Guys. I gotta admit. This was tough.
Deciding on the starting and immediate backups for the Michigan Wolverines’ offensive line in 2018 was a challenge. The other depth charts I have predicted this week have been relatively easy. This one, however, was a monster.
I may be completely off with my picks, but I’d be completely fine with that if that means this year’s offensive line helps the Wolverines win games (and keep quarterbacks out of the hospital).
Because of how many guys I have to list, I wanted to keep this as short and concise as possible, so here is my two-deep offensive line:
LT: Jon Runyan Jr., RS JR
At the end of the day, I think Runyan Jr. is the starter for Shea Patterson’s blindside, but James Hudson is going to be right on his tail.
He played left tackle, right guard and right tackle throughout the 2017 season and started at right tackle in the bowl game.
Michigan offensive line coach Ed Warinner called Runyan Jr. the most improved player at the position during spring practices. He also said he will “probably” have a starting spot somewhere along the line. If I had to guess, I’d guess left tackle.
LG: Ben Bredeson, JR
This was the easiest spot to predict.
Bredeson has missed just one game in his two-year career so far — the Outback Bowl in January due to injury.
The guy is a mammoth of a human being at 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds. In my mind, he is the Wolverines’ best offensive lineman heading into the season, no question.
This position is locked up until Bredeson departs for the NFL.
C: Cesar Ruiz, SO
There is no doubt in my mind Ruiz will be Michigan’s starting center in 2018.
He showed progress as the 2017 season wore on, though he was playing as Michigan’s sixth offensive lineman and played as a guard. He started six games in 2017 and played in 10, and for the most part looked really good — except for missing a key pass block against Wisconsin which knocked Brandon Peters out of the game.
But he was recruited as a center, and the top center in his class according to 247Sports’ composite. Warinner has raved about Ruiz this offseason, saying he is “the quarterback of the offensive line” and a leader with a smart football IQ.
He should be one of Michigan’s finest on the offensive front this season.
RG: Stephen Spanellis, RS SO
That’s right, I have a bit of a trick up my sleeve in this depth chart prediction — Spanellis will unseat Onwenu as Michigan’s starting right guard.
I’ve been waiting for Spanellis to get his chance at a starting spot for a long time, and he has deserved it. Listed at 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds, Spanellis has put in the time this offseason and better his body and improving in every facet of his game.
If you watched All or Nothing on Amazon Prime, you saw Spanellis for a very short amount of time, but Jim Harbaugh and Pep Hamilton salivated at how intelligent he is. He picked up the football and began taking snaps as if he were hiking the football — the first time he’d ever done that — and both coaches were very impressed.
Warinner also said Spanellis attacked the offseason hard and is “very smart, very conscientious,” so these are encouraging signs for the third-year lineman out of Baltimore.
RT: Juwann Bushell-Beatty, RS SR
After starting seven games at right tackle last season, Bushell-Beatty has something to prove heading into the new year.
Bushell-Beatty got his first playing action in ‘16 as a sixth lineman, and occasionally play at left tackle, but moved to the right side last year.
He is a great run-blocker, as shown in 2017, but his pass protection needs the most work, like most of the Wolverines’ offensive linemen to make way for Mason Cole.
As a fifth-year senior, I expect a coach like Warinner to fix the little things in Bushell-Beatty’s game and get him ready for the season. If all things go well, he could be in for a great final year as a Wolverine.
Backup LT: James Hudson, RS FR
Hudson must be the next man up at left tackle, right? If not him...who?
He came over from the defensive side of the ball and has impressed throughout the offseason. Warinner has also given praise to the redshirt freshman, calling him “talented enough to be a starting tackle at Michigan.”
“Talented” and “ready” are two different meanings as far as that goes. Is he talented? Yes. Is he ready? I don’t think so. Give him another year and he’ll be Michigan’s left tackle, unless Grant Newsome’s knee magically heals to perfection.
Backup LG: Chuck Filiaga, RS FR
Another lineman I have been dying to see is Filiaga.
He was recruited as a tackle, so it’s a bit surprising to hear he moved to the guard spot. However, this move may be well-suited for the big man from Texas. It seems the tackle spots are covered for the foreseeable future with Hudson and true freshmen Jalen Mayfield and Ryan Hayes. If Filiaga’s way to get on the field is by playing guard, so be it.
He took a redshirt last year, so it’s hard to say what I’d expect out of him, but at 6-foot-6 and 341 pounds, I would expect a beast of a man to whoop some interior ass once given the opportunity.
Backup C: Spanellis
No debate here, really. Spanellis is uber talented and can play both guard and center. His versatility will be huge for Michigan this season for when Ruiz needs a breather or is unable to suit up.
Backup RG: Michael Onwenu, JR
Onwenu very well could be the starter, but I like Spanellis just a little more.
The junior from Detroit has played significant snaps in his two seasons at Michigan so far, and there isn’t a doubt in my mind he will have more of the same in 2018. But weight control issues and inconsistencies in his pass protection have me leaning towards Spanellis starting off the year at right guard.
Onwenu is a mauler in the run game, as he has proven already. If he wants to be the starter, he will have to up his pass protection and be able to play at a consistent weight. He is currently listed at 350 pounds, which is what he was at in the spring, so we will have wait and see.
Backup RT: Jalen Mayfield, FR
That’s right! Another curve ball on my depth chart.
I don’t necessarily think Mayfield will be the immediate backup right tackle, but he has received some rave reviews so far in fall camp. To go along with that, no one else has really stuck out. For those reasons alone, and because these are just fun predictions, I will roll with the true freshman from Grand Rapids as Michigan’s backup right tackle.
Who is your starting five on Michigan’s offensive line? Sound off in the comments and let’s hear what you have to say.