Hooray. Michigan OL depth issues are in the rear view mirror.

Submitted by Blue boy johnson on November 30th, 2012 at 10:55 AM

Making it through the 2012 football season without burning any of the 5 freshmen OL's RS was a stroke of great fortune. Going forward into 2013 and beyond Hoke and Co. will have the depth needed on the OL to conduct the physical practices they desire and have great competition at all positions.

Leaving Taylor Lewan out of the equation, with early enrollees, M should have around 15 OL for spring ball and 18 OL once summer arrives, which should allow Hoke to conduct practice as he sees fit. I am counting Bosch and LTT as early enrollees, and Kugler, Fox and one other OL arriving in the summer.

With only two seniors on the roster in 2013 (Schofield and Gunderson), and 5 more freshman arriving in 2013, going forward into 2014, M should have more than adequate depth on the OL from this point forward.

I am not making a judgement on how well the OL will perform in 2013 (too many unknowns), just commenting on the relative wealth of depth on the OL.

If Taylor Lewan returns, not likely IMO, then depth is that much better.

Spring ball should be awesome.

Returning Scholarship OL:    
1 Erik Magnuson OL FR
2 Ben Braden OL FR
3 Kyle Kalis OL FR
4 Blake Bars OL FR
5 Jack Miller OL RS FR
6 Chris Bryant OL RS FR
7 Michael Schofield OL RS JR
Walk On's who played and looked serivceable:
8 Burzynski, Joey OL RS SO
9 Glasgow, Graham OL RS FR
Incoming Freshman:    
10 Kyle Bosch OL HS
11 Chris Fox OL HS
12 Patrick Kugler OL HS
13 Logan Tuley-Tillman OL HS
14 Dawson/Lacy/Hunt OL HS
Walk-On's who add needed depth:  
15 Ben Pliska OL FR
16 Erik Gunderson OL RS JR
17 Kristian Mateus OL RS SO
18 Dan Gibbs OL FR




November 30th, 2012 at 11:02 AM ^

yay depth.. still fear that the line next year is going to look ok at best. Very young and inexperienced. Mike and Joey are the only two have taken competitve game snaps right?


November 30th, 2012 at 11:03 AM ^

I sort of agree on the whole (though a lot of the "depth" is young), but Glasgow does not look serviceable to me.  I think Burzynski is the lone walk-on with a chance of playing important minutes next year.


November 30th, 2012 at 11:14 AM ^

I think we have more depth than this year (see Magnuson being able to back up both tackle spots and Braden also if Lewan were to court my heart and stay for his senior year). However, I do not think this line is that safe and secure; it is two serious injuries away from trouble. Outside of Magnuson/Braden, we have Burzynski as a a replacement and, although serviceable, he would probably be a significant step down. We only had 4 freshman OL redshirt and the coaches were not willing to let any of them play, even though that included "the most college-ready OL" that many experts had seen in Kalis, so I am skeptical that any of the freshman OL will be able to contribute to game situations. OL generally need at least another year to get physically and mentally ready to play. If a freshman RB makes a mistake, we lose a couple yards, miss a big play, or fumble the ball; however, if a freshman OL makes a mistake, our RB or QB get destroyed. I think this year will be just as scary on the OL as last, especially if Chris Bryant cannot come back healthily from his leg break.


November 30th, 2012 at 11:43 AM ^

He came closer to starting this year than either Miller or Bryant (guys who everyone seems to be considering as near-certainties to start).

Is it about positions?  I don't think so.  If Miller was ready at OC they could have started him, but instead it came down to a Burzynski-Mealer battle for the last spot.  Insider reports (and logic) say that Mealer would have been better off at LG than OC, but Barnum couldn't hack it.  Obviously the interior OL struggled - so why do we think Miller is a lock again?  He is young, so it's reasonable to project improvement but...that doesn't mean he is ready to start.

As for Bryant, he was Omameh's backup, but the differences between RG and LG are not mountainous.  If he was competitive with Burzynski/Mealer, he would have been in that conversation.

