Good Baumgardner article on Offensive Line

Submitted by StephenRKass on May 3rd, 2018 at 11:25 AM

There is a great article this morning by Nick Baumgardner on the offensive line.

LINK:  Will Michigan's simplistic approach finally settle the offensive line?

Brian quoted from Nick yesterday, in comments about the offensive line and the problems last year. Baumgardner gets a great insider comment from Chase Winovich, about the changes made by new OL coach Ed Warinner:

There have been different issues over the years, but get to the core of what new offensive line coach Ed Warinner faced as he took over for the departed Tim Drevno/Greg Frey era, it's easiest to talk to a guy who saw it up close every day. And often feasted against it.
"This is just my opinion, so take it with a grain of salt. But with the offensive line, the stuff they're doing (now), it's making more sense," said defensive end Chase Winovich, who finished 2017 tied for third in the Big Ten with eight sacks. "It doesn't seem like there's as many blatant, like, I'm just running free getting sacks. I still get them, but I've got to work for them. They're not just handed to me.
"But I'll stop there."

There is simply too much in the article to summarize, but at the end of the day, I'm hopeful. Warinner's approach might finally improve things on the offensive line to a better place at any time since Carr was the coach. And seeing the focus on OL recruiting is also a very positive thing, going forward.




May 3rd, 2018 at 11:30 AM ^

As with any offseason chatter, I will temper my expectations until the results are on the field. I love this team but I'm tired of being let down by practice championships and workout warriors. I do appreciate the candid comments coming from the players, however and I believe it adds value to the coach speak we normally use as offseason fodder.


May 3rd, 2018 at 1:05 PM ^

I remember what Kalis said several years back. Smh. Really, until we see it on the field, it is all just hot air.

However, in general, I'd rather have a "good" offense and a great defense, than the other way around. I believe a functional, somewhat good offense will allow Michigan to really shine, given their defense. Maybe in future years, the OL will be able to handle a complicated offense. It seems that right now, for them to all be on the same page, with run and pass blocking, with how and when they pull, and what constraints they use, and giving the QB time, would be more than good enough.

I was very struck by an observation Magnus made in Brian's piece yesterday. Namely, they wouldn't have brought Kugler on the football staff if he didn't understand what was happening and calling things correctly at center last season. This is a real indicator that the problem wasn't primarliy with him. 

While I'm not counting on or expecting Newsome to play, if he was cleared and was good, that would be a huge help with OL depth. I also am really hoping that one of the young guys (Hudson, Steuber, Honigford, Filiaga) really steps up and shines this year. Between the existing guys (JBB, Ruiz, Onwenu, Bredeson, Runyan, Spanellis) and the new guys, I am really hoping we have a passable OL.

Lastly, looking at the depth chart by class, I think JBB is the only one leaving after next year (unless 4th year guys take a grad transfer.) What I'm really hoping for is that we have success, experience, and depth from 2019 going forward.


May 3rd, 2018 at 2:07 PM ^

A year ago at this time, how many people here expected that when the season opened against Florida, Nolan Ulizio would be starting at right tackle AND that he would start at right tackle in the first five games of the season?  Yet there he was, starting at right tackle for the first five games of the 2017 season.

Now, read the comment posted above and nowhere in that comment will you read Nolan Ulizio's name among the ten offensive lineman mentioned as being expected to contribute this season (James Hudson, Andrew Stueber, Joel Honigford, Chuck Filiaga, Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Cesar Ruiz, Mike Onwenu, Ben Bredeson, Jon Runyan, Stephen Spanellis).


May 3rd, 2018 at 3:02 PM ^

I didn't mention Ulizio or Vastardis, nor the true freshmen (Mayfield, Hayes.) Of course, it'd be great in a way if the two guys with experience really shine. Right now, I'm not seeing it.

Regarding a grad transfer, especially what we suspect is the "firm handshake, no fifth year" kind of grad transfer. I'm kind of taking a page from the coach's book. You mention the guys who are doing well, who are being praised, who have a shot at starting or getting significant playing time. And you let your silence speak for the others. I never want to throw anyone under the bus, including Ulizio.

