Michigan Wolverines: David Dawson

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan players are taught to tune out what the outside world is saying about them. But they're still kids, and criticism still finds its way through.

And so the offensive linemen couldn't escape all the negativity floating around about them in 2013. After all, it was virtually everywhere.

[+] EnlargeKyle Bosch
Lon Horwedel/Icon SMIThe redshirt of Kyle Bosch, who was ranked No. 157 in the 2013 ESPN 300, was pulled in October last season as the Wolverines' offensive line struggled.
"It was tough last year, and I'm sure we probably didn't hear as much as there was because we're so busy," sophomore Erik Magnuson said. "Any time you're not labeled as a great offensive line when you're at Michigan or even a traditional Michigan offensive line, it definitely hurts."

The Wolverines didn't need outsiders to tell them what was obvious: they struggled up front, particularly in the three inside spots as coaches mixed and matched inexperienced players without much success. Michigan finished 11th in the Big Ten in rushing and tied for the second-most sacks allowed in the league.

This spring, the two most reliable players on last season's line -- tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield -- are training for future NFL careers. It's up to many of the same guys who struggled in their first major exposure to step forward and change the outlook.

"We know we don't have the option to not get better," guard Kyle Kalis said. "It's getting to that point where we can't really say we’re young anymore, because next year, no one is going to want to hear that. So we have to all come together."

Whether you see it as an excuse or simply reality, the Wolverines are awfully young on the O-line. They have one senior -- Joey Burzynski -- and two juniors in Graham Glasgow and Jack Miller. The rest are sophomores or freshman, and with Burzynski out with an injury and Glasgow serving a suspension, youth is dominating spring practice reps.

Consider the left tackle position. Magnuson, currently out with a shoulder injury, will likely start out atop the depth chart there when he's healthy. But right now, the three players battling to fill Lewan's shows are redshirt freshmen David Dawson and Logan Tuley-Tillman and Mason Cole, a freshman early enrollee. Cole has impressed his coaches and has an excellent chance of at least making the rotation. But the fact that a guy who should be a high school senior right now is getting so many reps at the most important offensive line position speaks volumes.

"I can't all of a sudden make them older, so we have to make sure we do what we can do," offensive line coach Darrell Funk said. "We’re so young that if every day we can get better at something, we’ll have what we want."

The good news is that players like Magnuson, Kalis, Kyle Bosch and Ben Braden all gained valuable experience as freshmen and should naturally improve with more seasoning. New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has simplified many of the blocking schemes and is emphasizing quick, decisive moves in a more north-south running game than predecessor Al Borges.

"You get the the chance to open these huge holes and then let the running backs take one or two steps right or left, find the hill and start running," Kalis said. "That’s a big difference from last year."

Last season's group also had a different dynamic with two established senior starters and a whole bunch of young players. Now, many of the players are close together in class and have gone through similar experiences.

"It was Taylor and Scho’s offensive line last year, which was fine because we needed that leadership," Kalis said. "But this year, it's kind of cool that we can let it be our line and really come together."

A lot of work remains, even though spring practice wraps up later this week at Michigan. Funk is still mixing and matching while trying to find the combinations that work best, and the returns of Magnuson, Burzynski and Glasgow will change the formula in fall camp. He said everything is still a work in progress right now, including the leadership on the line.

Funk knows that both he and the unit received scathing criticism last season, but he says the only thing that matters is moving forward.

"You take your lumps with young guys, and then the following years you see the rewards," he said. "I don’t think that will be any different in this situation."

Nobody has to tell those young guys that they need to improve in a hurry. The outside noise is mere motivation.

"We got the label of not being a good offensive line way too much last year," Magnuson said. "That puts a lot of fuel to the fire when you play at Michigan because you have such high expectations."
Michigan’s spring game is less than a month away, so we’re going to try our best to look into the future and make five predictions for the next few weeks and what we might or might not see in the scrimmage.

Prediction No. 1: The offensive line isn’t going to be quite as far along as some would like.

The offensive line is the position group that must improve the most between 2013 and 2014 if the Wolverines want to be better offensively. As good as Devin Gardner, Derrick Green, De'Veon Smith or Amara Darboh might be, it won’t matter too much if the offensive line struggles like (or for as long a stretch) it did in 2013.