Burzynski was the 6th man on a line that graduates 4.  I'll admit that a couple of the red-shirting guys are probably ahead of him, and the tackles especially are more likely to produce a '13 starter.  But on the interior of the line?  The options are very thin and Burzynski is a veteran with the most experience.  Just as Mealer beat out Miller and Bryant and others, Burzynski will likely do the same next year.


November 30th, 2012 at 12:18 PM ^

Biggest thing is size, which particularly distinguishes Bryant versus Miller. Burzynski is 6'1 and never looked particularly proficient out there. Miller was tiny as a freshman and was a RS freshman coming off a eat-as-much-as-you-can type of off-season program. If Miller can put on another 10 pounds through this season and the off-season then he will be near good playing weight. Miller reportedly has a nasty mean-streak that the coaches like. Also, I remember TVH scouting Miller back in the day and he always thought Miller was underrated and would be a good player at the college level. Additionally, Miller will have now spent 3 years prepping to be a center while Burzynski has been primarily a guard. The coaches have used him as a jack-of-all-trades type of replacement player on the interior line. Ideally, we could have someone play C who has been prepping for it. Finally, Burzynski is walk-on so there is clearly bias against him. This is a post about OL depth concerns being gone,  but we are on the edge of playing a walk-on signifcantly, which, outside of Kovacs, generally is not good. People can cite the quality of play walk-on's provide but when you are considering starting one against the Shorts, Hankins, or Jesse Williams of the world (yes, they all graduated or are going pro or not on our schedule-Thank God) that isn't good. Burzynski will obviously improve and get bigger but you cite the coaches having him compete with Barnum and Mealers' talent as a reason that we shouldn't be particularly high on Miller; this is also a reason that I am skeptical of Burzynski: he couldn't beat those two out and instead of starting Burzynski at C when Barnum wasn't adequate there, they moved Mealer away from his more comfortable position instead of starting Burzynski. Basically, Miller was another year of weight-lifting away from being able to start and after this off-season, I think it is more likely that he will be there rather than Burzynski. As to Bryant, well I've talked to much so I will say he is Big and would ideally fit better into what Borges and Hoke want to do and hopefully can help our anaemic run game.


November 30th, 2012 at 12:49 PM ^

Miller is taller by 3 inches so maybe has a better frame to add weight, but Burzynski can do that too.  At 295 now, he could easily add 5 pounds and be 300 lbs.  That's adequate.  Furthermore, height isn't that big of a deal at OC.  Molk was 6'1 300 - he did OK.

Burzynski hasn't been impressive, it is true, but Miller's been even LESS impressive.

As for a nasty streak - I'll buy it when I see it. 

As for experience - a valid point, but this year Mealer beat out Barnum, Miller, and Burzynski, without having any experience at center.  The coaches will play the best 5 linemen, period.  Burzynski's versatilty is unlikely to work against him - unless the coaches want him as a designated bench guy (though I thought that might be the case with Mealer last year and it didn't turn out that way.)

Walk-on bias - I think that's a fan thing, not something the coaches think.  Brink almost started for a while, Kwiatkowski, Kovacs, etc.  Plus Burzynski came close to beating out Mealer last year, when Mealer was a 5th year senior.  I think if coaches have a bias it is towards veterans and experienced players - which will go in Burzynski's favor.

It's strange to me that you view Mealer starting at C as an indictment of Burzynski (who has mostly been a guard) and Miller (who has been a pure C).  Between OC and OG it was clear that Burzynski was the 3rd option behind Mealer and Barnum, but Miller, as the 4th option, wasn't even mentioned as being competitive.

I thought Bryant was going to start last year, but, even before he got hurt, he wasn't in the conversation for a starting job (just like Miller).  And he was already huge, so the size issue wasn't there for him.

I think most people agree with you - they project improvement for Miller.  It is certainly possible, but I think that Burzynski was far ahead of Miller this year and Miller doesn't have exclusive rights to improving.  Burzynski will too.  Miller has a significant gap to make up.  I would not assume he would make it.  At the very least I would view OC as a 50-50 proposition between Burzynski/Mealer with Bars, Kugler, and even Kalis as other options if things go very badly (or very well at guard/tackle).