Have to say, I really can't understand how Ulizio was chosen as a starter last year, and how he lasted 5 games, and how he has mostly vanished since then. I don't wish the guy failure, but really don't get it. Look at this UFR chart of Brian's for Ulizio from last year:

Team Run Pass Pro
Florida -12.5 -3
Cincinnati 7.5 -3
Air Force 2 -7
Purdue 1.5 -7
MSU -5 -5
It is brutal reading Brian's write ups in the beginning of the season, and obviously Ulizio craters during MSU ("Ghost by halftime" is Brian's comment in the UFR table.)
Please, things have to be better this year. Right?
Ghost by halftime.



May 3rd, 2018 at 2:54 PM ^

"I remember what Kalis said several years back. Smh. Really, until we see it on the field, it is all just hot air."

What did he say? I vaguely remember him saying something about the coaching being better. The OL did improve when Drevno came in, so I'm not following your comment.

Watching From Afar

May 4th, 2018 at 2:31 PM ^

When Drevno came in he did so with Fisch and inherited an OL of (from left to right):

Cole - Sophomore returning Starter

Braden - Junior returning starter

Glasgow - Senior returning starter

Kalis - Junior returning starter

Magnuson - Junior returning starter.

Not sure if this holds water, but that's a lot of experience (even if it was bad experience) so maybe those guys could grasp the concepts that Drevno was teaching (while not being the OC since Fisch was there).

The following year everyone was a year older and more experienced. Last year it was (from left to right) a 4 year starter senior, sophomore, 5th year senior who never played, sophomore, and rotation of guys who never played. Maybe the youth on that line needed more basic coaching than what the OL/OC coach could provide while sharing with a different OL coach.

Different people learn different ways?


May 3rd, 2018 at 2:09 PM ^

the cumulative effect of this spate of articles has been dispiriting, at least to me, something of a portrait in ineptitude.  I'm trying not to let it color my hopes for the future, because all of the pieces are there for success. But M fans have been telling themselves that for some time, too. 


May 3rd, 2018 at 11:38 AM ^

I think I asked this once and maybe never checked back on it cause I don't remember the answer: Why is Bredeson not being tried at tackle? 

If he was considered to be neck and neck with Newsome in 2016, why does he seem to only be considered at guard? Especially since it seems like Spanellis and Onwenu are pushing one another for the other guard spot. Seems like you could throw out a 5 of...






...And be okay?

Watching From Afar

May 3rd, 2018 at 11:44 AM ^

Bredeson at OT hasn't been a thing since the Newsome competition. Maybe not throwing him out there after the injury made sense because Braden could do it and Bredeson was a freshman, but he hasn't been an OT possibility since the fall of 2016 for some reason.

Though I have a similar issue with the Runyan talk as well. He's the leading RT going into the season last year, then they throw out Ulizio (who wasn't even talked about until the last second) who gets obliterated by everyone he faces. Because Runyan isn't "tackle sized?" That's a ridiculous reason. Same thing this year. Runyan is currently the RT but might not be come the fall because he's not "tackle sized." Shit, if he's the best RT, I don't care if he's 5'11" (hyperbolic).

If I could get a legitimate, non-coach speak answer for 2 questions from the coaching staff, they'd probably be the Bredeson and Runyan thing specifically.


May 3rd, 2018 at 2:11 PM ^

Runyan is not the best RT. He was third string behind JBB and Ulizio. Let that sink in. Size is important in tackles. I didn't say height, I said size. A 330 pound guy like JBB simply has more mass than Runyan. Runyan is listed at 300 pounds, but he looks more like 280 to me. You have to have really strong legs to overcome that mass difference, and I just have not seen it from Runyan. Others could tell you more about arm length, also a component of "tackle size."

Watching From Afar

May 3rd, 2018 at 3:42 PM ^

"He was third string behind JBB and Ulizio. Let that sink in."

Watch the games he played in and watch the games Ulizio played in. Runyan came in late for JBB against OSU and against the best pass rush in the country, didn't do any worse than JBB did. Against SCAR I don't remember Runyan being the cause of the OL pass protection issues.

