Out the door are three redshirt seniors, and whether we like it or not, youth will be served at the very heart of Michigan's offense in 2013: at the guard and center positions.
Michigan's traditional (read: not Denard-based) rush offense struggled last year, and the interior linemen shouldered a lot of that blame. While RG Patrick Omameh returned as a starter, LG Ricky Barnum and C Elliott Mealer were fresh bodies in the starting lineup, and the last minute swap of positions between Barnum and Mealer was a harbinger of the hard times to come.
So Michigan looks to its young players, mostly second- and third-year options, to lead the charge in the run game and hold up against blitzes. Kyle Kalis has by all accounts separated himself as the prohibitive favorite to start at RG, which isn't surprising given his five-star pedigree coupled with a redshirt year to learn the offense. It looks like classmate Ben Braden is doing well to win the LG spot. Those two haven't locked it up quite yet, but as Brady Hoke said at media day:
"I don't know if you ever feel great until you get through a season with new guys, but I like the work ethic of Kalis and Braden and those two guys from a genetics standpoint, for what we're looking for in an offensive lineman,"
Seeing anyone else starting at those spots come August 31st would be surprising. Although there are capable bodies there. Chris Bryant has had a year to recover from a broken leg, while Blake Bars, Kyle Bosch, and Joey Burzynski all bring something to the table.
While the lineup is pretty well set — remember, that bookending the line is perhaps the best set of tackles in the conference — its baseline for production is far from known. At this rate Michigan will have a pair of second-year players at guard and one of two third-year guys at center. This is at a set of positions where you ideally want to season players for three years before setting them loose in the starting lineup.
There is a lot of talent and potential in this group, and unlike in years past, there is enough depth built up on the roster that the interior line positions aren't determined by the two guys who raise their hand in the meeting when Brady Hoke says who can play guard?
Michigan's young players are going to have to grow up fast. Denard Robinson is gone, and with him goes the vast majority of Michigan's rushing output over the last three seasons. If the further shift toward the pro-style offense is to bear any fruit, these young players will need to play like savvy veterans sooner rather than later.