Offensive line depth is always valuable, as there are many spots to fill and vacancies always have a way of showing up. Michigan found itself with a gap at center this offseason when Zach Carpenter decided to transfer, opening up some opportunities for players like Andrew Vastardis and Reece Atteberry.
The story so far
Despite a modest recruiting ranking — No. 438 overall in the 247 Composite — Atteberry was courted by some strong programs, including a look from Ohio State and a legitimate appeal by Notre Dame. The Irish seemed to be the program to beat, and Michigan was successful in luring the product from Aurora, Colorado.
Like many recruits, Atteberry played at multiple spots along the line in high school, but his skill set made most analysts believe that he could play center at the collegiate level. That indeed looks to be the case and that should be the place he can make the biggest impact, given both his own talent and the needs of the team.
As a true freshman, Atteberry only appeared in one game last season (the opener against Minnesota). This is not a knock on him, as Michigan had some more experienced options ahead of him and of course experienced an atypical schedule. There is real benefit for seasoning over an offseason as well, including dropping a little weight,
Outlook moving forward
Losing Carpenter means the Wolverines must look to Vastardis to man the center position as he did four times last year. The super senior is a stable option to protect whoever ends up taking the snaps at quarterback, but there are few proven choices behind him on the depth chart.
This means that the backup role is Atteberry’s to lose. Vastardis is gone after this season, meaning the path for the redshirt freshman is wide open. He has very little college tape so it is difficult to crown him just yet, but given his talent and coaching staff interest, do not be surprised to see him get every opportunity to prove himself.
The hope is that Atteberry does not need to see the field this fall, so the best fans can hope for are strong reports from camp and practice. Should there be a need for him to suit up, however, the hope is for the dropoff to not be too far. The talent is there, but the experience is not. Things could be much worse for a backup center.