Overall, I view the positions on the interior of the line as being very fluid and the roles as being very unsettled.  I see Burzynski as the only experienced and highly regarded (by coaches, as apposed to recruitniks) interior player.  They may want him as a backup, but I think it's more likely that a couple of the young kids don't develop as quickly as we all like and Burzynski stays in there to stabilize things a little bit.





November 30th, 2012 at 1:15 PM ^

Molk was also a Rimington winner. Burzynski may get to his size but that doesn't mean Burzynski will have Molk's strength, agility, play-recognition, or general ability to play C. Centers can be smaller and still win Rimingtons/be great an all but it requires a special player.

Miller was also off a RS year. Most teams try to avoid starting RS freshman at OL. While Lewan and Long are two recent examples of who could do that, they are the exception and not the rule.

Walk-on bias isn't necesarily that walk-ons cannot play, but that generally they are less athletic. They are the guys coaches (same coaches that you mention) were not willing to expend a scholarship on until they came to practice and earned a place in the rotation. Kovacs, Burzynski, Kwiatkowski, etc. all show they can contribute but outside of few, most all limited in their potential. Yes, there are the Kovacs and Aberrderis's of the world that become big-time playmakers, but they are the exception to the rule. The majority of guys walk-ons populate scout teams and the depth chart. Being a walk-on doesn't mean that Burzynski cannot play, but on a post commenting on finally being comfortable with OL relief, it should be worrisome that the first OL off the bench will be a walk-on or Miller/Bryant if either is beaten out, a RS freshman, or a true freshman. That does not bode well for depth. The difference between a walk-on and a recruited player is potential. Lewan is 6'7-6'8; even if a walk-on who knows how to play the position better and works harder, Lewan is going to have a better chance at being the guy that makes an elite difference because of his measurables and athleticism. Miller is 6'3-6'4 and can probably play at a greater weight (doesn't necessarily mean stronger but is an indication) while more likely retaining speed. Burzynski will make plays like Kovacs, but he wouldn't be able to make plays like Molk did.

As to your next point, RS freshman versus being a RS sophomore. Big difference. Being a RS sophomore to RS JR is a big difference also, but much closer than the first. And he was competitive, but was a pure C and the coaches didn't want a RS freshman playing C as they didn't want Burzynski.

They both will improve. I just think Miller has more potential. If we want to win a Big Ten Championship next year we need to be able to compete with Ohio and Nebraska, and I think Miller can provide more there. All in all, we still are not in a great situation either way, which is my general criticism of this post.


November 30th, 2012 at 2:19 PM ^

Of course Burzynski isn't Molk, but we're not asking him to be a Rimington winner, we're asking him to beat out freshman and an unheralded, undersized, underclassmen like Miller.  The point is his size doesn't preclude him from starting.

"Most teams try to avoid starting RS freshman at OL" - indeed, which is exactly why I expect Burzynski to start.  He'll be the only veteran outside of Schofield.

I'm not saying Burzynski is the greatest, but I'm saying there is a very strong chance that he is the best available option.

Certainly the ceiling with Miller is higher, so IF Miller beats out Burzynski, I agree that's a good sign. But so far he has been the inferior peformer - you'd typically want to see a little more ability and competitiveness from a RS freshman when depth is so thin on the ground and we're resorting to play walk-ons.

Miller COULD catch up, but the point is he HAS to catch up.  That's not a given, just because he's 3 inches taller and had more recruiting accolades.




November 30th, 2012 at 11:18 AM ^

Ehh, this doesn't make me feel much better given that only one of our starting lineman next year will have taken a meaningful amount of snaps (although jack miller has appeared in 6 games, I don't know how many snaps he was in for and the context of those snaps).

What does make me feel slightly better is that Notre Dame is similarily replacing 4 starters on their line, so I guess we aren't the only ones. 

Out of curiousity, have their been any practice reports regarding if how these now rs fr lineman have been doing in practice as part of the scout team?


November 30th, 2012 at 11:32 AM ^

I think jr or RS soph is pretty much the tipping point when most OL's get big enough to really play well at a major conference level.  They need the time to bulk up and get stronger.  I don't want to witness anymore "underclassmen playing against upperclassmen" nightmares at Michigan.



