Predicting the 2013 Offensive Line Output

Submitted by The Mathlete on August 8th, 2013 at 4:18 PM

  1 Future 1st round round draft pick

+2 Freshman starters

=???

This year’s Michigan offensive line is a somewhat unusual combination. The entire interior of the line has graduated, none of whom where drafted. Left tackle Taylor Lewan passed up a chance to be a top 10 draft pick for one more year of Michigan football. The line’s second best player is also back in right tackle Michael Schofield.

What Michigan loses in experience it replaces with recruiting profile. Based on early camp reports, Kyle Kalis appears to have locked down his starting spot and comes in with the highest ever recruiting profile for a Michigan offensive lineman. Projected to join him are fellow redshirt freshman Ben Braden at guard and either Jack Miller or Graham Glasgow at center.

Since the end of the RichRod era produced a two year window where only two scholarship linemen remain, I wanted to see if there were any other programs with the dichotomy of two or three older starters, one of which would be a first round draft choice the following year and two starters that have barely been on campus for a full year. There were three teams over the last four seasons that fit the mold:

2010 Alabama

The Taylor Lewan: LT James Carpenter, 2011 1st round pick

The Michael Schofield: C William Vlachos, 2.5 year starter

The Kalis/Bradens: RT DJ Fluker, 2013 1st round pick was a highly touted redshirt freshman

LG Chance Warmack, 2013 1st round pick, true sophomore

The Glasgow/Miller: RG Barrett Jones, 2013 4th round pick was a  2nd year starter and redshirt sophomore

Biggest differences: In comparison to Michigan’s new three, Alabama had Barrett Jones who was a returning starter and had a top 200 recruiting profile, significantly higher than whoever wins the center job for Michigan

Key Stats*

Yards/Carry: 5.6, 11th among BCS schools

Sack Rate: 9.3%, 113th in FBS

The 2010 Alabama team was just coming off of a National Championship and a Heisman trophy for Mark Ingram in the prior year. The team was Alabama’s only team of the last four years to not win the national championship. They were loaded at running back with the defending Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram backed up by future first rounder Trent Richardson and future second rounder Eddie Lacy. It’s hard to have a much better projected future than this team did, even if 2010 was the “bad” year. The yards/carry was outstanding but the sack rate jumped out as a surprisingly awful stat.

*Yards/Carry is without sacks, only competitive plays (1st half or within 14 in the second half) and against FBS competition

Sack rate is [sacks allowed ]/[sacks + pass attempts] under the same game conditions as yards/carry

2011 Stanford

Stanford's Andrew Luck

The Taylor Lewan: RG David DeCastro, 2012 1st round pick

The Michael Schofield: LT Jonathan Martin, 2012 2nd round pick, third year starter

The Kalis/Bradens: LG David Yankey, redshirt freshman

RT Cameron Fleming, redshirt freshmen

The Glasgow/Miller: C Sam Schwartzstein, redshirt junior and 1st year starter

Biggest differences: The ages and experience of Stanford group match up almost exactly to Michigan’s this year. They lacked an elite recruit like Kalis among the new starters but did have Andrew Luck running the show behind them.

Key Stats

Yards/Carry: 5.8, 4th among BCS schools

Sack Rate: 3.1%, 7th among BCS schools

The 2011 Cardinal team went 11-1 in the regular season and finished the year #4 in the AP Poll after a loss in a classic bowl showdown with Oklahoma State in David Shaw’s first season as coach after taking over for Jim Harbaugh. If any program personifies what Michigan is aiming for it is Stanford. Tough, power rushing game with a deadly quarterback passing to tight ends, a season like this one might still be a year away for Michigan but the style is exactly where Michigan wants to be this season.

2012 Oregon

Remember Me?

The Taylor Lewan: LG Kyle Long, 2013 1st round pick

The Michael Schofield: C Hroniss Grasu

The Kalis/Bradens: LT Tyler Johnstone

RT Jake Fisher, former Michigan commit

The Glasgow/Miller: G Ryan Clanton

Biggest differences: Last season’s Oregon offensive line was a bit younger than even Michigan’s this year and Kyle Long took a very different path through football than Taylor Lewan. The Oregon newcomers last season had a significantly lower recruiting profile than the three new Michigan starters. In terms of system Michigan and Oregon will obviously be very different in terms of what they are trying to do when they have the ball in both plays and tempo.

