Michigan and Michigan State will share at least one common dilemma this fall: Piecing together an offensive line.
In 2013, the Wolverines weren't reliable in the trenches. They had one of the worst lines in all of college football and, honestly, showed little signs of life. That being said, prepare for mistakes--lots of mistakes--come early September.
Eventually, under the direction of Darrell Funk, the line coach, and Doug Nussmeier, the offensive coordinator, Team 135's front should assemble into something close to resembling a worthy O-line. Michigan's playoff hopes depend on that happening.
Until then, it's crossing fingers and hoping for the best.
In 2013, the Spartans fell victim to growing pains, too. Their linemen took some time to develop into a serviceable unit. By no means were the O-liners the stars of the show. They worked hard, got the job done and reaped a few rewards.
However, much of that success could be attributed to system and coaching--and the fact that Michigan State usually runs the ball well. The recent spills of great running backs have cloaked past O-line deficiencies.
The Wolverines haven't been so lucky in that department.
We'll start with Team Dantonio for one reason: It played its spring game this past weekend--and it looked pretty solid while doing so.
There are Holes in E.L.
Without Fou Fonoti (RT), Blake Treadwell (LG) and Dan France (RG), Michigan State faces a few hurdles. Those three made up 60 percent of the line. However, the most important spot, left tackle, seems to be in good hands with redshirt sophomore Jack Conklin, who has Rose Bowl experience and appears to be the cornerstone of the line.
Jack Allen entered East Lansing with a quiet hype. As a redshirt junior, he's in line for No. 1 reps at center. At 6'1" and 292 pounds, he has decent size for the middle and could be sandwiched by a combination of Travis Jackson, Kodi Kieler (a 6'5," 326-pound mountain) and Connor Kruse, among others, this fall.
They're returning running back Jeremy Langford and quarterback Connor Cook. But like the rest of the world, the defending Rose Bowl champion Spartans--namely line coach Mark Staten and OC Dave Warner/Jim Bollman--have some adjustments to make before hoisting more bowl hardware.
As you can see, they've had success grooming talent into starters.
Headlines from Ann Arbor slightly differ from the following:
Experience aids Michigan State's offensive line: After 13 victories that included Big Ten and Rose Bowl titles... http://t.co/gGQsW54Mr0— DetroitNewsMSU (@detnewsMSU) April 23, 2014
May this video remind you of the good old days. People used to drool over UM OL'ers.
Yeah, things aren't looking wonderful for the Wolverines' offensive line these days. Losing Taylor Lewan, one of the program's greatest left tackles, is the obvious burner. Michael Schofield was pretty solid at right tackle. The loss of him will be difficult to overcome.
However, Brady Hoke's recruited well during the past three years, routinely landing some of the nation's best linemen. Mason Cole, Juwan Bushell-Beatty, Logan Tuley-Tillman, Ben Braden and Kyle Kalis make up a laundry list of untapped talent waiting to be put on the field.
Of course, Cole and JBB are new. But Tuley-Tillman could be a solid left tackle, and the same is true for Braden and Kalis, who were each parts of the revolving door at guard and center in 2013.
Michigan's climb is uphill. Really, it couldn't get more uphill. Lewan is gone. Let that sink in for a second. He's been a staple of the line, someone that could be counted on each Saturday. Michigan doesn't have anyone close to that right now. This season--and this can't be stressed enough--will be crucial for the future of Hoke's O-line. Entering his fourth year, Hoke's yet to really flex his muscle and put a dominant product on the field.
Hoke on the line
The tone of this interview with Miller sounds familiar, doesn't it? The same issues plague Team 135.
Needless to say, the Wolverines sure could have used Chad Lindsay, who transferred from Alabama to Ohio State instead of joining Nuss at The Big House.
Analysis: Perspective on the Chad Lindsay miss, and a firm look at Michigan's offensive line http://t.co/a0AxTfn5gs— Wolverines News (@WolverinesMLive) April 23, 2014
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