What is often thought of as a prototypical Michigan offensive line is one that is stacked with juniors and seniors, guys who have paid their dues, learned from upperclassmen and are physically and mentally ready to step in. However, that wasn’t the case last season and, as much experience as some players might have gained in 2013, it won’t be the case this fall.

[+] Enlarge Kyle Kalis
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesKyle Kalis and Michigan's offensive line should be expected to make strides this spring, but perhaps just small ones.
The offensive line will still be very, very young. The projected starters on the interior are a sophomore (Kyle Bosch) at left guard, a junior (Graham Glasgow) at center and another sophomore (Kyle Kalis) at right guard. Glasgow also has experience at left guard. Between the three, they only combine for 20 career starts at their respective positions.

The trio also doesn't have experience as a starting combo. Kalis appeared in Bosch’s three starts (against Michigan State, Nebraska and Northwestern) but didn’t start. But they have played together before, which is more than could be said for the group last season.

So while it’s still a very young group, there could and should be some gains made in the interior of the offensive line. So the problem flip-flops from what it was last season to what it is this season -- the tackles, the strength of the line last season. In 2014, those two positions will likely be filled by two redshirt sophomores who have limited experience.

Ben Braden, who appeared in just two games, is taking reps with the top group this spring and Erik Magnuson, who started seven games and appeared in 12 games last season, is the likely leader for the spot at left tackle. Both have the physical attributes to be excellent tackles: height, weight and long arms. But last season showed what talent without experience looks like, and the idea of some of that inexperience protecting Gardner’s blind side is a bit worrisome.

On top of that, Magnuson underwent shoulder surgery this winter and isn't participating in spring practices. Redshirt freshman David Dawson is taking his snaps at left tackle, just continuing the revolving door of youth on the offensive line.

Last year the competition for the positions went on for weeks throughout the season. In the perfect world, coaches would at least be able to see the two-deep throughout the spring. That certainly won’t be the case as Magnuson is out and reserve players such as Chris Bryant and Joey Burzynski -- who have game experience -- are unavailable this spring.

Because fixing the offensive line is at such a premium for the Wolverines and because fans have taken such notice to it, expectations are high. But those expectations still need to be tempered, especially through this spring. If people show up to the spring game expecting to see the 1997 Michigan offensive line out there, then they probably want to stay home and try to watch replays. This group will make strides, but those strides aren’t going to be massive this spring.

Big Ten's lunch links

March, 3, 2014
Mar 3
12:00
PM ET
Alright, alright, alright ...
Spring football started Tuesday, so the competition for positions is well underway. This week, we’re counting down the five position battles that you should also keep an eye on over the next month. We've counted this down for a week, though you probably knew exactly which position would take the cake at No. 1.

No. 1: left tackle

Who’s in the mix: Erik Magnuson (injured), David Dawson, Dan Samuelson

What to watch: Of the top five position battles to watch, three have been on the offensive line, which makes sense considering the 2013 performance. The O-line needs to see some change going in to next season. They say if there’s youth on a line, it’s best to have it on the outside. If that’s the case, then the Wolverines are in good shape. It’s more than likely the Wolverines will be starting underclassmen at both tackle spots. Yesterday we looked at the struggles in replacing a three-year starter on the right side, but it’s an even bigger challenge to replace a four-year starter on the left side, QB Devin Gardner’s blind side.

Replacing Taylor Lewan isn’t going to be easy. The All-American started 48 consecutive games at left tackle for the Wolverines. He graded out with his best year of football during this past season and now the Wolverines will have to search for his replacement. Magnuson was the frontrunner but will miss the spring season while rehabbing from shoulder surgery. At 6-foot-6, 295 pounds Magnuson is a bit smaller than Lewan (6-8, 315), but is agile and athletic. Last season he played in 12 games and recorded seven starts at guard, which will only help his future as a tackle. Since he has experience at both positions, he’ll better know the nuances of the line as a whole, which will only help the chemistry of the left side of the line. However, with him sitting out for the spring, Michigan coach Brady Hoke said that Dawson has been taking reps with the first group. He’s a shorter option than the other tackles (6-4, 295) but assuming Magnuson comes back 100 percent, Dawson could likely be repping with the twos at either tackle spot. Samuelson is another option at tackle for the Wolverines. The rising redshirt freshman is 6-5 and 282 pounds.

