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Giovanni El-Hadi path to Michigan, outlook for 2023

While not a starter at Michigan, El-Hadi remains one of the best linemen in the conference.

Illinois v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Giovanni El-Hadi is one of the best offensive linemen in the Big Ten. Unfortunately for him, he is not even a starter for the Michigan Wolverines. El-Hadi is a guard by trade and plays behind Trevor Keegan and Zak Zinter, two of the five best guards in the country and All-American hopefuls.

While his time is still on the horizon, Gio remains one of the most important players on Michigan’s roster heading into this season.

The journey so far

Coming out of Sterling Heights, Michigan, El-Hadi was a highly-touted four-star recruit in the 2021 class. In order to get a jump start on his development, he joined the Wolverines as an early enrollee.

When the freshmen arrived on campus, they were greeted by newly named co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, Sherrone Moore. Moore quickly broke the news to El-Hadi: the freshman would be transitioning from tackle to guard.

While the transition was initially difficult, Gio quickly learned the ropes and persevered through several injuries as he adapted his body to the college game. El-Hadi earned Scout Team Player of the Week honors against Northern Illinois and made his first collegiate appearance in the same game.

In a recent interview on the In the Trenches podcast, El-Hadi reflected on his journey.

“Coach Moore was like ‘You are going to left guard’ and I was like ‘Ok whatever the team needs,’ so I grinded,” he said, “I had a lot of injuries when I came in, it was a lot, but I was grinding my way through it.”

Between his freshman and sophomore seasons, El-Hadi took the next step in his physical and mental development. As a sophomore, Gio played inspired and appeared in all 14 games (nine on the offensive line).

Due to intermittent injuries to starting left guard Keegan, El-Hadi was tasked to start against Maryland, Nebraska and Illinois. While he was an unknown commodity to the common fans against Maryland, by Week 11 against the Illini, fans knew to expect zero drop-off.

El-Hadi was a force on the field. Certain parts of his game still need to be refined and will with time, but his pure strength and ability to displace defensive linemen in the run game are already elite.

Without El-Hadi, the second consecutive Joe Moore Award is unattainable.

Outlook for 2023

El-Hadi is in a similar position this year as last year, except this time, he has already proven what he can do on the field. El-Hadi provides a safety net on the offensive line — if Keegan is even remotely banged up, Gio can step in to mitigate further wear and tear and expedite Keegan’s recovery.

As fans have seen over the last two seasons, if an injury on the offensive line can happen, it will happen. This team will need Gio in the fall, and he will be ready.