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Predicting Michigan 2015: The offensive line

August 13th, 2015 by Derick Hutchinson


PredictingMichigan-OffensiveLine
Mason Cole(Melanie Maxwell, MLive)

Michigan’s passing game was severely flawed under head coach Brady Hoke, but perhaps the most concerning unit over the last few seasons was the offensive line.

Michigan, recently known for talented linemen like Jake Long and Taylor Lewan, bounced back from a disastrous 2013 season with a marginally better 2014. Michigan quarterbacks were sacked 27 times and the team rushed for an average of 4.6 yards per carry. The line wasn’t dominant, but with most of the core players returning, there’s certainly enough for new offensive line coach Tim Drevno to work with.

Here’s a look at Michigan’s offensive line unit heading into the 2015 season.

Probable starters

Kyle Kalis

Kyle Kalis looks to live up to his five-star hype this fall (247 Sports)

Michigan returns five offensive linemen who played a ton of snaps in 2014 and figure to make up most of the starting line to begin the upcoming season. At the head of the group, coming off a strong freshman season, is left tackle Mason Cole.

Cole became the first Michigan offensive lineman to start the season opener as a true freshman last August, doing so as Hoke’s left tackle. He started all twelve games and wasn’t overwhelmed in his first college season. The former Florida high school first-team all-state selection figures to be the rock of the offensive line and will hold down the left tackle spot, barring injury.

On the end opposite of Cole will likely be redshirt junior Erik Magnuson, who took a mini step back last season after starting seven games at guard in 2012. Magnuson is a solid run blocker, but the concern will be his ability to pass protect on the edge. At 6-foot-6 and nearly 300 pounds, Magnuson is strong enough to be a force for Michigan after an offseason working with Drevno and the new staff.

Kyle Kalis will likely nail down one of the two guard spots, probably on the right side, where he’s been featured most as a Wolverine. Kalis had a fantastic redshirt freshman season, but took a small step back in 2014. The former five-star recruit might be the most important lineman for the Wolverines as the coaching staff works toward his incredibly high ceiling.

Redshirt junior Ben Braden, who started all twelve games for Michigan, should take the other guard spot. Though he played in just two games through his first two years on campus, Braden won a starting job last fall and was solid throughout the season. He could definitely improve as a pass blocker heading into what figures to be his second full season, but Braden is strong in the creating for the run, which will be valuable in Jim Harbaugh’s offense.

Finally, Graham Glasgow will move to center and anchor this experienced offensive line, where he’s played on both sides throughout his career. Glasgow started the final 11 games of the season in 2014 after playing in all 13 games the previous year. Glasgow has been a staple on the line since midway through 2012, but a full-time switch to center will be one to keep an eye on. Glasgow played nine games at center in 2013, which was a disastrous season for Michigan’s pass protection. The 311-pound lineman is a strong inside blocker, but his adjustment to center will come with some bumps along the road.

Overall, Michigan’s starting offensive line should be strong and experienced, but its legacy will be written based on the ability to protect the quarterback. Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner weren’t the easiest quarterbacks to block for, but with a more conventional offensive scheme in place, Michigan fans will get a better look at what this line can really do.

Projected Starters
Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle
Mason Cole Ben Braden Graham Glasgow Kyle Kalis Erik Magnuson
2014 Starts 12 12 11 7 5
Career Starts 12 12 24 16 13

Returning contributors

The offensive and defensive lines are the most important positions on the football field to build depth in. Elite offensive lines aren’t only identified by strong, durable starters, but also by a deep group of players who can step in a play meaningful snaps late in games.

Michigan doesn’t have many experienced players waiting in the wings behind the five starters mentioned above, but there’s a deep pool of talent to work with on the roster. One of the most interesting players to watch will be Patrick Kugler, a former five-star recruit who played only one game last season.

Kugler is only 6-foot-5, but he’s one of the more athletic linemen on the team and could fill in at any position on the line. That versatility will make Kugler a valuable backup option as any of the starters could need a blow during the game. Kugler could be an option to fill in at center if the Glasgow transition doesn’t go well.

Another versatile option behind Kugler is redshirt junior Blake Bars, who didn’t see the field in 2014. Bars was an all-state lineman as a senior at Montgomery Bell Academy in Tennessee and has the skillset to help out at an interior line position if needed.

Michigan could also get a boost from a trio of former four-star juniors who haven’t seen much of the field during their careers. David Dawson, who played in five games last year, is one of the few pass blocking specialist in the rotation and, as a result, has a good chance to make the regular rotation. Logan Tuley-Tillman and Chris Fox have only played in one game apiece, but could play a role, as they’re both huge and have raw talent.

The names on this list don’t jump off the page, but Harbaugh and Drevno certainly see a ton of potential in the backup offensive linemen. Barring a major injury on the starting line, these guys will spend another year adjusting to the college game by filling in and playing lesser roles when called upon.

New faces

The 2015 recruiting class brought three new faces to the offensive line. The most decorated of these recruits is Grant Newsome, a 6-foot-7 tackle out of New Jersey. Newsome is an explosive pass protector who could back up Magnuson at right tackle in a pinch. Though he’s one of the best linemen in the 2015 class, he’s a redshirt candidate behind Michigan’s experienced line.

The Wolverines also welcome three-stars Nolan Ulizio and Jon Runyan Jr. to the unit. Ulizio projects as a guard at the college level and Runyan could play anywhere on the interior line. Both guys are strong candidates to redshirt in 2015.

Meet the rest

Greg Froelich — junior, 6’2″, 270 from Maplewood, N.J. (Deerfield Academy)
Dan Samuelson — junior, 6’5″, 289 from Plymouth, Ind. (Plymouth)
Juwann Bushell-Beatty — sophomore, 6’6″, 319 from Paramus, N.J. (Paramus Catholic)
Ben Pliska — senior, 6’3″, 277 from Kirkland, Wash. (Lake Washington)

  • andygoblue

    Guessing you must have had this written up before Chris Fox announced that he’s taking a medical hardship to end his career. Excited about the experience in our starting 5, but depth is a bit scary.

  • maizeandgoblue

    Hi Andy. Yes, this was written before Chris Fox’s decision was announced and before Dan Samuelson announced he was transferring. I agree regarding depth, but Harbaugh and staff’s track record with linemen bodes well for the position group moving forward.

    What position group or player are you most excited about this season (other than the obvious Peppers)?

    Go Blue!