- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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Our "Inside the Game" positional previews with WolverineNation's Michael Rothstein and BuckeyeNation's Austin Ward continue with the men who hardly accumulate any statistics at all -- the offensive line.
Ward and Rothstein discuss the contrast in the lines -- the Buckeyes with a lot of new players and the Wolverines with some experience.
Ward: Most of the faces are going to be new after losing three starters.
The schemes figure to be significantly different with a new offense and position coach.
That might make it hard to gauge how productive Ohio State can be up front heading into training camp, and it could even take a few games to figure out how smooth the transition will be this fall.
But the Buckeyes will enter practice with a reasonably good idea who will open the season with the first unit after Jack Mewhort impressed at left tackle in the spring, Corey Linsley jumped up to grab a job at center and Marcus Hall and Andrew Norwell settled in at the guard spots.
A battle between Reid Fragel and Taylor Decker will pick up again this month for the gig at right tackle, and after that the Buckeyes figure to be closely monitoring a few newcomers as they work to build depth.
Joey O’Conner and Pat Elflein boast four-star pedigrees, Kyle Dodson could conceivably work his way into the mix at tackle and Jacoby Boren turned heads after enrolling early and claiming a backup job during the spring. All of them have at least minor injury concerns heading into the fall, though if all are healthy and ready to contribute, they provide another reason why the Buckeyes could look much stouter in the trenches in a month or two than they might now.
Rothstein: The leadership in the middle is gone and that is not to be taken lightly, but otherwise, Michigan returns much of its offensive line from a season ago.
The Wolverines’ biggest questions revolve on the interior of the line, where fifth-year senior Ricky Barnum will have to replace David Molk, last season’s Rimington Award winner, and some combination of walk-on Joey Burzynski, fifth-year senior Elliott Mealer, redshirt freshman Chris Bryant and freshman Kyle Kalis will vie for the left guard slot previously held by Michigan’s new right tackle, Michael Schofield.
It is a unit, though, that has experience. Schofield started most of last season at left guard and has next-level potential. Taylor Lewan, a potential NFL first-round draft pick, is in third year as a starter at left tackle, and fifth-year senior Patrick Omameh will start his third season at right guard.
Lewan and Omameh will be looked to as the leaders of the line, having held offensive line camps for the younger players during voluntary workouts in the summer to help teach them various plays Michigan runs as well as different blocking schemes the Wolverines use.
So much of line play, though, depends on chemistry and continuity. Much of that will fall to Lewan, who has often said he plans on taking more of a leadership role this season.
Michigan’s biggest issue comes in who will back up the starters. The Wolverines appear to have options at guard with the losers of the left guard battle filling in at both spots. At center, Michigan has only redshirt freshman Jack Miller behind Barnum, and the Florida native has a history of injuries.
At tackle, there is not much depth and Michigan could have to look to incoming freshmen should Schofield or Lewan go down, which would be a tricky proposition on a team very dependent on its running game.