On the other hand, Michigan would have been better off without Ulizio on the field and going with 4 OL. Obviously hyperbolic, but at least that way they would have known the DE was coming free rather than thinking their RT might slow him down 1/2 a step. He was terrible. There was no obvious reason as to why he was playing meaningful snaps while Runyan looked better in the Spring Game and in place of JBB.

"You have to have really strong legs to overcome that mass difference, and I just have not seen it from Runyan."

Runyan has tested as the strongest and most athletic OL on the team (at last year's Spring Combine). He might have been surpassed by Ruiz or something this year, but he was considered the best athlete of the bunch going into 2017.

And again, more to the point, it has now been 2 offseasons that Runyan has been "leading" for the RT position. Yet for some unexplainable reason, he didn't see a lot of time last year (except in place of JBB in which he did... the same? or in the spring game wherein he didn't look nearly as bad as Ulizio did at his best) and people are looking to replace him now without seeing him actually get a good run at the spot.

Basically, going into the fall, Runyan was the #1 RT and Ulizio's name had never came up. First snap of the Florida game and Ulizio is the starter and looks terrible. If he jumped from #3 RT to #1 RT and that's how he looked, then Runyan (who again, looked at least servicable in the Spring Game according to this site) and JBB must have literally not known what "on one" meant and false started ever snap.


May 3rd, 2018 at 11:47 AM ^

“Break glass in case of Emergency” step. They like him where he is and it is his natural position.

I choose to believe the hopeful(?) take that JBB is more of a placeholder at LT until Hudson or someone else emerges. If Hudson is close to even with JBB by the end of Fall camp you let them take the reins and grow throughout the season.


May 3rd, 2018 at 11:38 AM ^

Remember last off season when the DL guys were saying the OL was the most improved position group on the team? Yeah, off season coach change chatter is nice, its also meaningless. 

Robbie Moore

May 3rd, 2018 at 12:06 PM ^

As saying why not slow down and learn the basics and then progress. Immediately reminded me of Beilein spending the first few days of practice teaching the fundamentals of passing, receiving a pass, pivoting, etc.

Gotta remember these are still kids. Many of whom excelled in High School because they had superior talent not because they were well coached. Note to Drevno, college coaches can't only be tacticians, they have to be great teachers as well.


May 3rd, 2018 at 12:30 PM ^

This is exactly why I don't like bringing in pro coaches down to the college level. They haven't had to teach the basics and are used to guys who can quickly pick up schemes and new ideas without having it drilled into them over and over. 

A first year pro is MILES ahead of a 5* FR and pro coaches don't seem to know how to downshift very well to adjust for that difference in experience and talent.

Watching From Afar

May 3rd, 2018 at 11:40 AM ^

I mean, if Winovich isn't getting free runs at the QBs anymore that's improvement. But, like, why the hell was that a problem in the first place?!

4 man rushes were killing the OL and caved Peters' chest in against Wisconsin in particular. You've got 5 OL to block 4 guys and no one picks up the 3-4 OLB because... reasons?


May 3rd, 2018 at 11:42 AM ^

At the very least it seems that the coaches are trying to get the message out to fans (and recruits) that they recognize they have a problem and are taking a new approach. Proof, pudding, etc etc... but the first step in fixing a problem is admitting you have one. I have my fingers crossed.


May 3rd, 2018 at 11:46 AM ^

What really happened to Drevno?  He's had a good track record coaching OL, it's not like you just forget how to do that.  

He's a good scapegoat, but I suspect the real issue was more organizational with Drev + Frey and Drev trying to be an OC, rather than him just suddenly turning into a poor OL coach.

Warriner probably brings improvement to the unit simply by being focused and dedicated to the OL.  Simplifying is probably good too. Fingers crossed.


May 3rd, 2018 at 11:46 AM ^

Its painful to say but just simplifying the blocking scheme, if nothing else, should reduce mental mistakes and missed blocking assignments. That itself is a solid improvement because the number of missed assignments and free runners last year was just atrocious.



May 3rd, 2018 at 11:47 AM ^

With the rest of the talent on Offense (Shea, talented WRs, good RBs, depth at TE) we should be able to put up a lot of points with just an average OL.

It looks more and more likre Brian's assessment that the switch to Frey really confused the young OL players and magnified average QB play and poor WR play.


