Is our O-Line really that young?

Submitted by Gameboy on November 5th, 2013 at 1:40 AM

I am going through the seven stages of grief after DEBACLE (not that DEBACLE). I am somewhere between the stage three and four and trying real hard to make sense of it all.

One of the common excuse for our poor performance has been that our offensive line is so young that we should have expected (historically) bad performance out of them.

But is our offensive line REALLY that young? I have yet to see anyone quantify exactly how young our offensive line is compared to other top programs. So, I figured I'd do it myself, thinking that it will help me through my grieving process...

It just ended up making it worse.

I looked at the offensive line depth (from Rival) of every team in AP Top 25 and noted how young/old they are. I then assigned point values - one for frosh, 1.5 for redshirt frosh, 2 for sophomore, 2.5 for redshirt sophomore, and so on. Using this method, Michigan boasts an average line experience of 2.8. How does that compare to other schools?

Here is the complete list of Top 25 schools with 3 or less experience value.

Top 25 Offensive Line Experience
Team Position Name Year Value Average Exp
Michigan OT Taylor Lewan RSR 4.5 2.8
Michigan OT Michael Schofield RSR 4.5  
Michigan OG Kyle Kalis RFR 1.5  
Michigan OG Kyle Bosch FR 1  
Michigan C Graham Glasgow RSO 2.5  
Stanford OT Andrus Peat RFR 1.5 2.7
Stanford OT Cameron Fleming RSO 2.5  
Stanford OG David Yankey RSO 2.5  
Stanford OG Kevin Danser RJR 3.5  
Stanford C Khalil Wilkes RJR 3.5  
Baylor OT Spencer Drango RFR 1.5 2.7
Baylor OT Kevin Palmer RJR 3.5  
Baylor OG Cyril Richardson RJR 3.5  
Baylor OG Desmine Hilliard RFR 1.5  
Baylor C Stefan Huber RJR 3.5  
Clemson OT Brandon Thomas RJR 3.5 2.7
Clemson OT Gifford Timothy RSO 2.5  
Clemson OG David Beasley RSO 2.5  
Clemson OG Tyler Shatley RJR 3.5  
Clemson C Ryan Norton RFR 1.5  
Auburn OT Greg Robinson SO 2 2.3
Auburn OT Patrick Miller SO 2  
Auburn OG Alex Kozan RFR 1.5  
Auburn OG Chad Slade JR 3  
Auburn C Reese Dismukes JR 3  
SC OT Corey Robinson RJR 3.5 3
SC OT Brandon Shell RSO 2.5  
SC OG AJ Cann RJR 3.5  
SC OG Ronald Patrick SR 4  
SC C Cody Waldrop RFR 1.5  
LSU OT La'el Collins RSO 2.5 2.3
LSU OT Jerald Hawkins RFR 1.5  
LSU OG Vadal Alexander RFR 1.5  
LSU OG Trai Turner RSO 2.5  
LSU C Elliott Porter RJR 3.5  
Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews JR 3 2.7
Texas A&M OT Cedric Ogbuehi RJR 3.5  
Texas A&M OG Jarvis Harrison RJR 3.5  
Texas A&M OG Germain Ifedi RFR 1.5  
Texas A&M C Mike Matthews SO 2  
UCLA OT Simon Goines SO 2 1.9
UCLA OT Caleb Benenoch FR 1  
UCLA OG Xavier Su'a-Filo JR 3  
UCLA OG Alex Redmond FR 1  
UCLA C Jake Brendel RSO 2.5  
ND OT Zack Martin RSR 4.5 3
ND OT Ronnie Stanley SO 2  
ND OG Chris Watt RSR 4.5  
ND OG Steve Elmer FR 1  
ND C Nick Martin JR 3  

As you can see above, there are 9 teams in top 25 with 3 years or less average experience. A few, including LSU and UCLA have offensive line that is SIGNIFICANTLY younger than Michigan. Amazingly, even with those very young offensive line with freshmen and sophomores, they have managed not to have historically bad offenses with competent rushing attack.