November 30th, 2012 at 11:35 AM ^

Subtract 4 (Mealer, Barnum, Omameh, Lewan)


Add 4 (committed OL)

Remind me how depth is better again?

While I agree that we are likely to add a 5th OLmen in the class, there's also a good chance of injury or attrition along the way to someone on the roster (or in the class.)  Might just be a walk-on but the serviceability of a walk-on and a freshman are often not far apart.

The big issue isn't raw numbers, it's quality and experience.  Michigan is going to struggle to field a serviceable unit next year, let alone having capable backups.  If most of the recruits pan out, we'll be OK, but we're projecting kids who haven't played a down of college football yet -- the uncertainty here is very high.

IMO, it's more likely that a true freshman plays in 2013 than in 2012, when everyone was bemoaning the OL depth as a weakness.  Luckily we stayed healthy and none were needed.

I was taking the dropping of the Dawson as a good sign of sorts.  Since the coaches weren't looking to replace him with another OL that seemed to indicate that they had great confidence in the '11 and '12 recruits (none of which have played yet.)  Well, now they clearly looking to add a 5th linemen, which makes me wonder...



November 30th, 2012 at 11:53 AM ^

Coaches won't burn a redshirt next year if they didn't do it this year. We have versatile linemen, 2 backup sophomores on scholarship, and some preferred walkons. Still, it'll be nice when we don't have true freshmen/walkons in the two deep.


November 30th, 2012 at 12:32 PM ^

So you're worried we'll lose 3 or more of our linemen to injury? That must be rough. We have 2 scholarship backups, and some solid walkons. Coaches will go through them before they start burning redshirts. They played an entire backup line this year at times, and they have the depth to do it this year too.


November 30th, 2012 at 2:23 PM ^

I'm worried about the starting unit.  I think the depth sucked this year and I think it will continue to suck next year, but my primary concern is about having 4 new starters and the 5th likely changing positions.

The assumption here seems to be that all the RS Freshman next year will be ready, but one needs only look at Bryant (who came in with the requisite size) and Miller (who had good offers from other schools) to see that it doesn't often work this way.  Neither of these kids were at the level of Mealer (a disappointing career backup) and Burzynski (a walk-on) through pre-season.  The bar was low, but they didn't reach it.


November 30th, 2012 at 12:35 PM ^

Next year doesn't look like an OL improvement. If Lewan leaves (and he will), there's a real chance the OL is a tire fire, and the "Fire Borges" yells will reach cacophonous levels. I just don't see good things for Michigan offensively next year, and it all revolves around a far too young and inexperienced OL. There is talent there, but so many true and RS freshman starters on the OL = death. 


December 2nd, 2012 at 7:21 AM ^

Michigan allowed 4 sacks in the three games leading up to OSU, or 1.33 sacks/game.  That would be good enough to tie for #28 nationally.

Take away experience for the offensive line, and add experience for the QB (since, you know, Gardner was a wide receiver up until those three games), and you might end up with about the same number.  I think we can deal with being 28th in sacks allowed.

And why did Denard Robinson take so few sacks?  First of all, he couldn't throw very well, so Borges really scaled back on the number of pass plays he was calling.  And secondly, when Robinson did drop back, he wouldn't take sacks...he would throw the ball up for grabs when pressured.

I'll take sacks over interceptions any day of the week.

Sextus Empiricus

November 30th, 2012 at 12:44 PM ^

I don't see the OL numbers as better.  

Inside run blocking has more promise.  Outside run blocking - not so much.  I don't see Bryant pulling and being effective - but we haven't seen him play.  That is a big body to pull.  Kalis is an upgrade - but we don't know where everyone is going to be yet.  Barnum was suppose to be the center out of Spring ball and that didn't happen.

Pass protection is unknown.  Lewan is a loss wrt pass protection.  Who will step up there?  It's not going to be an upgrade regardless.

Big questions and challenges on OL.


November 30th, 2012 at 11:36 AM ^

I think you can also throw in the tight ends in there as well.  An improved AJ Williams should allow for essentially a 6th offensive linemen on the field during running plays.  Hopefully improvement in blocking by both him and Funchess should help alleviate some of the growing pains from playing a bunch of young guys next year.


