Michigan’s offensive line continues to develop some impressive talent. For several guys, that value comes at the cost of sitting and waiting a few years before seeing significant playing time.
In the last two seasons, Jim Harbaugh has brought in premier-level transfers at the center position, leaving guys like Greg Crippen further down the depth chart. That will very likely be the case again in 2023.
The story so far
Crippen has been part of successful programs since his high school days. He played at IMG Academy, where he was a captain and played with J.J. McCarthy. In his senior season, IMG finished as the No. 1 ranked high school program by MaxPreps, outscoring opponents 381-82. To contribute, Crippen didn’t allow a sack his last two seasons.
Naturally, he was a well-sought-after recruit: a four-star, the No. 5 center in his class and the No. 275 player overall. Crippen originally committed to Notre Dame, but he eventually flipped to the Wolverines.
As a true freshman, Crippen appeared in six games at center, including a few snaps in the Big Ten Championship win over Iowa. However, in 2022, the staff took a different approach for Crippen. After Olu Oluwatimi decided to transfer in, the Wolverines became very deep at center, so Crippen only played in one game and redshirted. There was no slight on his play, no injuries, but a chance for the team to retain his services for another year down the road.
Outlook moving forward
In the spring, Stanford transfer Drake Nugent was recovering from an injury, but he should be the starter come fall. Behind him will be either Crippen or Raheem Anderson. Both have impressed the coaching staff and both have already redshirted.
Offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore has loved what he has seen from both redshirt sophomore centers. “Both Greg Crippen and Raheem Anderson had outstanding springs,” Moore said on In The Trenches. “I thought both guys have matured mentally, but more important physically. I watched both of those guys walk into spring ball and just watch them. You look at their backs (are more developed). (Strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert) emphasizes that so much, the shoulders and how wide they are, but also how much more fast-twitch and confident they are.”
It seems like this is a really tight race for who will be the second-stringer come fall camp. However, I think both Crippen and Anderson could be a backup at guard, too. It’s a wait-and-see game now for Crippen, but I would be surprised if Harbaugh tried to bring in a transfer at center again in 2024, because it appears he has two really great options that will expect to be starters sooner rather than later.