Gone are the days of having a traditional two-deep on the offensive line. Positional flexibility is all the rage these days. With that being said, Michigan is certainly not short of options along the offensive line.
Under Jim Harbaugh, Michigan has excelled within the trenches. Coming off a season where Michigan won the Joe Moore Award for the best offensive line, there are undoubtedly high expectations within the program. However, there are some big shoes to fill between the veteran leadership of Andrew Vastardis and the sheer size of Andrew Stueber who is off to the NFL with the New England Patriots.
The headliner among the newcomers is Olu Oluwatimi, a grad transfer from Virginia. Oluwatimi could end up being the steal of the transfer portal this year as he garnered All-American chatter last year and joins an already stacked offensive line in Ann Arbor.
Here is my prediction for how Michigan’s offensive line two-deep shakes out this year.
Starting tackles: Ryan Hayes (LT), Trente Jones (RT)
Hayes has been a stalwart at left tackle for a few years now despite being under the radar compared to others in program history. Look for him to quietly take care of business yet again before jetting off to the NFL. Trente Jones appears to have taken a hold of the right tackle spot. He was consistently used as a sixth lineman last year and is quite experienced for a “newcomer” to a starting role.
Starting guards: Trevor Keegan (LG), Zak Zinter (RG)
Zinter was a mauler in the trenches last season, despite having to play with a club on his hand for several games. Keegan has been steadily improving over the last couple of seasons as a starter. They both easily have starting guard spots locked down and could be the best guard duo in the country.
Starting center: Olu Oluwatimi
I said it before and I’ll say it again: Olu could be the steal of the transfer portal. How often do teams get All-American caliber players at a vital position to transfer into their program? Without him, the step back from last year would have been noticeable. With him, the step forward could be monumental to the success of this team.
Next man up: Greg Crippen (C), Karsen Barnhart (G/T)
Crippen backed up Vastardis last year at center and looked to be the next guy up prior to Olu’s transfer. Crippen is now afforded with another year of seasoning, but you can expect to see him get some action this season. Meanwhile, Barnhart fits the mold of positional flexibility I mentioned earlier. All the chatter around fall camp has indicated Barnhart is the next man up at either tackle or guard. He very well could be the sixth offensive lineman that Jones was last year.
Could see meaningful time: Reece Atteberry (G), Jeffrey Persi (T), Giovanni El-Hadi (G/T)
Persi is a traditional, large tackle and could see some playing time this year. He has taken full advantage of a college strength and conditioning program and appears to be physically ready for Big Ten football, just with a few technique adjustments needed. Atteberry is more of an interior lineman but should be ready to step in at any moment. El-Hadi has positional flexibility, but has been getting most of his work on the interior, so he may be the heir apparent to Keegan after this year.
Likely mop-up duty: Raheem Anderson (G), Tristan Bounds (T)
Anderson came to Michigan from Cass Tech in Detroit with some significant refinement needed, and by all accounts it appears he is making progress steadily. He may still need a year of seasoning before he’s ready for an increased role. Bounds is a gigantic human being at 6-foot-8 and 311 pounds who physically fits the bill of a tackle, but also appears to need one more year before he’s ready to go.
Redshirt: Alessandro Lorenzetti, Andrew Gentry, Connor Jones
As a general rule of thumb, most true freshmen offensive lineman redshirt. The only exception to this may be Gentry, as he will already be 21 by late October.