Key Stats

Yards/Carry: 6.9, 1st in FBS

Sack Rate: 4.2%, 37th in BCS

This is the weakest among the three connections if only because the offensive systems between Michigan and Oregon are so different. You can’t argue with the results, though. At nearly 7 yards per rush Oregon spent last season running past opponents yet again and finished with another top 5 ranking.

2013 Michigan

So I think most Michigan fans would take any of those three offensive seasons. The head to head examples are all quite positive but I think the biggest concern from those comparisons is that Michigan’s 2012 yards/carry was much worse than any of the comparison teams’ prior years were. For all three of the similar teams, the prior season had been outstanding and the examined season was very good but a small step backward. Michigan is coming from the opposite direction.

Stanford and Alabama are certainly two programs who look a lot like Hoke’s vision for Michigan both in terms of style and outcomes. History says that in general this roster is still another year away, but based on three teams with offensive lines similar to Michigan, the true unveiling of the Borges offense could come this year.

Comments

stbowie

August 8th, 2013 at 10:03 AM ^

I keep hearing that "we're still a year away from a REALLY good team," despite the fact that we'll be breaking in new LT and RT on the line. Shouldn't we expect to see some problems in protection while we're trying to replace the two best tackles in the B1G? Especially given how much people are worrying about the interior of the line this year, and the relative quality of this year's starting tackles versus last year's interior line.

Thanks for a great and informative post!

maizedandconfused

August 8th, 2013 at 10:55 AM ^

2014 will have..

Q rSr Gardner

RB green smith

Fb shallman

WR fr Harris

WR jr amara darboh/chesson

Slot jr norfleet

TE jr funchess so butt fr hunting

T rSo Braden

G rSo Kali's

C rSr miller rFr kugler

G rFr Bosch/Dawson

T rSo Magnueson/ rFr LTT

That's the offense... While the line is younger, the talent is extremely high. Should have at least 3 guys with a year of starting under the belt. With the weapons they have, blitzing will be a huge gamble.

Think next year we have a significant chance to be really deadly

sophie321

August 9th, 2013 at 10:43 AM ^

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stephenrjking

August 8th, 2013 at 5:04 PM ^

There's no such thing as "The" year. There is always turnover and there are always new, inexperienced players that you must rely on despite their lack of experience. 2015 will feature a hardened, experience offensive line... but 2014 will feature (we think) redshirt senior Devin Gardner, Heisman candidate, ably backed up by sophomore Shane Morris and thus able to use his legs to better effect than this year. Do you prefer redshirt senior Devin with new tackles, or less mobile true junior Shane Morris (who knows how good he's going to be) with a better line? 

2007 was supposed to be "the" year and began with the worst disaster ever to occur to the program; the consequence of such well-timed peaking in roster was that 2008 redefined for all of us what disaster really was. 

I expect Michigan to compete for a Rose Bowl this season and win at least 10 games; based on recruiting and what Michigan ought to be, I expect Michigan to be a top ten program and regularly in the playoff discussion in all subsequent seasons regardless of who is experienced or not. The talent and the coaching staff should be able to do that.

uminks

August 9th, 2013 at 5:04 AM ^

I expect Hoke will have his team in the national playoff contention by 2015 and beyond.  I think we will be in contention for the B1G championship this year and next but I don't think we have the talent and depth to be an elite team yet. The defense is getting very close.

Sideline

August 9th, 2013 at 7:54 AM ^

I expect Michigan to win a B1G Ten Championship this year. Lewan stayed for that reason alone. Gardner is a LOT less predictable to other teams. Especially teams like ohio and spartyNO who actualy have decent defenses and stacked the box when Denard was in. They can't do that now. Michigan should have their growing pains early and we'll see how much of a MONSTER Kalis is on top of the HIGH PRAISE Lewan gives Braden. THis may be one of the best O-Line's in Michigan's recent history. 

