There he is, in the back. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
If -- all the way back in 2008 -- you stopped a random Michigan fan on the street and we lucky enough to find one that followed recruiting ("what's that, like for rush for frats?" "Kind of like that, yeah") you would have been able to gauge his excitement about a pretty impressive offensive line haul. After a while of talking, eventually you would ask him to prognosticate. You'd ask "In 2012, which offensive line recruit is going to be entering his third full year as a starter and have 29 consecutive starts?"
It would be a long time before Patrick Omameh's name came up.
First, you would have to hope that this particular recruiting guru was a disciple of Scout and not Rivals. It was Scout, after all, that listed Omameh as an offensive line recruit, whereas Rivals considered him a defensive end. Although being listed at just 6'4 236 lbs, it would be hard to blame them for mixing that up. Although according to Rivals, Omameh wasn't really even all that promising a recruit on the defensive side of the ball. He was only considered a two-star, and was the lowest rated player in Michigan's class according to Rivals.
And all those players ahead of him? Borderline five-star OT Dann O'Neill flamed out quickly and hasn't done much of anything. Ditto Kurt Wermers the three-star from Indiana. Four-star Elliott Mealer is still looking for his first appearance in the starting lineup, and four-star Ricky Barnum might have a year of starting experience under his belt had it not been for injuries in 2011. Three-star Rocko Khoury exited the program earlier this spring as a career backup.
Omameh stands alone.
The little-known recruit redshirted as a freshman and burst on to the scene as a RS-Fr. As injuries struck the line in 2009 it was Omameh who got the call to take over on the right side, which slide Mark Huyge out to the tackle spot. Omameh played the last half of the season and started the final three games. He wouldn't give the spot up.
The next year as the offense took off it was Omameh who was often seen leading the charge for Denard Robinson. It was Omameh who often go the free release into the second level where he used his superior athleticism to club linebackers and open holes. While he struggled with heads up pressure from a defensive tackle, Omameh was a solid starter on the line that never saw any real competition.
Even with the scheme change Omameh retained his starting spot at right guard. There were struggles as a pulling guard and more struggles dealing with defensive tackles, but Omameh held the job from start to finish.
With all of the shakeup on the interior of the offensive line, one thing has remained constant through the off season: Patrick Omameh is the starter on the right side.
Michigan is currently experimenting with RS-Sr Elliott Mealer and walk-on Joey Burzynski on the left, but all indications are that the backup on the right, Chris Bryant, is well behind Omameh.
Given the struggles Omameh had a year ago it is hard to forecast any type of national recognition for him. Odds are Omameh won't be an All-American (now, an Academic All-American is possible, as he was a 4.0 student in H.S. and made the Academic All-Big Ten team the last two seasons). One would have to expect an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention-level season from the guard.
Even so, entering his third full year as a starter, and with a good chance to start upwards of 41 consecutive games at RG, one has to like the consistency and experience that Omameh brings to the table. With the rest of the interior line being broken in as starters and Michael Schofield getting flipped from LG to RT, Omameh remains as the only other rock -- along with Taylor Lewan. -- on an otherwise fluctuating offensive line.
Back in 2008 this whole thing would probably sound crazy, but that is the beauty of college football: everyone gets a chance to prove the rankings wrong.
Patrick Omameh, the lowest rated member of the 2008 Michigan class, is nearly its most stable and productive player.