The Michigan Wolverines are coming off back-to-back College Football Playoff appearances and have their eyes set on a National Championship in 2023. Lots of players and positional strengths have come and gone over the last few years, but one constant has been the offensive line.
It’s baffling Michigan continues to retool the line and bring in elite transfers while also maintaining the younger guys within the program. This year, there are 11 guys on the depth chart that have been in Ann Arbor for at least three seasons; that doesn’t include guys like Drake Nugent, LaDarius Henderson and Myles Hinton who started at different programs in 2022. Without a doubt, this is the deepest offensive line room in the country and will have a strong chance of three-peating as the Joe Moore Award winner.
Jim Harbaugh and Sherrone Moore continue to work their magic on the offensive line. All indications are they will dominate again in 2023.
Offensive Line - Grade: A++
- Starters (from left to right): LaDarius Henderson, Trevor Keegan, Drake Nugent, Zak Zinter, Karsen Barnhart
- Sixth offensive lineman: Trente Jones
- Backups: Myles Hinton, Giovanni El-Hadi, Greg Crippen, Raheem Anderson, Jeffrey Persi, Reece Atteberry
- Veteran Depth: Dominick Giudice, Tristan Bounds
- Freshmen (including redshirt): Andrew Gentry, Connor Jones, Amir Henning, Evan Link, Nathan Efobi
The middle three guys on this offensive line are set. Trevor Keegan and Zak Zinter started last season, and the fact these two returned to Ann Arbor instead of going to the NFL meant this offensive line was going to be damn good once again. Combined, they have more than 60 appearances on the offensive line and they’ll help make this offense a powerhouse once again in 2023.
Drake Nugent will come in to take Olu Oluwatimi’s spot between them. He’s been working through an injury this offseason, but he should be starting at center in Week 1. He was a two-year starter and captain at Stanford where he earned Pac-12 honors in both seasons.
Things get interesting, however, on the outside. There are five starting-caliber offensive tackles in this room and only two spots to fill. The odds-on favorite at left tackle is LaDarius Henderson. He started 29 games throughout his career at Arizona State and allowed just two sacks in 619 snaps over the last two seasons.
But Karsen Barnhart is going to make his case at left tackle as well. He started nine games for the Wolverines last season, mostly at right tackle. However, Barnhart has six starts at left tackle in his career and was named the Most Improved Player on Offense by the coaching staff in 2022. In my opinion, he’s the only lock out of the five guys in this group that is guaranteed a starting spot at either left or right tackle.
I’m sure Trente Jones will probably think he deserves a starting spot as well. He was the starting right tackle in 2022 before going down with an injury. When he was back to being healthy, Barnhart had solidified himself as the starter and Jones fell back to his sixth offensive lineman role. He’ll challenge for the right tackle spot and could win it if the Wolverines decided to shoot Barnhart to the left side.
Then, there is Stanford transfer Myles Hinton, the brother of former Michigan defensive lineman Christopher Hinton. Myles has started 16 games over the last two seasons for the Cardinal. The former top-100 recruit is also a candidate to move to a backup spot at right guard if he’s not the starter.
A sleeper pick at left tackle is Jeffrey Persi. He’s got the most natural left tackle frame of this group at 6-foot-8 and 309 pounds. Persi actually started a game at left tackle last season when Ryan Hayes was dealing with an injury. He saw action in five games in 2022, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him win the role.
Whew. Those are just the guys that could be in the lineup for Michigan this fall. You could argue 12 total players are starting-caliber at the Power 5 level. It’s to the point that offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore called his two-deep “1A and 1B because we feel like both groups are 1’s” (via the In the Trenches Podcast).
The rest of that 1B group includes guys like Greg Crippen, Raheem Anderson, Reece Atteberry and Giovanni El-Hadi, with the latter, though, deserving some special mention. He played in all 14 games last season, including three starts in the spot of an injured Trevor Keegan at left guard. As a former top-100 recruit, his day as a starter is coming and he’s going to shine once he gets there. Expect him to be in the starting rotation in 2024.
My favorite part about this team is the offensive line — it is in better shape than maybe any other single positional unit of any program in the country. Moore deserves a ton of credit for stacking talent in this room and continuing to keep them ready for when their name is called.
Offensive lines need depth. It’s hard to stay healthy for an entire season. There may be games where one or multiple starters sit out. It’s comforting to know the guy behind whoever that may be is going to fill in without anyone batting an eye.
The depth they possess along the offensive line is the greatest weapon this team has, and they’ll flex their strength week in and week out in 2023.