The struggles of the Michigan offensive line this season were blaringly evident. If the Wolverines offense couldn’t get going, the root of the problem was likely in a missed block or blown assignment from someone on the front line.
Senior tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield, the two most experienced members of that line, had the most riding on this season for their NFL aspirations. They found a silver lining in this season’s offensive line struggles: next season’s successes.
“The experience they got this year is invaluable,” Schofield said. “They’re going to come out [in] spring ball, I think you’re going to see a change. They’re going to be ready. They’re going to be a good offensive line next year.”
The first step in that growth was the starts and snaps that so many underclassmen received this season.
Redshirt sophomore Jack Miller started four games at center, then Graham Glasgow took over for the next eight. Redshirt freshman Kyle Kalis started seven games. Redshirt freshman Erik Magnuson started six. True freshman Kyle Bosch started three games at right guard.
“The offensive line is going to have more experience next year,” Lewan said. “All those guys getting those starts is going to pay off.”
And now, with bowl preparation, those guys -- as well as some that only appeared as reserves or redshirted this season -- are getting the chance to run in the top and second group. Coaches are working on development and giving Lewan and Schofield a bit more of a breather than they received during the regular season.
And Lewan and Schofield are invested in that pre-bowl prep, just as they’ve been invested all season.
“These guys come first,” Lewan said. “If they get better, then we have a better chance to win [the bowl game]. So I guess being 100 percent invested to win a game implies the fact that I’m focused a bunch on them.”
But Schofield said that it wasn’t just them helping the younger guys this season. He has seen growth in himself as a leader and player because of how he had to help the young linemen.
He said he became more of a vocal leader on the line this season because the youth necessitated it. Offensive line coach Darrell Funk joked that Schofield only said 25 words last season, but now he’s probably closer to 100.
“I felt like that was one of the ways that helped me become more vocal,” Schofield said. “Me and Taylor were kind of like coaches out there, helping them with small steps and everything. That helped my technique, too.”
Specifically he worked with Magnuson, who was recruited as a tackle but played guard this season.
Schofield was moved to left guard as a redshirt sophomore, but was moved back to right tackle. He said the experience Magnuson gained this season will be invaluable for him and the entire offensive line moving forward.
“It helps you out because you know the whole blocking scheme now,” Schofield said. “You know what the guard’s going to be doing. You know how to help the guard on certain blocks and you know how the guard can help the tackle more. It all kind of relates and you know the whole offensive scheme more.”
Learning the offensive scheme more will be crucial for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against Kansas State, but Lewan and Schofield know that these three weeks could also help to build a foundation that will allow them to work toward the goal of a Big Ten championship in the future.
“If these guys stick to what they’re supposed to do and do everything the coaches say and invest 100 percent in Michigan,” Lewan said. “They could be a Big Ten [championship]-caliber offensive line.”