Based on this data, I think blaming our offensive line woes just on experience is not correct. It does not help, but lack of experience does not automatically mean that they will bad. When you have two NFL tackles, you should be able to perform at least average, if not better.



November 5th, 2013 at 2:28 AM ^

Nice to see some actual data on this finally. If you have time, it'd be nice to see a chart with the average experience of each of the teams in the top 25 and to get a figure on the average experience of the 25.


November 5th, 2013 at 10:50 AM ^

You don't think that's appreciably different? I think we'd be pretty happy if we had three red-shirt sophomores in the interior instead of one paired with a RS FR and a true freshman.

If gameboy ever gets around to correcting the data, you'll find that there aren't a lot of FR or RS FR starting anywhere (except Michigan and UCLA). The light typically comes on in the third year in the program.


November 5th, 2013 at 11:20 AM ^

Dude, you need to back off. I will update the data when I get home. Some people work for living. All this data is from Rivals. If they are wrong I will correct it. That is why I included the name and grades in the list, so it is easier to catch any error. I still haven't seen you list your sources, so I don't know if you are correct or Rivals is.

We also have a red shirt soph and soph sitting on the bench. We would considerably older if those guys developed as expected.


November 5th, 2013 at 8:39 AM ^

We have great tackles, but your line is only as good as your interior. Having great tackles do things like seal the edge, and don't let your QB be sacked from the blind side. But When all the pressure is right up in your QB's grill, what is the point? And your RB can't get to the edge when the interior breaks down.

Michigan OG Kyle Kalis RFR 1.5 1.667
Michigan OG Kyle Bosch FR 1  
Michigan C Graham Glasgow RSO 2.5  
Stanford OG David Yankey RSO 2.5 3.167
Stanford OG Kevin Danser RJR 3.5  
Stanford C Khalil Wilkes RJR 3.5  
Baylor OG Cyril Richardson RJR 3.5 2.833
Baylor OG Desmine Hilliard RFR 1.5  
Baylor C Stefan Huber RJR 3.5  
Clemson OG David Beasley RSO 2.5 2.500
Clemson OG Tyler Shatley RJR 3.5  
Clemson C Ryan Norton RFR 1.5  
Auburn OG Alex Kozan RFR 1.5 2.500
Auburn OG Chad Slade JR 3  
Auburn C Reese Dismukes JR 3  
SC OG AJ Cann RJR 3.5 3.000
SC OG Ronald Patrick SR 4  
SC C Cody Waldrop RFR 1.5  
LSU OG Vadal Alexander RFR 1.5 2.500
LSU OG Trai Turner RSO 2.5  
LSU C Elliott Porter RJR 3.5  
Texas A&M OG Jarvis Harrison RJR 3.5 2.333
Texas A&M OG Germain Ifedi RFR 1.5  
Texas A&M C Mike Matthews SO 2  
UCLA OG Xavier Su'a-Filo JR 3 2.167
UCLA OG Alex Redmond FR 1  
UCLA C Jake Brendel RSO 2.5  
ND OG Chris Watt RSR 4.5 2.833
ND OG Steve Elmer FR 1  
ND C Nick Martin JR 3  

I do want to say thanks for getting this data together. At least you tried more than saying FIRE [insert coach here]. 


November 5th, 2013 at 8:55 AM ^

but your line is only as good as your interior

This is consistent with what Mattison said from his perspective on the defensive side of the ball.  Earlier this year, when asked about his defense's pass rush effectiveness, he said (paraphrase): "It all starts on the inside.  If you get good pressure on the inside then the outside line can free up and get to the quarterback."

Interestingly, Michigan is not the only team with offensive line troubles ... Florida's problems stem largely from the same thing.  Word from my Florida buddy is the Florida boards are exploding with "Fire Muschamp!" calls.


Space Coyote

November 5th, 2013 at 9:00 AM ^

Muschamp had to rebuild that program after it was basically hollowed out by the time Meyer left. He had to completely change the culture, and now he has one of the best defenses in the country. Their lack of OL play and QB developement has prevented them from taking the next step, but I think it would be very short-sighted to let a guy like Muschamp go because they can't handle rebuilding.

Though Texas may be happy to take him back after the season is over...


