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Joel Honigford’s path to Michigan, outlook for 2021

The Ohio native has been a career backup — can he change that this year?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 03 Penn State at Michigan Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Offensive linemen go into college knowing they likely won’t see the playing field for at least one season. It takes a long time for them to get acclimated to the college level, and to establish the proper strength and conditioning needed to play the position. Sometimes you get guys like Cesar Ruiz or Zak Zinter who are too good to keep on the bench, but for most offensive linemen, they sit a year or two and then start to see significant snaps on the field.

But sometimes, guys get up to speed on their strength and conditioning and just get passed by other players time and time again. Michigan fifth-year senior Joel Honigford falls into that category, where he hasn’t been a starter up to this point, but still contributes with solid play in a reserve-type role.

Today, we examine his path to Michigan, and what his future holds in Ann Arbor.

The story so far

Honigford came to the University of Michigan as a three-star prospect in the 2017 class. He played football at Garaway High School in Sugarcreek, Ohio. He held other significant offers from schools like Auburn, Penn State, Oregon, Oklahoma, TCU, Nebraska and more.

If Honigford received a scholarship offer from Ohio State, one can assume he would have likely played there, as his father is an alumnus of the school and played basketball there back in the ‘80s. But everything worked out for the Wolverines and they landed his commitment in June 2016. He made it all official in Feb. 2017 by signing his letter of intent.

Honigford redshirted his freshman season at Michigan in 2017, as most offensive linemen do. He saw limited snaps as a redshirt freshman in 2018, playing right guard in two games in garbage time against Western Michigan and Nebraska. He then appeared in 10 games (three at right tackle, seven on special teams) during his redshirt sophomore year in 2019.

Appearing in all six games for the Wolverines a season ago, Honigford contributed as a “tight end/extra offensive lineman” against Minnesota and Michigan State, according to his MGoBlue profile.

Outlook for 2021

As we’ve discussed in other stories this week, three players along the offensive line seem destined to have a starting role this year — Zak Zinter, Ryan Hayes and Andrew Stueber. With Hayes and Stueber manning the tackle positions, that clearly leaves two open spots on the interior of the line.

The competition will likely be pit between Honigford and guys like Trevor Keegan — who looked real good at left guard last season — Andrew Vastardis, Karsen Barnhart, Chuck Filiaga and Nolan Rumler.

It appears Honigford may be due for the same role in 2021 he is accustomed to — getting snaps on special teams and providing depth to a talented offensive line group. And honestly, that is perfectly fine. If you want to be a good team, you need strong depth along the offensive line. Honigford provides just that.

If someone were to go down along the interior, Honigford very well could be the next man up. As a veteran in the room, and with Sherrone Moore coaching him up, I’d imagine he likely would be ready for that opportunity.