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Zak Zinter’s path to Michigan, outlook for 2022

Expectations are high across the offensive line, including at the right guard position.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 CFP Semifinal - Capital One Orange Bowl - Georgia v Michigan Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There was plenty of talent spread across the award-winning offensive line for the 2021 Michigan Wolverines, and fortunately many of those pieces will be back again this fall. While Ryan Hayes and Trevor Keegan are important returning starters, and newcomer Olu Oluwatimi should slot right into center, plenty of attention will be placed on the right guard spot in 2022.

Entering his junior year, Zak Zinter has seized the starting role and has proven to be not only one of the best players along the line but the offense as a whole. The NFL is certainly in his future, and another big season in Ann Arbor could send him on his way to the next step in his career.

The story so far

Zinter was part of that New England-to-Michigan pipeline, but at four stars and 265th-overall, this was a prospect no one was sleeping on. The talent and ceiling were there from the start, though not everyone expected him to slide into the starting lineup right away, which is less of an indictment on him and more of commentary on how linemen typically need to season a bit upon arrival.

However, a couple injuries and absences along the line in 2020 led to some pieces being shuffled around. This led to four starts (and appearances in every game) for Zinter as a true freshman, and while that was a season to forget for many reasons, it did provide the rookie some valuable experience that has clearly mad a difference.

Sophomore year simply built on this, as Zinter was a key part of the Joe Moore Award winning squad. He owned the right guard spot despite battling through a couple injuries, and his play was good enough to earn second-team All-Big Ten honors. Coaches praised Zinter’s intelligence and physicality as he embodied everything the offense wanted to be, and that will certainly be leaned upon heading into the new season.

Outlook moving forward

Zinter will be a true junior this fall, which actually makes him the youngest projected starter on the offensive line. He does not lack the experience though, looking firmly in place during last season’s College Football Playoff run (and acknowledged by his All-Big Ten selection), and the right guard job will be his until he decides his time in Ann Arbor is over.

That decision could come up this winter, as long as Zinter stays healthy. Another season like 2021 should land him favorably on draft boards, but he is not a sure thing to leap to the draft even with a strong performance. Either way, Michigan projects to be very strong across the position group again, and it should be a lot of fun watching Zinter and friends continue to dominate in both the run and pass games this season.