November 5th, 2013 at 9:35 AM ^

that our interior o-line is very young and the results are self-evident...but at which point in the season as an OC (or HC) do you realize that your o-line cannot handle the pressure and keep the majority of the plays in shorgun??? I mean, I liked the first half game-plan from Borges (for the most part), but the play-action will not and has not worked...why does he continue to try to run up the middle and/or make DG turn his back to the LOS when it is getting us killed???


November 5th, 2013 at 10:34 AM ^

I don't believe there is any way to plan around having a bad interior line.  It's like having bad pitching in baseball.  You just aren't going to get people out if you don't have a guy who can throw strikes...This is not to say that the coaches are blameless at all. 


November 5th, 2013 at 11:12 AM ^

with that analogy to a certain extant...obviously i don't think Michigan was going to control the trenches or win the game by smarter play-calling...but i definitely think that smarter play-calling would have kept the game competitive throughout all 4 quarters vs. the defense getting worn out after getting zero production from the offense in the 2nd half


November 5th, 2013 at 11:44 AM ^

And Michigan fans are over-reacting

Hoke had to rebuild that program after it was basically hollowed out by the time Rodriguez left. He had to completely change the culture, and now he has one of the best defenses in the country.  Their lack of OL play and QB developement has prevented them from taking the next step, but I think it would be very short-sighted to let a guy like Hoke go because they can't handle rebuilding.


November 5th, 2013 at 12:10 PM ^

To make matters even worse for Michigan, we have interior linemen playing out of position.  Glasgow is a guard, not a center, and that bad snap may have been the most demoralizing play of the game.  Magnuson is a tackle, not a guard.  Then there is Bosch, a true freshman.  Next year, it is likely that either Kugler will be the starting center or Miller will have bulked up enough to handle a job that he otherwise is pretty good at.  We will have guards with experience (Kalis, Bosch, Glasgow, Bryant), and Magnuson can move back to tackle.  Things are likely to improve and to improve significantly.


November 5th, 2013 at 12:16 PM ^

I don't know how significant the improvement will be. We still probably won't be able to just line up and move people out of the way. But we will certainly be better at not missing assignments and protecting the quarterback.

We will improve, but it still might not be good enough. We'll probably be back to the 2012 level, not 2011.


November 5th, 2013 at 12:27 PM ^

I expect the run blocking to be a lot better but I worry about the pass protection--a struggling backside tackle can get your QB hurt.

I hope the light is coming on for one of the younger RBs. Another Vincent Smith would really help; right now it looks like we're losing the only guy that can be trusted back there.


November 5th, 2013 at 11:22 AM ^

The issue is NOT on the edges. Our tackles are more or less eliminating the traditional pass rush of the defensive ends we are facing. MSU is not a good game to use to evaluate the o-line as a whole because their middle pressure eroded any potential continuity our young interior line was/is establishing. I hate the youth excuse as much as anyone but to be fair most of our upperclassmen linemen in the Hoke era (that have played extensively) have been serviceable. What we saw against MSU was not serviceable. I am tired of waiting and have been waiting for an elite team for much too long but there is no doubt our team, especially the o-line, will improve over time. Funk may be a clown but against MSU youth on the line WAS the biggest issue.

Ron Utah

November 5th, 2013 at 12:49 PM ^

For this additional data.  It really demonstrates just how young our interior line is.

As for the OP, I appreciate the post, but I'm not sure it proves any point.  Our interior is where all of our problems are; our 4.5 guys are playing well.  All is see that is that where there is experience, there is better play.


November 5th, 2013 at 3:43 AM ^

Should not be assuming a 4/5 year senior plus a freshman equals 2 almost juniors.  Look at it this way, if the senior performs their blocking assignments correctly 95% of the time and the freshman is at 80%, the 2 as a unit will not block correctly 87.5% it will be the product of their efficiency or 76%.

Magnum P.I.

November 5th, 2013 at 4:39 AM ^

It's amazing how far some fans will twist the facts to protect their narrative. "B-b-b-but they is not interior linemens! Two freshmens does not equal sophomore!"

