Mailbag: What's Up With the Makeup Of UM's OL?

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan's big bodies up front and where they come from.

I had the pleasure of getting a nice little email question from a Gopher fan, and after I took a while at work to type up a response I figured I would throw the whole thing out to the masses.

This is a good reminder: if you ever have a question for myself or the rest of the staff, shoot me an email at zwtravis at gmail dot com and I/we would love to answer it in a similar format.  On to the show:

Hi. I am a Gopher fan. But I have a question about Michigan/Michigan State.

If you look around, many of the offensive lines of several teams are made in house i.e. in state players. Here are some examples.

Minnesota
Wisconsin
Iowa
Ohio State

Why do Michigan and Michigan State seem to have to build their offensive lines with out-state players? It seems there should be enough talent in the state of Michigan. Is one of the problems that there are so many MAC teams that "steal" potential walk-ons?

- DaleIt is a good question and there are a couple answers.

First, while the state of Michigan does produce talent on par or better than most of the Midwest (Ohio excepted), having two major programs in state doesn't let just one team clean up the top prospects (this isn't the case in Minnesota or Wisconsin, where both programs stand alone). So Michigan and Michigan State can get a few OL prospects from the state, but with two big programs and the demands of filling an OL depth chart (3-4 players per class to provide sufficient depth and development potential to avoid injuries/washouts), both programs have to look elsewhere.

Which leads to the second thing: Michigan and Michigan State are both within a couple hours of the most talent rich state in the Midwest, Ohio. Ohio is similar to Wisconsin/Minnesota in that there is one major program with everyone else in second place. Of course, with the level of talent Ohio is able to produce, there is a lot of players available that are already playing at a high level. If you look at past Michigan success in depth you'll notice a pattern: Michigan always did better when it was made up of a higher ratio of players from Ohio. You don't consistently dominate the Big Ten without a strong focus on recruiting Ohio. All of this could also be said of western Pennsylvania to an extent, as it also produces a high level of talent and is ripe for picking because Pitt hasn't been consistently relevant in a couple decades and PSU is more centrally located.

Finally, Michigan (and to a lesser extent Michigan State, although the tide is shifting in this regard) has enough national appeal to be able to go to different states out of the region and recruit players. This is more of a luxury and when you can grab a 4-star from Florida you might pass over a 3-star from Michigan.

I'm not sure that MAC programs are stealing too many of the potential walk-ons, as I think those types of players in Wisconsin/Minnesota/Iowa all end up at FCS programs. Walk ons walk on for a reason, and with Michigan's history and name recognition, there are quite a few that do. Michigan has a couple guys who have either started or pushed for PT the last couple years as walk ons (Graham Glasgow was the one consistent starter on the interior for Michigan this year and looks to be a really high level walk on.

I don't think the line is as stark as you draw it, as things change on a year to year basis and schools get talent wherever it is available, but you are right that Wisconsin/Minnesota/Iowa do end up focusing more on in state talent.

Now I just hope Michigan can turn some of these prospects into a functional offensive line, but that is the subject of a much longer, more profanity riddled email.

Thanks again to Dale for the email, and be sure to send along any questions you have.

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