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Friday, November 30, 2012
Season anaylsis: Offensive line

By Michael Rothstein

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It was a unit entering the season with a lot of age but questions about experience, two new starters and little-to-no depth to replace anyone who was injured or struggled.

Those issues showed throughout this season, as Michigan’s offensive line was mediocre for most of the year, strong in small spots and awful when finishing blocks in the run game.

It is a problem, though, that became a huge issue for the Wolverines in 2012, and one they hope to remedy as soon as possible.

The Good

Taylor Lewan
Taylor Lewan, should he opt for the NFL draft, is a surefire first-round pick.
Left tackle Taylor Lewan had another good season and blocked almost everything in his path on his side of the field. A potential first-round selection whenever he leaves for the NFL, he has a decision to make once the season ends. He was named the Big Ten’s Offensive Lineman of the Year and was a bright spot on a questionable line.

Right guard Patrick Omameh held his own and had another decent season as a starter. He was named to the first-team offensive line by the Big Ten's coaches, and when the Wolverines did have interior rushing success, it usually went behind Omameh.

Michigan's pass blocking was good for the most part. Both Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson often had a lot of time to throw the ball or make a decision to tuck the ball and run.

The Bad

There was a lot of bad this season. Michigan's run blocking, other than opening some holes for Robinson, was on the whole quite poor. Michigan coach Brady Hoke often lamented the line's inability to finish off blocks in the run game, which left Fitzgerald Toussaint, Thomas Rawls and Vincent Smith with tiny or no holes to run through.

The lack of depth left Michigan with little option to make changes to the line, either. Once Chris Bryant was knocked out for the year with a fractured tibia, it left the Wolverines with three options: Stick with what they have no matter what; sub in a walk-on in case of emergency; or pull a redshirt off a freshman who could use the extra year to grow.

Michigan went with Option No. 1 and had one true backup, guard Joey Burzynski, who was a walk-on granted a scholarship before the season started.

The Future

Bright. Yes, Michigan will take an early season dip on the line next season, especially if Lewan bolts for the NFL. That would leave the Wolverines with four new starters and potentially five guys playing new positions if Schofield moves from right tackle to left tackle.

While the group who starts next season will be young no matter what, there will be a ton of talent. Freshman Kyle Kalis, who could end up at left guard next season, will be a special player who might end up benefiting from the redshirt year this season. Jack Miller has apprenticed under David Molk and Mealer and should be ready to take over at center. Look at either Chris Bryant or Burzynski to be at right guard and then a combination of Ben Braden and Erik Magnuson to be in the mix at whichever tackle spot Schofield doesn’t play.

Perhaps the biggest bonus, though, is depth. Michigan had none this season. It will have some in case of injury or poor play next season.