The countdown:

Spring football started Tuesday, so the competition for positions is well underway. This week, we’re counting down the five position battles that you should also keep an eye on over the next month. On Wednesday, we took a look at the center. Today, we move right as the Wolverines look to replace three-year starter Michael Schofield.

No. 2: Right tackle

Who’s in the mix: Ben Braden, Logan Tuley-Tillman, David Dawson.

What to watch: The Wolverines need to make major strides with their offensive line this fall but how much of that can actually happen this spring remains to be seen. Erik Magnuson -- who’s in contention for the starting spot at left tackle -- isn’t participating in spring football while he rehabs after a shoulder surgery. And Tuley-Tillman, another option at tackle, will miss the first few weeks of spring practices with a hand injury. That doesn’t exactly leave Michigan a ton of options for what to do on the offensive line, nor does it help with building chemistry for what will eventually be the starting five -- one of the biggest struggles of last season.

However, Michigan will move forward as it needs to replace the book ends of its offensive line from last season. Schofield was the less heralded of the two tackles, but he played in 52 games and made 36 starts (first 10 starts were at left guard before moving to right tackle). On Tuesday, coach Brady Hoke said that on the first day of practice Braden was running with the first group at right tackle, and Dawson was running with the first group at left tackle. Dawson could probably be at the two-deep spot at either position when Magnuson does return. Magnuson and Braden are both 6-foot-6, as opposed to Dawson, who’s a mobile 295 pounds but only 6-4. So while Dawson may be playing left tackle this spring, look for him to take reps at both in the fall. And when Tuley-Tillman does return to spring practices, he’ll likely be jumping in at the right spot with Braden. Tuley-Tillman is the tallest of the options at 6-7, but Braden still has him on weight (319 pounds as opposed to Tuley-Tillman’s 290 pounds).

The countdown:
The Wolverines are less than a week away from signing day. Michigan still has its top recruit, Jabrill Peppers, in the fold, while the No. 2 and No. 3 commitments -- wide receiver Drake Harris and defensive tackle Bryan Mone -- have already enrolled.

Here’s a look back at Brady Hoke’s top three commits in each of his Michigan recruiting classes and what they’ve done so far in their careers for the maize and blue.

2013 class:

No. 1: RB Derrick Green

The freshman toted the ball 83 times this season, though if Hoke weren’t so loyal to his upperclassmen then Green probably would’ve taken over the job earlier from Fitzgerald Toussaint. Green finished the year averaging 3.3 yards per carry (third best on the team) and will look to be the featured back next season.

[+] EnlargeJourdan Lewis
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsMichigan cornerback Jourdan Lewis just missed on a few big plays during his freshman season but showed promise for the future.
No. 2: CB Jourdan Lewis

Lewis appeared in all 13 games for the Wolverines this season but only tallied 17 tackles and two pass break ups. He picked up more reps as the season came to a close but he (like fellow freshman Channing Stribling) found himself in a lot of “close but not quite there” situations with wide receivers.

No. 3: G David Dawson

Dawson redshirted this season but his name was brought up a few times, specifically during bowl practices. He should be able to compete for reps next season but likely won’t crack the starting lineup.

2012 class:

No. 1: CB Terry Richardson

He didn’t get into a game this season after appearing as a back up cornerback in four games in 2012. He was known for his speed and quickness as a high schooler, but at 5-foot-9 he seemed a little bit on the smaller end for Greg Mattison’s defense.

No. 2: OLB Royce Jenkins-Stone

As a freshman Jenkins-Stone played in 13 games on special teams and once appeared as a backup linebacker. As a sophomore he again played on special teams and one game as a linebacker. In his career he has registered 11 tackles.

No. 3: G Kyle Kalis

He redshirted last season but started eight games this season at right guard. He missed some time because of an ankle injury but showed a ton of promise on a struggling O-line. His return next season should help solidify the interior offensive line and the aid the struggles the Wolverines had.

