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.
Andrew Vastardis, RS SR
247 Composite Ranking: 2 stars (OG 168, Overall 2937)
2019 Stats: 5 games played (C)
Among the four openings across the offensive line, a common theme is emerging. The majority of the position battles are coming down to two types of competitors: young, unproven players with tons of potential and sporadically used veterans with some, but not lots, of in-game experience. The situation at center is a prime example of this dichotomy.
The up-and-comer is Zach Carpenter, a redshirt freshman who has yet to take the field. In the other corner is Andrew Vastardis, a redshirt senior who has seen on-and-off playing time over the past couple seasons as the backup center. A former walk-on, Vastardis was granted a scholarship ahead of last season. This year, he will be looking to take the final step forward.
Will Vastardis be able to leverage his experience at center to win the starting role?
Vastardis has made nine career appearances at center and also has played a little at right guard and special teams. He has never been a starter, which should not be a surprise given the dominance and durability of Cesar Ruiz. As a reserve lineman, having the versatility to move over to guard is important, but in 2020 his biggest value is surely at center.
The reason he ended up at center is partially due to moving pieces around him. Both Joel Hongiford and Stephen Spanellis were once options at the position but had to relocate because of injuries along the line. Vastardis benefited from the openings ahead of him and was able to creep forward on the depth chart. For a career backup, this is sometimes what it takes.
Heading into this fall, the biggest positive for Vastardis is that the coaches seem to trust him. Ruiz did not miss much time last year, but whenever he was out of the game it was often Vastardis who took his place. Center is a position that coaches do not want to mess around at, and the fact that they put him in the game shows that they believe he is capable. He has continued to develop during his time at Michigan, progressing from walk-on all the way to clear number two at the center of the line, so one more jump forward is not that far-fetched.
The center position battle truly feels like a toss-up. Carpenter has a ton of promise and has the background to be able to step right into the starting lineup. Meanwhile, Vastardis had zero recruiting accolades and is far from flashy, yet has done his job well when called upon. The coaches could want to lean on a familiar face at center with so many new starters along the offensive line, and if called upon, Vastardis should put together a competent year.