Michigan Wolverines: Logan Tuley-Tillman

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."
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:

Recruiting Roundtable: Camp surprises? 

June, 24, 2013
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Tom is on vacation this week, but before he left, we sat down to hash out a few recruiting topics. We didn’t invite in any outside writers this week, but we did throw in an extra question for good measure. This week, we look at the 2014 class and Michigan’s football camp.

1. Do any of the 2014 commits remind you of any current Michigan players?

Fresh Ideas: Offensive Line 

June, 21, 2013
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Can a true freshman really contribute at the college level? Is it easier at one position than another? Over the summer WolverineNation has been breaking down the probabilities of playing time and projections of the Wolverines’ freshmen, position by position.

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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.


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Over the next week, WolverineNation will give a brief look at five players to keep an eye on during spring practice for varying reasons.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- While Taco Charlton is just one of the six early enrolling freshmen this spring, but the defensive end is more intriguing than most for the simple reason that he’ll potentially have a chance to play.

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State of the Rivalry: Offensive line 

February, 25, 2013
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.

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- There’s no way to look at Michigan’s 2013 class and not believe Brady Hoke when he says he’s putting an emphasis up front.

Not only is it impressive that the Wolverines were able to pull in six offensive line signees, each is big and physical (averaging 6-foot-5, 295 pounds).

“It was very important for us to establish guys who can play at the line of scrimmage the way we want to play Michigan football,” Hoke said. “For the style of football we need to play, I think that was important.”

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WolverineNation signing day recap

February, 6, 2013
Welcome to WolverineNation's live coverage of national signing day for the Michigan Wolverines. We'll be with you throughout the day providing up-to-the-minute updates on Team 134, aka the Class of 2013.

Watch live coverage on ESPNU | Talk signing day on our forum, "The Den"

Follow the live blog after the jump.

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Michigan's 2013 OL haul is much needed 

January, 12, 2013
With six offensive line commitments, the Michigan coaching staff has turned a weakness into a strength. It's no secret that Michigan's offensive line was an area of concern in the 2012 season and it's easy to see the coaches were interested in fixing that problem.

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The final ESPN150/300 rankings and class rankings were released on Thursday. A Michigan class that started out the 2013 teams rankings at No. 1 slipped again, mostly do to a precipitous drop for one prospect.

But the news wasn’t all bad, as one of the five offensive line commits in the class made a nice move up the charts.

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UA spotlight: Logan Tuley-Tillman 

January, 4, 2013
Logan Tuley-Tillman (Peoria, Ill./Manual) is Michigan's highest ranked offensive line commit at No. 105 overall. He has had some up and down camp performances recently, though, some due to injury and some due to carrying bad weight.

Tuley-Tillman has worked hard in the off-season to drop some of that weight and get in shape for the Under Armour All-America game, and is hoping his work pays off.

So far in practice, the 6-foot-7 Michigan commit has gone up against the top defensive linemen in the country, including the No. 2 overall player Carl Lawson (Alpharetta, Ga./Milton). Tuley-Tillman has won some battles and has lost a few, but he recognizes this is a good experience for him before he moves on to the next level.

He will be enrolling early at Michigan, so the Under Armour practice and the head start at Michigan should be a big boost for Tuley-Tillman's development.

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2013 recruiting timeline: OL 

December, 11, 2012
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- As of the beginning of the 2012 football season, it seemed as though the Wolverines had pretty much secured the best offensive line classes they could’ve hoped for in the 2012 and 2013 classes. But when No. 1 offensive guard David Dawson (Detroit/Cass Tech) and Michigan parted ways, a few questions emerged. But even without Dawson, the O-line commits in Brady Hoke’s first two full classes still seem very strong.

Since that point the Michigan coaching staff has extended offers, re-extended offers and reached out to players who hadn’t been on the radar for months. To break down the search, here’s a timeline of O-line recruiting for this class.

[+] EnlargeDavid Dawson
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comDavid Dawson's decommitment threw Michigan off its O-line recruiting game late in the process.
Feb. 18: OT Chris Fox, OG Kyle Bosch and Dawson commit.

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RB Green eager to see game atmosphere 

October, 17, 2012
Running back Derrick Green (Richmond, Va./Hermitage) will be one of the biggest visitors on campus for Michigan on Saturday. The four-star is the No. 6 back in the country and will be in Ann Arbor for the second time this year, this time to see what Michigan has to offer on game day.

"I think the game atmosphere is the biggest thing for me," he said. "I just want to see how they do it on game day and what they do pregame. I want to see that in person and what they have to offer up close."

[+] EnlargeDerrick Green
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comDerrick Green is returning to Ann Arbor for the first time since the BBQ at the Big House.
Green says he's expecting it to be loud and crazy in the Big House, and understands this rivalry is one of the biggest games of the year for the Wolverines. He has been in contact with some of the Michigan commits about what to expect and what it might be like with 110,000 screaming fans.

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2014 OT Ward calls U-M offer 'dream' 

October, 16, 2012
videoOffensive lineman Denzel Ward (Chicago/Hales Franciscan) was the only prospect to receive a Michigan offer while visiting for the Illinois game on Saturday.

"It's a dream come true," he said. "I'll be up there next week [for the Michigan State game] as well to continue building the relationships."

The 6-foot-9 junior now holds offers from Michigan and Purdue, but has been hearing from other Big Ten and SEC programs. Since he really has been playing football for only one season, Ward is taking everything in stride and with his eyes wide open.

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Michigan C Cites Concussions In Decision To Quit
Joe Schad discusses how concussions and a concern over long-term health have helped Michigan center Jack Miller decide not to play football his senior year.