2011 class:

No. 1: CB Blake Countess

Countess came off his ACL injury and recorded a Big Ten-best six interceptions this season. His 42 total tackles was two shy of his freshman total. He should be the vocal leader of the secondary next season as a fourth-year junior.

No. 2: CB Delonte Hollowell

In 10 games this season Hollowell tallied just two total tackles. In just four of those games Hollowell saw time on defense, as he mainly played special teams.

No. 3: DE Brennen Beyer

Beyer played at SAM linebacker this season until Jake Ryan returned and then moved back to the defensive line, where he played in 2012. He accounted for 27 tackles, four tackles for a loss, two sacks, one interception and five quarterback hurries.
By Michigan coach Brady Hoke’s standards, this season was a failure.

However, Michigan’s participation in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl on Dec. 28 can be interpreted as a huge victory for the team, and specifically its youth.

Obviously, beating Kansas State will be put at a premium. But the coaching staff won’t overlook the fact that they’ll get extra practice time with the young players on this team.

There aren’t any special bowl-prep practice rules. Michigan can practice for the bowl as they did during the regular season -- 20 hours a week with a maximum of four hours a day.

[+] EnlargeBrady Hoke
AP Photo/Tony DingA bowl game gives Brady Hoke and his staff more time to work with underclassmen.
“The great thing about bowl games is that you get a chance to get so many more practices,” defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. “In our case, we’re a very young football team and it gets our young guys another 15 or 12 practices to get better and to improve on the mistakes that they’ve made. That’s where the real plus in this bowl game is.”

And while Michigan isn’t going to scrap its depth chart and only work with the scout team over the next few weeks, it will be a huge opportunity for players who are lower on the depth chart or only played sporadically this season to get more repetitions.

Obviously, the offensive line had a bit of that throughout the season. Six freshmen and sophomores started at least one game this season, and while that created a lot of confusion and growing pains, left tackle Taylor Lewan preached about how much that would help the team in the next few seasons.

So during the next two-and-a-half weeks, young players such as Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson and Kyle Bosch will continue that growth. But it will be even more helpful as offensive line coach Darrell Funk is able to work with reserve player such as Ben Braden and Blake Bars or players who redshirted this season such as David Dawson and Patrick Kugler.

It’s the same story for the defense. Freshmen defensive backs Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribling, linebacker Ben Gedeon and defensive lineman Taco Charlton each played this season, but during that time they were targeted by opposing teams from time to time specifically because they were freshmen.

And then there are players such as running backs Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith and tight end Jake Butt, who made large contributions by the end of the season, but didn’t really get the full season of experience as a first or second-stringer.

This cluster of practices will be like an extra three game weeks.

“A lot of these young guys have earned a right to play, and it didn’t start out the first week,” Mattison said. “It has been throughout the season, so every chance they get to play another game and to have this practice time is tremendous for us.”

While the 7-5 season isn’t what the Wolverines had hoped for, they’ll be able to use this as a new season going forward, a chance to go 1-0.

The fact that so many freshmen and sophomores played this fall shows how confident Hoke and his staff are in the job they’ve done on the recruiting trail.

“We’re very, very excited about our football team and we feel very strongly that the young men that we’ve recruited in the two or three years that we’ve been here now are the right young men,” Mattison said. “Now, it’s getting that experience. … You can’t put a price tag on these 15 more practices where you can gain on individual drills and become a smarter football player.”
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Spring practice has ended for Michigan and for the first time, the depth chart for the fall is beginning to take shape.

Yes, there will still be some big competitions on Michigan’s offense -- particularly at running back and wide receiver -- but there is now a better idea of who the Wolverines’ starting 11 will be in August when they open the season against Central Michigan.

WolverineNation takes a two-day look at what Michigan’s depth chart will be come fall, starting with the offense.

Quarterback

State of the Rivalry: Offensive line 

February, 25, 2013
2/25/13
9:00
AM ET
The writers at WolverineNation and BuckeyeNation put their heads together to break down the rivals' 2013 recruiting classes. They'll give readers a position-by-position look at who coaches Brady Hoke and Urban Meyer signed and, ultimately, which class edged out the other. It's too early to say what will happen through the next few seasons, and we won't make any promises except that Hoke and Meyer are going to put talent on the field.