Fucks sake guys, anyway you slice it our OL has been a freaking inexcusable disaster. Young lines exist, have existed, and will forever exist. And they do not perform like the shitshow monkey circus that we've put out there this year. Making excuses for our OL performance is the graspiest of grasping at straws.


November 5th, 2013 at 4:59 AM ^

Yeah, let's not actually look at details, let's just scream about how much things suck!!!

Of the teams on this list only UCLA (which, wow!--2 true freshmen), and maybe LSU and Baylor can legitimately be said to match our level of inexperience on the line--in addition to which, the fact that our redshirt sophomore is a walkon should be noted as well.  As was said earlier, this is a case where the aggregate numbers do not tell the story.  To mock the idea that we have youth (and youth playing out of position) on the interior line as a fairly legit reason why our line might be struggling so severely is utterly ridiculous. 

If there's no improvement next year, and if we're not a solid to great line by 2015, I'll go get my pitchfork out of storage and join you in the lynch mob.  Until then, let's take a deep breath and accept that not recruiting offensive linemen for three years has consequences.


November 5th, 2013 at 11:03 AM ^

1997 Starting O-Line:

[LT] Backus--Freshman (Rs.) --> 1st year starting

[LG] Hutchinson--Freshman (Rs.) --> 1st year starting

[C] Adami--Senior --> 3rd year starting

[RG] Ziemann--Sophomore (Rs.) --> 1st year starting

[RT] Jansen--Junior (Rs.) --> 3rd year starting

Actually, the comparison is pretty close.  As a junior entering that 1997 season I also clearly remember the overall magnitude of worry - comparable to this year's pre-season worries - over having 3 new starters on the line, particularly 2 freshman on the left side.  [ah...  those were nice days indeed...  living directly across from Schembechler Hall on State Street that year was perfect timing]



November 5th, 2013 at 11:43 AM ^

The 1997 offensive line was young and the 1997 offense was not particularly potent.  I mean, all that unit had to do was score over 24-28 points and that was pretty much good enough to win every game with their defense.  Come to think of it, the 2013 MSU squad reminds me a lot of the 97 team in how they are made up.

Still while your point has some merit, saying that guys like Kalis, Magnuson, and Bosch haven't measured up to two of the best Michigan OL linemen ever by their 1st or 2nd years may be setting expectations a little high.


November 5th, 2013 at 9:20 AM ^

Well, we agree that our current line should not be THIS bad. But the 1997 line might be just as much of an outlier as we are, just on the other end of the spectrum. The two freshmen? Backus and Hutchinson, both Top 20 NFL draft picks, Hutch being in my estimation the greatest lineman who ever lived. To be fair to Bosch and Kalis, I don't think we can expect that. Hence, outlier.

Also, those guys beat out the competition, no matter how weak. Kalis had no competition going in, and Bosch was 3rd up at LG and is playing more due to the poor play of his competition than his good play. Magnuson was 2nd up.

And, finally, Zach Adami was a 5th year senior. If nothing else, I think we have established on this board what sort of affect a good, experienced center can have. Just his calls alone can be the difference between a good outing and a bad one. For the record, Glasgow seems to be OK at this. Caveats apply of course. Almost everyone makes the occasional mistake. Seniors tend to make much fewer.


November 5th, 2013 at 6:21 AM ^

Appreciate the analysis. Your basic premise is fair.

Painful to see Kozan on the list as a RFR for an Auburn O that's very productive so far.

[Note of data caution: eligibility is occasionally incorrect on Rivals. For example, 3 of the first 6 guys listed after UM are more "experienced" (Peat is a soph, Wilkes a RsSr, and Drango a Soph). I stopped after that point.]


November 5th, 2013 at 10:05 AM ^

This is the depth chart from Rivals. Most likely they have not updated from beginning of the season. In addition, I checked every player to see which year they graduated high school. I will be happy to update it if there are better sources.

Blue Mike

November 5th, 2013 at 6:47 AM ^

I'm not sure how accurate this is.  Just looking at Stanford, their website lists their starting OL as So, Sr, 5th, 5th, Sr.  Even assuming that they are all redshirted, that would put them at 1.5, 3.5, 4.5, 4.5, 3.5 for an "average" of 3.5.

