These days you can’t open your web browser without finding a discussion of the paranoia that awaits our fellow citizens in 2017……and by that I mean the Michigan offensive line depth chart. (No politics!) The dire nature of this situation really struck me this week after I saw the following things pop up on my favorite Michigan blogs:
- Touch the Banner posted about the fate of every OL recruit for the past several years. In that piece and also in the comments there were discussions about what went wrong.
- Then over at 247 you hear about the minimal chance of Newsome making it back on the field this year, robbing Michigan of its only true LT on the roster and some valuable experience.
- That results in Brian speculating that we’re in for a Bredeson/Kugler/Cole/Onwenu/??? starting five who are backed up with freshmen and guys that have never seen the field.
On top of that, in his “This week in MGoBlog History” piece Maize.Blue Wagner links to a post-Rose Bowl breakdown from Brian in 2007 that talks about the offensive line being the weak link on the team that USC was able to exploit.
Think about that for a moment. A full decade ago this very blog was wringing their hands about how our offensive line performance and recruiting had declined to become the weak link on the team. That was under late-era Lloyd Carr. How are we STILL talking about this ten years later???
To help put this in perspective, Michigan had three OL drafted in 2001 in the first 43 picks – Hutchinson, Backus, and Williams. All of those players went on to have long and productive NFL careers. In the 15 drafts since then, here are the draft picks from the OL position:
- 2004 - Tony Pape #221 (never really played)
- 2005 – David Baas #33 (solid NFL career)
- 2008 – Jake Long #1 (solid, if short NFL career)
- 2011 – Stephen Schilling #201 (brief NFL career)
- 2012 – David Molk #226 (brief NFL career)
- 2014 – Tayor Lewan #11 (off to a good start)
- 2014 – Michael Schofield #95 (too soon to tell)
- 2016 – Graham Glasgow #95 (too soon to tell)
So it took 15 years for Michigan to match the number of top picks that they had in 2001 and of the guys on that list there isn’t a single one that could match the careers of those guys from 2001 (pending the outcome of the young guys). Wow. Besides a few glimmers of hope during the Rodriguez and Hoke era we continue to find ourselves terrified of the depth chart and development of our OL headed into Harbaugh’s third year with the program, a full 15 years later.
Based on the links above, I set about trying to figure out WHAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN with our 2017 depth chart. I say “should” instead of “could” to make a specific distinction. Things like injuries and off-field issues are completely unpredictable and in an ideal utopia they SHOULD not happen. Things like “Kyle Kalis is the most sure thing OL prospect and will be awesome” COULD have happened, but it didn’t despite being healthy and available his entire career. In other words, what COULD have happened was for some of the recruits to be the studs we thought these past few years and we’d be entering a season with Kugler, Dawson, and other upper classmen dominating on the line. Likewise, we COULD have recruited Ethan Pocic or another star, but it didn’t happen.
Let’s instead look at more of the “fate” side of things and look at what the line SHOULD look like if all of the pieces fell in place due to things outside of the team’s control.
Left Tackle –
- Projected Starter = Ben Bredeson (So, 0.5 years experience)
- Should-be Starter = Grant Newsome (Jr, 1.0 years experience)
- Comment = This assumes Newsome didn’t get the gruesome injury and would be entering his second year as a starter as a true left tackle prospect.
Left Guard –
- Projected Starter = Kugler (Sr, 0.0 years experience)
- Should-be Starter = Kyle Bosch (Sr, 2.5 years experience)
- Comment = Bosch left the team for off-field issues but turned into an all-B12 performer for WVU this past season. Had he worked things out at Michigan he would be entering 2017 as probably our best offensive lineman.
- Projected Starter = Mason Cole (Jr, 2.0 years experience)
- Should-be Starter = Mason Cole
- Comment = Instead of partnering with Bosch to form a dominating pair of experienced upperclassmen, he’s the lone experienced starter on the line and has to be a star for us to have any hope of holding this together.
Right Guard –
- Projected Starter = Michael Onwenu (So, 0.0 years experience)
- Should-be Starter = Bredeson/Kugler/Onwenu
- Comment = This gets a little tricky, but is actually a luxury. By having the other four positions locked down in this fictional universe, the RG spot becomes a free-for-all between the veteran Kugler and two top prospects coming off of their red-shirt years. The likely pick is Bredeson based on what we know. This has the added side effect that Onwenu could move to NT for a season to fill that void since he isn’t needed on the OL.
Right Tackle –
- Projected Starter = Uh…..Nolan Ulizio? (RFr, 0.0 years experience)
- Should-Be Starter = Logan Tulley-Tillman (Sr,1.0 years experience)
- Comment = LTT got into trouble and found himself off the team instead of being in line to be the starter at RT next year. He may have beaten out Newsome in 2016 had he not been stupid. He probably was not projected to be a star, but he at least projected to be a solid veteran starter.
There you have it. Brian’s projected line has three first-year starters, just 2.5 years of starting experience, and a guy playing out of position in Bredeson. In our ideal world situation, we have just one first-year starter that will emerge from a good battle, a healthy 6.5 years of starting experience, no one out of position, redshirts on all of the freshmen, and Onwenu available to play back-up NT.
While we know that OL projections from high school to college are probably the least accurate of any position, physical development is a wild-card, and coaching is critical……the conclusion from this analysis is that fate is also a bitch. This is why you always want 4-5 recruits in every class because you never know what will happen. Let’s hope Harbaugh and Drevno can work some magic this off-season with these guys.