The Michigan offensive line is going to look a lot different than it did a season ago. There will be four new starting linemen with Jon Runyan Jr., Ben Bredeson, Cesar Ruiz, and Michael Onwenu all taking their talents to the NFL.
That amount of turnover is always challenging for an o-line unit. Cohesiveness along the line takes time to form, and Michigan is just weeks away from their first game of the season. The good news for the Wolverines is with the season being delayed ‘til October, the o-line’s had added time to work on their development.
“It’s coming along really well,” head coach Jim Harbaugh said on Monday. “There has been a lot of time, a lot of skill development that we’ve been able to do over the last month, month and a half, which has been excellent. I’m feeling really good about the offensive line.”
Harbaugh’s breakdown of players along the o-line
- “Andrew Vastardis is really emerging as a starting offensive lineman and fifth-year player and a tremendous leader on the offensive line. I think that’s been tremendous. I feel like he’s an experienced player, but also going to be a very fine player for us at center.”
- “Andrew Stueber, who missed last season with an ACL, is back now and in the starting lineup at right guard. He’s doing really well and is fully recovered.”
- “Ryan Hayes, the left tackle, I really feel good about him and his experience.
- “Right tackle, Jalen Mayfield. That’s the position where Jalen started at last year. Karsen Barnhart has been at right tackle for the last month and a half. He’s done extremely well.
- “Chuck Filiaga, who’s had a tremendous August and September. He’s looking big, strong and more agile, more athletic. He’s doing a terrific job.
This is a unit that Harbaugh hopes could be more athletic and physical than lines of past seasons, but just as talented. “Overall, there’s a real chance, a real hope that our offensive line could be bigger, could be more athletic and could be just as talented as what we’ve had in the past. And the key is for them to jell,” Harbaugh said.
Offensive line coach Ed Warinner pointed to once the starting offensive linemen are named, it will still take time for the unit to jell. “I think it takes about two weeks together, and then once the season gets rolling, if you watch the season, probably week three or so, we’ll hit our stride upfront,” Warriner said. “But you can tell when you watch film in the end zone and you see them and they all look the same. They’re all taking the same footwork, the same body position, a cohesive, choreographed unit, that’s when you feel really good as an o-line coach. We’re not there yet. I see glimpses of that. That’s what I see. How I know, when I start seeing they all look the same on every play, they start mirroring each other.”
Michigan likes their pieces along the offensive line, now it’s just about picking which five players fit the best together and will lead to the cohesion Warinner and Harbaugh want. “Very, very excited,” Harbaugh said. “Just like I said about the quarterback position, put a talented guy out there and see how it goes. I feel really optimistic about our offensive line.”