Yes, the OL is bad.  Yes, the OL is young.  Yes, there are teams that have young lines that are not bad.  


November 5th, 2013 at 7:14 AM ^

First, as has been said, two fifth year seniors and two redshirt freshman is not equivalent to 4 juniors, although based on your averages system, they would be. Second, a better look would be at the experience of all of the O-linemen on the team, not just the starters. This is because a freshman starter who beat out a junior or senior is more likely to have truly earned the spot than a freshman who beat out other freshmen, meaning the competition was not as good. Also, doing analysis in this manner would prevent skewing by one or two guys, which is the current problem with your analysis.


November 5th, 2013 at 11:50 AM ^

Averages are not a good measuring point as they skew the results weirdly.  Example, on average, our population has one boob and one testicle, yet that is not an accurate description of what the population is. 

I'd say our interior is younger than almost any in the country. I also expect more out of this unit. I really believe that Borges and Funke should have developed a simpler blocking scheme for this unit.  Keep them lined up in the same 5 all year, and focus on getting the first level. It seemed the team did this two years ago. 


November 5th, 2013 at 8:31 AM ^

Do any of these other teams have huge holes (where there are no upperclassmen at their position to compete with and learn from?


Position Incoming
(c/o 2018)
(c/o 2017)
(c/o 2016)
(c/o 2015)
(c/o 2014)
QB (3 + 1) W. Speight (EE)

S. Morris!

R. Bellomy* D. Gardner*  
RB (6 - 1)  

D. Johnson*
D. Green!
D. Smith!

J. Hayes* T. Rawls F. Toussaint*
FB (2 + 0)  

W. Shallman

J. Kerridge*#
S. Houma
WR (6 + 0)

D. Harris (EE)
M. Ways

J. Dukes 
C. York!
J. Chesson*

A. Darboh  

J. Gallon*
J. Jackson
J. Reynolds*#

Slot (3 + 0) F. Canteen (EE) D. Jones D. Norfleet   D. Dileo
TE (5 + 1) I. Bunting

K. Hill
J. Butt!

D. Funchess
A. Williams

J. Paskorz*  
OT (6 - 1) Bushell-Beatty

E. Magnuson*
C. Fox
L. Tuley-Tillman
B. Braden*

    M. Schofield*
T. Lewan*
OG (5 + 1)

M. Cole (EE)

K. Kalis*
B. Bars*
K. Bosch
D. Dawson
D. Samuelson

C. Bryant*

C (3 + 0)   P. Kugler

J. Miller

G. Glasgow*#

J. Burzynski*#  
DT (4 - 1)  

T. Strobel*
W. Henry*
H. Poggi
R. Glasgow*#

     J. Black
NT (4 - 0) B. Mone (EE) M. Hurst Jr. O. Pipkins R. Ash*


SDE (3 + 0)  

M. Godin*
C. Wormley*

K. Heitzman*    
WDE (3 + 1) L. Marshall

T. Charlton!

M. Ojemudia

F. Clark  
SLB (5 - 0) C. Winovich M. McCray
A. Gant*
  J. Ryan*
B. Beyer
C. Gordon*
MLB (2 + 2)

M. Ferns (EE)
N. Furbush

  J. Bolden D. Morgan


WLB (3 + 1)

J. Wangler

B. Gedeon!

J. Ross
R. Jenkins-Stone
CB (9 + 1) B. Watson (EE)
J. Peppers

J. Lewis!
C. Stribling!
R. Douglas 
R. Dawson

T. Richardson
B. Countess*

D. Hollowell
R. Taylor

C. Avery

FS (4 - 1)  

J. Clark*
D. Hill!


J. Furman*

T. Gordon*
SS (2 - 0)  

D. Thomas!

J. Wilson    
P/K/LS (4 - 1)  

S. Sypniewski
JJ McGrath#
Kenny Allen*#

  M. Wile
W. Hagerup*
B. Gibbons*
Total (82  + 3) 15 39 18 13 12

projected starters in bold, returning starters in italics.
redshirts denoted with *, walk-ons with #, burned redshirts for freshman with !.