Michigan got: Michigan landed the top offensive line class in 2013 for the entire country, so this battle was easy. The Wolverines landed six total offensive linemen, five of whom are within the ESPN 300.

Michigan landed four offensive linemen in 2012 and to build depth across the line, the coaching staff decided to take six in this class.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Al Borges has fought an uphill battle. With old game film and an offense on the field only slightly resembling what he hopes is the end product, he has somehow made offensive recruiting work for Michigan.

For the Wolverines the past two years was a “yes, we’re recruiting you to play in a pro-style offense, but we can’t really show you that right now.” So Borges had to reach into the vaults and rely on game film from teams he coached who didn’t wear the winged helmet to show top prospects what they’d have the chance to be a part of at Michigan.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

videoANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan coach Brady Hoke took the opportunity at Wednesday’s signing day news conference to express his concerns with the recent shift in NCAA recruiting legislation that would lift the restrictions on phone calls and text messages and eliminate quiet and dead periods starting Aug. 1.

Hoke believes this will end poorly for the high school coaches who facilitate prospects’ recruitments and for the recruits themselves who likely will be inundated with texts, calls and visits.

“For the high school coaches, I think it’s a big-time mistake,” Hoke said. “[My] philosophy on life: Kids need to be kids. I don’t think the rules are helping.”

Unlike football recruiting, the rules on basketball recruiting have changed greatly over the past few years.

And while many correlations have been made between the basketball and football recruiting processes, Hoke said those parallels aren’t really accurate.

“I know basketball has gone to some of this stuff, but they have an early signing period,” Hoke said. “I think the other part of it is you can’t compare basketball and football, it’s not even close. They’re going to recruit three or five guys a year so maybe their pool is 25. … For us, we’re going to start with probably 1,500 [prospects in the 2014 class] and we’re going to sign 16.”

Hoke also addressed some of his own recruiting policies including his no-visit policy, which basically states that if a Michigan commit takes a visit the Wolverines will no longer recruit him.

It became newsworthy this winter when offensive line signee David Dawson (Detroit/Cass Tech) recommitted to Michigan after having taken visits elsewhere. And while Hoke specifically stated that “every situation is a little bit different,” he didn’t say it was a policy he necessarily would stick to 100 percent.

“I think that’d be something I’d talk with them about,” Hoke said.

Sizing up contenders for Derrick Green 

January, 25, 2013
1/25/13
10:20
AM ET
Running back Derrick Green (Richmond, Va./Hermitage) has narrowed his choices to Auburn, Michigan and Tennessee for his announcement late Saturday afternoon.

Green is the No. 5 running back in the country and No. 38 overall prospect. He has been a target for several top programs and has been very strategic in trimming his list to this point. A major factor in his thought process is the depth chart at each school and what chance he has of playing early.

WolverineNation takes a look at Green’s finalists, who each school has committed, the depth chart and the current scenario with each of Green’s finalists.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Signing day primer: Michigan 

January, 23, 2013
1/23/13
8:00
AM ET
Commitments: 26
ESPN 150 commitments: 9


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Michigan puts out more 2015 offers 

January, 22, 2013
1/22/13
4:15
PM ET
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan doubled its 2015 offers in stopping at just one school, going from two to four offers in the matter of a few hours. And both offers show where the Wolverines want to improve greatly over the ensuing seasons -- in the trenches and run game.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The Wolverines are out on the recruiting trail, closing out their 2013 class and looking forward to future classes. Naturally, the next class to consider is the 2014 class, which has two commitments (linebacker Michael Ferns and offensive lineman Denzel Ward) and several offered prospects.

But with a recent surprising miss at Detroit Cass Tech with Damon Webb committing to Ohio State, the Wolverines aren’t going to skip a beat with any player, regardless of class.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Drive Through: What's Wrong With The Big Ten?
Adam Rittenberg explains what's wrong with the Big Ten conference and whether or not the conference is doing anything to reverse its downward trajectory.
VIDEO PLAYLIST video

BIG TEN SCOREBOARD