it does in fact suggest that Braden is significantly ahead of Magnusun, because if Magnuson was clearly one of the top four non-center candidates, I think you'd at least be be considering Lewan and Magnuson at tackle and Scofield and Kalis at guard.


March 13th, 2013 at 3:49 PM ^

"every job is up for grabs" but he actually indicates the 5-7 spots with clear leaders - which are predictably seniors to hold them in a leadership role. Glad they're on track.

If he's not sandbagging, the biggest concerns are WR and DB and C. I suspect a bunch of raw guys are not developing (weight, strength, quickness) fast enough, like Chesson and Richardson and Clark, to push the less talented upperclassmen.

"We have to find a center" is not glowing praise for the existing depth chart of Miller and Burzynski. Perhaps Kugler has a real shot to play.


March 13th, 2013 at 6:21 PM ^

a shot. Hoke's comments imply Taco gets a shot at C if necessary.

One thought is the staff recognizes the extensive limits imposed in 2012 with Mealor's limited range. Not his fault as we needed someone who could snap without gaffes.

Everything pivots on the C, so I suspect the staff is somewhat confident in the Gs and obviously the Ts with the Cs way behind and limiting the whole OL.


March 13th, 2013 at 4:20 PM ^

that he liked the way Rawls has competed over the winter? 

What permissible "competiton" is there during the off season?  Obviously there is strength and conditioning so perhaps he meant that, but it sounds broader than that. 

I know that the players organize 7 on 7's and things like that, but I thought it was a no no for coaches to monitor those or even get reports on them.

Anyone have any insight?


March 13th, 2013 at 4:50 PM ^

Conditioning and weight lifting in the winter.  Coaches can easily spot the guy who is busting his ass to make himself better as easily as they can see a guy who is going through the motions.  How involved is the kid?  How enthusiastic is he?  Does he push his teammates?  Is he there on time?  Stuff like that speaks volumes.

Space Coyote

March 13th, 2013 at 7:04 PM ^

Well, "technically" the coach doesn't "spot the guys" because "technically" the coaches aren't supposed to see them in winter conditioning, the strength staff is. Now the strength staff will relay every and all information onto the coaches, and the coach looking out his office window or simply passing through the weight room, etc. won't actually "spot the guys."

But yes, this is correct.


March 13th, 2013 at 4:42 PM ^

Don't know if this was already mentioned: maybe the coaches want Kalis-Schofield on the one side, Lewan-Braden on the other to form two "+" duos. Lewan>Schofield, hype says Kalis>Braden. If you have Lewan and Kalis on the left, the defenses might stack that side because it is the strongest side. Maybe the coaches feel having Kalis on the right will help balance the line and let the run game be more productive to either side. Casual observation/thought from a not very educated fan. I have faith the coaches know best. What are the boards thoughts?


March 13th, 2013 at 4:51 PM ^

I trust the coaches as well. I'm thinking this may be what they have to do to get the best five lineman out there, no matter what the position. For me, I think we have enough talent to produce an ok to pretty good passing game. Getting a running game established will be THE #1 thing I will look for this season.


March 13th, 2013 at 6:50 PM ^

I think the reason he might move is that after Lewan and Schofield leave, we are left with more OG types than OT types, so if we say Braden is a starter somewhere, we'd probably have an easier job filling another OG spot (Bosch, Bryant, Glasgow, Dawson, Kulger) than another OT spot opposite Magnuson. 


March 13th, 2013 at 7:55 PM ^

Ace mentions that Kalis is flipping from Left Guard to Right Guard, but did he even practice at Left Guard? I'm pretty positive that Kalis was learning Right Tackle all last year. I think when he was asked what position he would play he said "the coaches want me to start at Right Tackle then go from there"

So his move one spot to the inside shouldn't be too big of a problem.

Brandon Brown

March 13th, 2013 at 9:18 PM ^

I talked to Kalis and he said that RG is his more natural position because of his stance. When he gets into his stance it is natural for him to put his left leg forward making him more confident on the right side. I thought him and Lewan on the left would be real solid but also maybe putting him on the right balances the line a little bit.