There are many uncertainties surrounding college football right now. The 2020 season is still in jeopardy, and even if a season does occur it might do so with empty stadiums or a limited schedule. Still, it is never too early to take a look at the Michigan depth chart and the players slated to contribute whenever football does resume. Join us as we comb through the roster and answer key questions heading into this fall.
Joel Honigford, RS JR
247 Composite Ranking: 3 stars (OT 46, Overall 440)
2019 Stats: 10 games played (RT)
There are a lot of vacancies along the Michigan offensive line and not a lot of experienced depth at any position. While Joel Honigford is unlikely to take one of the starting roles, he could work his way into the conversation for a couple different reasons. First is his class year; as a redshirt junior, he has been around the program longer than most of his peers and has the physical maturity that some of his competitors lack.
Additionally, Honigford offers some positional flexibility. As a redshirt freshman, he made his debut at right guard, seeing just a little game action, but holding a place on the depth chart. However, Andrew Stuber’s injury at the start of 2019 left a gap at right tackle, and Honigford slid over to provide some coverage there. This versatility could give him an easier path to playing time than some of the other options along the line.
What can Honigford do to earn more playing time as a veteran?
Though this is Honigford’s fourth season in Ann Arbor, he does not offer substantially more experience than some of the other options within the position group. Of the 10 games in which he appeared last season, only three of them came at right tackle, with the rest coming on special teams. Some exposure is better than none, especially when he has shown the ability to play multiple positions in the past, but he will need to expand on these snaps to have a true advantage.
There are always a couple ways to look at age when evaluating these types of situations. On one hand, Honigford should have better familiarity with the system as a redshirt junior and has had a chance to spend plenty of time in the weight room and on the practice field. On the other, the fact that he has barely cracked the lineup in three seasons might mean that he is not seen as a true option for substantial minutes. So while age and experience matter, their impact for Honigford could be limited.
Coming into college, it seemed like tackle (probably on the right) was always the future for Honigford, but the roster situation at the time pointed him to right guard. His willingness and ability to play either spot could be beneficial to his chances to get on the field, but with plenty of younger lineman filling up the queue behind him, it seems most likely that tackle is where he would be best used. Unfortunately, Jalen Mayfield has the starting spot locked up for now, so there is a cap on the need at right tackle.
The reality is that Honigford is a decent backup tackle with a ceiling. Not every player needs to be a full-time starter, and unless some injuries come around, it seems unlikely that he will see a ton of playing time. Nothing is a given, though, and Ed Warinner certainly has the capability to develop players along the offensive line and could bring the best out of Honigford. The likely outcome is still just a reserve option, but he is still a positive asset for the offensive line.