Andrew Stueber figures to be out for a bit now after news dropped on Thursday of a knee injury, taking him out of consideration at the starting right tackle spot to start the year for Michigan Football. That shakes things up a bit on the offensive line, but not too crazily.
Luckily for us, we were set to preview the two-deep on the offensive line anyways, so this was pushed back a few hours to account for the injury and what it means for the tackle position and the offensive line unit as a whole.
Here is a look at the projected two-deep heading into the season.
Left Tackle: Jon Runyan Jr., 5th year senior
At the start of last season, we thought there was a chance that Runyan could be replaced by one of the younger players, but not only did he flip the switch and start playing well, he became an All-Big Ten honoree. He locks down the blind side now on one of the best and most improved offensive line units in the country over the last two seasons.
Backup: Ryan Hayes, redshirt freshman
This was set to be whoever lost the battle between Stueber or Jalen Mayfield at right tackle, but now looks to be Hayes in the mix as the swing tackle heading into the year. He did not see game action last year, but the Traverse City product looks the part at the 6-foot-7 and could wind up being a key depth piece early on. He can play himself into the mix for a starting role next year.
Left Guard: Ben Bredeson, senior
Bredeson is another All-Big Ten selection and arguably Michigan’s best offensive lineman. He is the straw that stirs the drink up front and a guy who is seen as a tone-setter. We should be looking forward to seeing how much better he gets in the second year of the Ed Warriner era and his stock could be on the rise as an interior line prospect on NFL Draft boards.
Backup: Chuck Filiaga, redshirt sophomore
Filiaga played four games last season at left guard and figures to be in the mix for time as a reserve here once again. He is one of the most Hulking offensive line prospects the Wolverines have at 6-foot-6 and 341 pounds.
Center: Cesar Ruiz, junior
Another All-Big Ten-type of player here anchoring down the middle of Michigan’s offensive line. Ruiz made five starts at right guard as a freshman before sliding over to center last year and starting all 13 games. The offense may be opening up with a new philosophy and playcaller, but you can bet that Ruiz and his mates on the interior of the line will be called upon in some big, clock-killing moments at the end of games.
Backup: Stephen Spanellis, redshirt junior
Spanellis has moved around a bit, but has found a home at the backup center spot and appeared in all 13 games last year on special teams and five games at center.
Right Guard: Michael Onwenu, senior
It’s pretty impressive to have one or two All-Big Ten honorees on an offensive line, but to have them at four spots is insanely impressive and Onwenu is another player who has that type of skill-set. He started all 13 games at right guard last season and has 21 career starts to his name coming into the season. You will not see many 350 pounders move as well as this guy does.
Backup: Joel Honigford, redshirt sophomore
Honigford saw a little bit of time at right guard last season and played in two games. In a situation where one of the guard goes down, it remains to be seen if he or Filiaga would hit the field first.
Right Tackle: Jalen Mayfield, redshirt freshman
Mayfield and Stueber were neck-and-neck for the right tackle job all offseason long in a battle that was set to go right up into and perhaps even past the regular season opener. Now, it is his job by default, which could be a sneaky-good thing as it feels like he may have the higher ceiling of the two players. One never wants to downplay an injury to a starting-caliber player, but this feels like one Michigan can afford to have.
See writeup above.
This has a chance to easily be Jim Harbaugh’s best offensive line at Michigan and one of the better offensive lines in recent history, at least dating back to the Lloyd Carr days. There’s both talent and quality depth and enough athleticism here to where if the Wolverines decide to open it up a bit more, these guys should be more than fine. It may even wind up suiting some of them better. The sky is the limit here and this might be the team’s best overall position group on the offensive side of the ball.