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Spring Football Primer: Michigan’s offensive line has nice blend of experience and youth

Michigan hopes to have some veteran offensive leaders here

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The offensive line was far from a positive for the Michigan Wolverines in 2020. Plenty of shuffling had to be done to the entire unit as multiple starters missed time in a year full of injuries.

Let us examine the offensive line group heading into spring football with the offseason bringing about a soft reboot for everybody.

The players who have left

Jalen Mayfield was the highlight of an otherwise pedestrian offensive line for the Michigan Wolverines in 2020. After starting all 13 games as a sophomore in 2019, Mayfield played in just two of six games this past year due to a high ankle sprain. Now, he heads to the NFL Draft and could wind up being a borderline first-round pick. Former three-star center Zach Carpenter elected to transfer to Indiana instead of potentially becoming the starter in Ann Arbor in 2021.

The additions to Spring camp

The additions include true freshmen getting their feet wet at the next level. The most prominent name is Giovanni El-Hadi, a former top-100 recruit according to 247Sports’ composite rankings. He committed in 2019 and never wavered despite some notable changes on and off the field in that timeframe. Although he was a tackle in high school, some think he is better-suited long-term at an interior spot due to his impressive size and athleticism.

Four-stars Greg Crippen and Raheem Anderson could find themselves in a position battle to be No. 2 on the depth chart at center. Reece Atterbury is currently the only other center who projects to be depth at the position. The other freshman in attendance this spring is Tristan Bounds, a 6-foot-8, 285 pounder who unfortunately had his senior high school season canceled because of COVID.

The projected starters

Ryan Hayes, Chuck Filiaga, Andrew Vastardis, Andrew Steuber and Willie Allen could combine to give Michigan a nice group of upperclassman to work with.

Ryan Hayes has the ability to play both tackle spots and has done so at times. He has played in 14 games in his career at Michigan and was a starter heading into last season. Injuries affected his ability to make an impact, which was a theme for the offensive line as a whole.

Chuck Filiaga projects to hold onto his spot at right guard. He started every game at left guard a season ago and has 27 career games under his belt in Ann Arbor. There were times where he slipped up in 2020, but some of his issues were compounded by what was around him.

Vastardis is entering his sixth season at Michigan. He has now appeared in 17 career games heading in 2021 and was a team captain last year after starting his career as a walk-on. Vastardis earned Offensive Lineman of the Week honors in the win against Minnesota but was rocky throughout the rest of the campaign before exiting the season because of injury. He will be the favorite to start in the middle but could have competition from Attebury

There was a time where Andrew Stueber was competing with Jalen Mayfield for the right tackle spot, and he may have won it had he not torn his ACL in 2019. He will be a starter once again heading into his fifth year, it just depends on where. After starting the first two games of the year at right guard, he was bumped to right tackle after Mayfield’s injury derailed the entire line.

This brings us to transfer Willie Allen, who projects to be an interesting prospect that could have an immediate impact. Allen is a load at 6-foot-6 and 343 pounds and started a full season at left tackle at Louisiana Tech in 2019. He was once a top-100 recruit that was committed to LSU but transferred to a junior college after the Tigers blocked his transfer to TCU. A year later, Allen went to Louisiana Tech and played some really good football with the No. 2 offense in the nation. He sat out last season due to COVID concerns and now has a great chance of becoming a starter in his only year with Jim Harbaugh at Michigan.

Guys who could challenge for starting roles

Although we just listed off the most likely starting group of experienced leaders, two guys who should not be forgotten about in all of this are Zak Zinter and Karsen Barnhart.

Zinter started in four games at right guard in 2020 and will look to put his stamp on that role moving forward. He had some expected struggles as a true freshman but has plenty of snaps to his name to know what to expect in the Big Ten. Karsen Barnhart played both tackle positions as a sophomore last season and started in Hayes’ absence at left tackle. He was named the Offensive Lineman of the Game for his performance against Rutgers and has the potential to emerge as a starting candidate on either side again this year.

Redshirt sophomores Trevor Keegan and Trente Jones are also both awaiting their moment to work their way into the mix and were both rather highly-touted prospects coming in. Each player has a case to make a jump with a strong spring and summer camp.