One of the most disconcerting facets of the Brady Hoke era has been the lackluster play of Michigan’s offensive line. Despite being anchored the last few seasons by Taylor Lewan, a two-time Big Ten offensive lineman of the year, the Wolverines’ line has been pushed around and overrun by opposing defenses. Michigan’s run game has been abysmal, U-M ranked 102nd nationally in rushing offense this past season.
If the spring game is any indication, it might be time to sound the alarm. The offensive line struggled and as a result, much like last season, the quarterbacks were under constant pressure and the running game was plodding.
Michigan heads into the summer looking to replace both starting tackles and their most experienced lineman, former walk-on Graham Glasgow, has been suspended for the season opener. The fate of the 2014 season rests largely upon the offensive line.
Starting jobs are up for grabs
The coaching staff mixed and matched players throughout spring practice and the spring game featured a variety of combinations. The first five were; LT – Mason Cole, LG – Kyle Bosch, C- Jack Miller, RG – Kyle Kalis, RT – Ben Braden. Cole is a true freshman who enrolled early. Now he may not be the projected starter, but it says a lot about the precarious state of the offensive line that he was in the first group.
Keep in mind that Erik Magnuson, who started seven games last year, missed spring practice with a shoulder injury. He will contend for one of the starting tackle spots in fall camp. Glasgow, with 13 career starts, is also a probable starter, once he serves his one game suspension.
Three more players to keep an eye on are, David Dawson, Patrick Kugler and Logan Tuley-Tillman. They’re all redshirt freshmen with high ceilings. I think, Dawson will eventually be a starter in 2014, probably at guard. Kugler is a highly regarded center and the 6-foot-7, 290 pound Tuley-Tillman projects as a prototypical left tackle.
Player development under scrutiny
Under the guidance of Brady Hoke, Michigan has recruited the position of offensive line very well. The roster is full of blue chip recruits who came to Ann Arbor with high ratings and equally high expectations.
The problem, at least to this point, has been a lack of player development. Most notably on the offensive line, the players have yet to develop. Yes there is a lot of youth on the roster, but the lack of development is starting to become a little disconcerting.
A Michigan offensive line should not get pushed back game after game, snap after snap. This is a critical year for the Wolverines. Under Hoke, Michigan has gone backwards; 11-2 in 2011, 8-5 in 2012 and 7-6 last year. If Michigan is going to buck that trend, they will need to start gaining control in the trenches.
With all five starting jobs on the offensive line up for grabs, opportunity abounds. Who will seize the opportunity isn’t the biggest question here. It’s will the offensive line become serviceable in 2014? Regardless of who gets the playing time, this unit has to start knocking people off the ball and start owning the line of scrimmage. If that doesn’t happen it’s going to be a long, uncomfortable season in Ann Arbor.
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