November 5th, 2013 at 10:45 AM ^

That's because juniors are showing up in your data as sophomores.

It's quite rare to have successive classes so devoid of linemen. Only UCLA has had anything similar. If you look at the actual rosters of anyone else you'll find scholarship upperclassmen. Maybe they got passed by someone younger, but they're there.


November 5th, 2013 at 8:43 AM ^

Other have brought up the faults in your methodology. Some data is plain wrong. The points system is very rough and expects a senior and a true freshman to a sophomore and a junior. Whatever, I applaud you for starting. I think the most pertinent adjustment was the guy who decided tackles. Obviously, that doesn't fix the study just because it provides evidence that supports my claim, but it does show the huuuge skewing of the data that our tackles provide. Just gives more perspective.

In the end, though, isn't the fundamental question about blame kind of stupid? Why is this an either/or? Can't we have young players/bad players/bad coaching? Do we just have people that want the staff fired?

Space Coyote

November 5th, 2013 at 9:04 AM ^

Is what I don't understand that others have a difficult time grasping. Youth is a problem. It's a serious and legit problem, there is absolutely no doubt about it. It doesn't mean it's the only problem. Some could be the players not grasping it yet when most (or some) others would. Some could be the coaching. Some could be a lot of different things. But some is certainly youth, because youth is very evident and OL is a very difficult position to play when you're young.

I guess I just don't understand why everyone needs a single thing to point to, as if it can't be more complex than that. I guess you can count two: Funk and Borges. But even the coaching staff, in their canned answers, aren't that simplistic. They talk about youth, they talk about the mental aspect, they talk about needing to execute better (which is on players and coaches), they talk about needing to coach better, they talk about technique. So the coaches canned non-answers are more informative than many people's "informed" arguments.

FWIW: aTm, UCLA, Clemson have all been schools that have also had major OL issues this year, and has been a big thing in keeping them back. Manziel, Hundley, and Boyd are probably 3 of the top 6ish QBs in college football right now, and are getting beat up week in and week out. So, while they are putting up some numbers, a big part of that is having great QBs and skill position guys around them to make up for it to a degree, and it's still the OL that is mostly holding them back, especially in pass protection.


November 5th, 2013 at 4:30 PM ^

I agree that there can be more than one problem with the O-line. It is probably a combination of youth and bad training. Its interesting that Mattison came in during his first year and started working with the D in the spring- by fall, RR's kids were much improved- clearly a result of training. Yet people expect an O-line full of seniors before it performs. The O-line will need 5 years of recruitng to accomplish what Mattison did in 5 months of training. This is a very selective memory, especially when the adage is "you train offense but recruit for defense."


November 7th, 2013 at 4:44 PM ^

But you are ignoring the significant differences in positions. Yes, Mattison turned the D around really quickly. First, that was a minor miracle. Second, as you bizarrely alluded to without intention, you do recruit for defense. Desmond Morgan, Jake Ryan, and Blake Countess did not play the year before. They came in and made huge impacts. They were 3 of our 7 best defenders, the others being Kovacs, Martin, Van Bergen, and Roh.

Second, offensive line just takes time. It does. Most freshmen have no chance of success. The stats (get on it Gameboy!) will back me up. Out of all position groups, linemen are most likely to red shirt. They also tend to start later in their careers than other positions. This is a fact. I don't expect us to only be good when we have all seniors. I think we will be better next year. By the time these guys are seniors, I expect a great line.


November 5th, 2013 at 8:50 AM ^

You have calculated the mean.  Which team has the highest standard deviation and variance?  I like mgobaran's post where he looks at only guards and centers.  We are getting blown off the ball because our interior line is not ready to be playing B1G football yet.  I still believe that this line will get better simply because guys are going to get another year in the weight room and experience with the coaches.  I would say in 2 years Michigan has the strongest OL in the B1G.


November 5th, 2013 at 8:59 AM ^

Is it sad that my first thought on reading this thread is that it should be bumped to the front page because it actually contains a reasonbly thoughtful discussion with actual data?