I love that the Notre Dame game is week 2 and not week 3 this year for the fact that their biggest strength is D-Line (IMO) and our group with most potential is our O-Line... that battle should produce 6 total first rounders to the NFL (not all in one year). If Green is 100% healthy in that game, I think That we should be able to wear Notre dame down easily and get them to bite on Play Action, especially for how efficient Devin was last year at getting teams like Minnesota, Northwestern, and ohio to bite so easily and he essentially had free tosses (albeit ohio, where the refs blew plays dead EXTREMELY fast)

All in All... I think 2013 is a year where Michigan can end up like 2012 Notre Dame... Expected to have a mediocre year and come out and win the games you should, as well as steal a few on the road (MSU, NW) and build momentum to roll 2013 to '14 to '15 and so on etc.

bronxblue

August 8th, 2013 at 5:55 PM ^

I've been hearing the "we'll be great NEXT year" sentiment around here since RR showed up, so I'm kind of immune to it.  This team went 11-2 in 2011 and took a small step back last year (though playing 3 teams with a combined 1 loss had something to do with that), but I don't see how much better they can be.  People are conditioned to think Alabama is the expected year-to-year turnover for teams, but most powers have years where they lose 3-4 games, other years where they lose 0, 1 or 2, and that's the norm.  Heck, even Tressel's mauling of the Big Ten toward the end resulted in a bunch of teams with 2-3 losses.  

You are always losing top-notch kids to graduation, and you hope recruiting fills those holes but they don't always.  Next year looks to be better just because the better recruits will mature, but there is no way UM will have the two tackles in the conference in 2014 (they clearly do in 2013), and this year's team has established WRs and a running back with some history of performing well.  The defense is young but not without talent, and I don't see any major weak spots except on the line, and even then that could change depending on how Clark and Washington play.  

I see this team winning 10 games including the bowl game, but if they catch a couple of breaks they could definitely win 11 or 12.  To me, that's what I expect of the average UM team.

Wolverine 73

August 8th, 2013 at 10:49 AM ^

I have felt for a while now that 2015 is the year.  All the pieces should be in place on offense and defense.  The only wild card is we need Morris or Speight to be really good.  I suppose that is an argument for burning Morris's red shirt and getting him some playing time this year.

flashOverride

August 8th, 2013 at 11:30 AM ^

that 2015 is the year it all comes together. My opinion is that the defense "arrives" next year (or even late this year) and that the offense is still one more year away. 2015 is the year the offensive line finally has experience from tackle to tackle, and there will be size, physicality, and experience at every skill position. If Morris is even just above average, look out. 

The 2015 schedule also lines up nicely, too. 

UMaD

August 8th, 2013 at 2:14 PM ^

I think that's a very important point and matches the gut-level concerns that many of us have about so much inexperience on the interior.  These were already excellent teams that were successful in what they did.

The extension to the Michigan's situation is limited given the ongoing transition but I do like the comparison to Stanford in terms of OL personnel.  Alabama is a stretch - yeah, if Kalis and Braden are NFL 1st rounders, we'll do well, but what are the chances of them both being that good, realistically?

A decline in YPC would be really bad for Michigan but as you said, we're starting from a different base. 

Would be interesting to see how the departed talent from these schools compared.  We lost 3 veteran guys, but none are NFL-caliber talents.  I imagine Alabama lost some high level people from the previous year.

Anyway, excellent work as always.  Even though I think the comparison is limited, its interesting and encouraging nonetheless.

Ali G Bomaye

August 8th, 2013 at 3:56 PM ^

While those Stanford/Alabama comparisons are certainly promising, each of those teams had one tackle and one interior lineman as their returning studs.  I'd be interested to find a comparable team that had two returning, experienced tackes but a raw interior line and see how that affected things.

My gut feeling is that this would be good for pass protection (since pass rush often comes off the edges) but perhaps bad for the running game, due to a lack of push up front.  However, last year's OL wasn't that great at creating space inside, so there's the thought that these highly-touted young guys can't be that much worse.

One possible example is Texas A&M last year.  They had one tackle who was a top-5 draft pick, another tackle who is a likely first-round pick, and a relatively less touted interior line (the two guards were each in their first full season starting, and the center had started for a year and a half but wasn't a star).  They averaged 5.9 yards per carry, second in the country.  However, that number is bolstered by the fact that Johnny Autograph was their leading rusher at 7.0 ypc, and as we well know, it's easier for a QB to get a high ypc number.

dth

August 8th, 2013 at 4:27 PM ^

Well, the two newer guys have turned out to be pretty good. Yankey is a 1st/2nd round type and Fleming is a more than solid starter. While bama's talent in that line was probably better, Stanford's were pretty darn good themselves.

stephenrjking

August 8th, 2013 at 4:56 PM ^

It could, actually, but I don't think that's very likely. I think that replacing last year's mediocre interior line with this year's less experienced but presumably more talented line should be at worst a wash. If Braden and Kalis can actually start to "get it," particularly with regards to skills like pulling, we could see steady improvement.

