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.
Zach Carpenter, RS FR
247 Composite Ranking: 3 stars (OG 33, Overall 554)
2019 Stats: n/a
Like his many classmates along the offensive line, Zach Carpenter was not called into duty as a freshman due to the stable options locking down the starting lineup. Now with four vacancies up front, these second-year players will all be in contention for at least a place along the two deep. The competition is busy, but some spots are more open than others.
One of those is at center, which may be the simplest path forward. Carpenter likely has just one other player with whom he is batting for the starting gig: redshirt senior Andrew Vastardis. The former walk-on does boast a bit more experience at the position, but this seems like a wide-open competition between the two players that should last most of camp.
Can Carpenter demonstrate enough development and readiness to start at center?
Carpenter was not the most heralded recruit, but that should not put any limitations on his ceiling in Ann Arbor. He had an extensive high school career with excellent credentials. Scouts highlighted his size and physicality, and has the tools to become a multi-year starter. A redshirt year was probably very beneficial, as growth is key for young offensive lineman.
One other thing that stood out in his recruiting was his football IQ. Carpenter played some guard in high school but lined up at center as a senior. He worked the position well and has the ability to read defenses and captain the line, which obviously is vital for a center. He could play one of the guard spots, but having a capable center is a must, and it makes sense to lock him in there. Narrowing his focus to that spot should help his trajectory going forward.
If he does not win the starting role this fall, it could come down to mobility. Carpenter has looked to drop some weight in the past, and being able to keep his feet active and show his athleticism is probably the final step. Because of this he may not be 100 percent ready to start, but everything indicates that he should not be that far away, either. Like classmate Nolan Rumler, his lengthy high school track record may allow him to progress fairly quickly.
Whether Carpenter gets the starting job this season or not, he is in a good place going forward. Should Vastardis win the role, he will be gone in a year, and Carpenter would be in the pole position for 2020. But given the amount of potential he has and the shallow amount of competition at center, there is a very viable path for him to grab a starting role this fall and carry it through his career.