May 3rd, 2018 at 11:48 AM ^

The thing is it's that it's not just the OL that is the problem. The QB play was atrocious and that allowed defenses to focus on stopping the run even more. The RB's were the worst I've seen at pass protection since I began watching Michigan football, and they rarely got more yards than the OL blocked for them.

I don't know if anyone has watched the Dallas Cowboys All or Nothing series, but one of the major storylines in the season was the Zeke Elliot suspension and how it affected the Dallas offense. At one point the RB coach said something along the lines of "he can get you 4 yards when everyone else can only get 1."

I think that's relevant to UM because they haven't had a game breaking running back since Mike Hart. If you want to stretch it maybe Brandon Minor. But this is a program that used to trot out Tony Boles, Tyrone Wheatley, Biakabatuka, Anthony Thomas, etc. For as much criticism as the OL gets (and deservedly so), UM simply haven't done a good job of recruiting at the RB position. It's no coincidence Bama and Georgia's OL look great every year when they are running out guys like Tood Gurley, Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, Bo Scarborugh, Derrick Henry, Mark Ingram, TJ Yeldon, and Eddy Lacy.

Watching From Afar

May 3rd, 2018 at 12:09 PM ^

I mean, yes and no. Higdon is not Anthony Thomas obviously. But, a ton of his yardage last year came after contact and he in particular turned 2 yard losses into 2 yard gains against MSU speciifcally. Cincy (I think) had 2 guys get through untouched to him for a 1 yard loss on 4th and 1, but he somehow got the 1st down. The OL biffed so many times that he had to make slightly less nothing out of absolutely nothing. Elliott is on a completely different level for obvious reasons, but you put LJ Scott behind some of that blocking last year and he's not going anywhere either.

Evans doesn't break tackles, he's not really an in-between the OTs runner so I don't expect him to make those plays. Higdon does what he can.

Pass protection, yeah not great.


May 3rd, 2018 at 11:50 AM ^

This year our three best QBs will all be better than last years. Thats got to be worth a couple W's, more if we dont even have to find out about how good QB3 really is..

Brandon Swatson

May 3rd, 2018 at 11:56 AM ^

Good article. This is the first year I've been optimistic about the offensive line in quite a while. I remember a reporter asking Drevno last year if the 2017 line could be better that 2016's and he was all, "oh, yeah sure", but what else is he gonna say?

Warinner is a dedicated championship level position coach. Add in the gains made by the new S&C crew and the overall maturation for the unit being a year older, I see a big jump this year.

Watching From Afar

May 3rd, 2018 at 1:02 PM ^

Well that was horribly wrong.

Though in 2013 they had an All-American LT, an NFL starter at C, Schofield wasn't terrible at RT, and Magnuson was playing LG I think. Including Kalis, that's 5 guys who ended up on NFL rosters 1 way or another.

Problem wasn't talent there, that was 100% coaching.

Perkis-Size Me

May 3rd, 2018 at 11:59 AM ^

That’s all well and good. Prove it on the field against a team not named Rutgers, Minnesota or Maryland.

Keep hearing the same story every offseason about how this coming season is FINALLY the one where it all starts to click for the OL. Always same story, different year, same mediocre to average results when all is said and done.

I’m hopeful Warriner can get them there, as he has a great track record, but they still need to prove it in a real game against a good team.


May 3rd, 2018 at 12:04 PM ^

Even if the talent level remained the same from last year, Warriner is worth an improvement.  But add in that now we have second year players we havent seen such as Hudson, FIliaga, & Steuber to add depth/competition.  Ruiz will take a step up, and sounds like could be an All Big Ten type center.  That significant helps.  Our guards have both been independently hyped.  I'm really curious about Onwenu.  I remember his first camp Harbaugh making a comment that he will have a long professional career in football.  Where did hype go?  Spanellis said he takes most of his guard reps at RG, showing that Onwenu's spot still may not be set in stone.


I think the most significant news is Runyan's rise.  If we can just get it down to one weak spot (LT), you gotta think that a combination of JBB/Steuber/Hudson will have the confidence and competence to make our line AT LEAST average.  

Add in a fast quarterback, some fast, big receivers, and Higdon - there is enough there to make a run.