November 30th, 2012 at 11:40 AM ^

Jury is clearly out about a starting 5 for next year, let alone quality depth. Scholfield & Miller are the only known talent - and they are role players with iso issues vs good B1G DL. 1-2 injuries could cripple us even next year.

Wellman, Funk, another stellar class and time are the key variables, but I expect YES on this same headline 1 yr from now.


November 30th, 2012 at 11:51 AM ^

I see your point, but I think the dropoff from, say, Lewan to Gunderson this year would be much worse than the dropoff from Magnuson to Braden (or at just about any position on the line) next year. I think that applies to most of the line, since I'm not sure we're really going to have any studs next year, hopefully just a cohesive unit. 1-2 injuries might force us to put some of the freshman into service, but the dropoff from there, IMO, won't be hugely significant. That's probably not a good thing, but it is what it is. 


November 30th, 2012 at 1:05 PM ^

this year, "best run blocker" is a fairly thin compliment and Kalis needs to continue developing if he didn't beat out Barnum.

Dont get me wrong, the talent and temperament of our OL is clearly moving towards Manball. But we have a bunch of starting spots that require upgrades and not merely reloading; then we need at least a strong 2nd fivesome to proclaim any depth.


November 30th, 2012 at 12:14 PM ^

It is. Guys will keep moving inside like they do, but our 2013 depth (by class) should look something like NT Washington/Ash/Pipkins/Henry, DT Black/Wormley/Godin/Hurst, SDE Brink, Heitzman, Strobel, Poggi, and WDE Clark, Beyer, Ojemudia, Charleton. 4 deep at each position, likely only 2, or maybe 3 of them playing.


November 30th, 2012 at 12:12 PM ^

The Michigan OL needs 4 guys who are totally unproven to step up as starters in 2013.  The Michigan DL doesn't need any.

WDE:  3 young guys who have played meaningful snaps(with Ryan being used situationally)

SDE:  Heitzman, plus Black has played there in the past and Beyer could move over too.

DT/NT:  Washinton, Pipkins, Black return.  Even Ash has played a bit.

The True Freshman, Red-shirt Freshman aren't needed here as anything other than backup options.  One of the freshman (unlike Bryant) was projected to be a significant contributor based on his pre-season performance (Wormley).

For DL, we need 1 or two (out of about 7 guys) to emerge as competant players.  The OL needs 4, and it's far harder for Freshman to do it at OL than DL.

Blue boy johnson

November 30th, 2012 at 11:49 AM ^

I am confident Funk and the boys will be ready come September. M still has bowl practice, spring ball and fall camp for the OL to get better, all the while competing against a very good DL. I got no consternation about fielding a quality OL in 2013 and then things get better from there.

The sky ain't falling.


November 30th, 2012 at 12:11 PM ^

but holy crap look at all of the "FR"s attached to those lineman's names. We were a rolled ankle or two from playing high schoolers on the line this year

Bronco Joe

December 1st, 2012 at 10:01 PM ^

I was surprised by the post, too, thinking of that many "FR"s attached to the linemen, as you say. I don't think RS Fr as "depth."  When we get to 2014 and 2015 and we have 18 OL and half of them are upper classmen, THEN we can start talking about not having to worry about depth. 


November 30th, 2012 at 12:44 PM ^

Wait, I thought someone said Kalis played in the AF game? I was traveling and didn't see it but I thought someone posted that Kalis saw action in that game.

Perkis-Size Me

November 30th, 2012 at 1:27 PM ^

if we didn't still have depth issues, we wouldn't be looking to start at least 2 rs freshmen next year. i get where you're coming from, and our depth situation is definitely getting better, but we're not out of the woods yet. i say that, barring no major injuries, by the 2014 season we should be set. we will have a small army of wooly mammoths for the offensive line.


November 30th, 2012 at 2:54 PM ^

Stanford plays a solid version of Manball and they frequently use formations with 6 or 7 OL simply because they have depth and want to pound.

Not sure if Borges embraces jumbo packages (Hoke has to be a fan), but we can definitely claim depth if we start to debate next year how to get our 7th OL on the field without burning a redshirt.