This killer is that we have a quarterback whose agility and skills could offset many of the line problems... but with no backup, the coaching staff rightly won't want to take full advantage of those skills.

 

raleighwood

August 8th, 2013 at 5:52 PM ^

"Kyle Kalis appears to have locked down his starting spot and comes in with the highest ever recruiting profile for a Michigan offensive lineman." I'm not so sure that Kalis had a higher profile than Steve Hutchison. He was listed by SuperPrep as a Top 3 OL nationally in 1995. That's higher than Scout (6) or Rivals (4) listed Kalis. But I get the general idea.....Kalis is good. http://www.fhsaa.org/news/2007/1204 The link shows the Top 50 football players in the first 100 years of HS Football in Florida. It's interesting (at least I think so) that three of them played college ball at Michigan. Anthony Carter, Stefan Humphries and Steve Hutchison.

1974

August 8th, 2013 at 9:06 PM ^

It appears that list was based mostly on who had decent NFL careers (rather than HS production). Basing Hutchinson's HS rating on that doesn't seem valid.

His SuperPrep ranking in the mid-'90s (also high, I see) is all that should be cited here IMO.

bronxblue

August 8th, 2013 at 5:59 PM ^

The Stanford comparison seems most appropriate, but that's only if the inside of the line plays up to rankings a bit.  Alabama was in a weird transition that year, and I think Ingram's (relatively) mediocre season had more to do with his lack of game-breaking ability than troubles with the line.  If memory serves me right, Richardson showed quite a bit more ability than Ingram playing behind that line.  

GotBlueOnMyMind

August 8th, 2013 at 6:37 PM ^

I may be wrong, but from what I've gathered, pass blocking is a more difficult to pick up than run blocking. Given that, I am slightly confused on why everyone expects such minimal gains in the run blocking this year. As run blocking is easier to learn, it would seem as though youth and lack of experience would be less of a factor than size and talent. Therefore, I would think our problem may be with missed blitzes on the interior (which should be less of a problem with our tremendous bookends telling the young guys what to do), but it seems reasonable to think that our run blocking will be significantly better this year.

Zone Left

August 8th, 2013 at 7:07 PM ^

Mathlete didn't mention Schofield is an all-conference player in his own right. Lewan is such a great player and has such a huge personality that Schofield doesn't get his due at all. A lot of teams essentially gave up on fighting Lewan head-to-head and instead went after Schofield--and he did really well throughout. 

Stanford's line is probably the closest comparison, with a 2nd and 1st round pick, but Michigan doesn't have the full complement of tight ends and Andrew Luck to make the offense really deadly. Most teams chose to die from the 1000 paper cuts of Stanford's running game rather than have Luck kill them quickly through the air.

Blarvey

August 8th, 2013 at 8:26 PM ^

I love the rosy implications of this but surely there are less successful examples of similar lineups. There are also differences between these schools all running consistent or similar offenses as the prior two years.

Don't get me wrong - I have totally bought into the whole This Year has to be Better Because Last Year's Interior OL was a Step Back meme but I think it gets taken to a unrealistic stretch in both directions. As bad as it was, the OL didn't completely cost the Ohio or ND games, or even Nebraska and South Carolina. As for depth, UM had been trying (unsuccessfully) to transition out of what worked in 2010 and 2011 early last year, so the RS and freshmen and backups presumably have 2 years in the current system (by virtue of working with Bellomy and Gardner at QB with Borges at OC) and therefore aren't as inexperienced as they may look.

uminks

August 9th, 2013 at 4:27 AM ^

The interior line play will be better than last season, especially during the second half the season.

If the young guys can handle ND DLINE, I will be quite excited about this season.

uminks

August 9th, 2013 at 4:54 AM ^

The 1972 team had two or three RS sophomores who were talented but not experienced and that team went  10-1. If you remember LG Hoban replaced McKenzie, C Hart replaced Murdock, and RT Seymour replaced Brandstatter. Only the LT Coode and the RG Coyle were returning starters. I wonder if there are any other past Michigan team comparisons to this season?