Michigan Wolverines: Patrick Kugler

B1G spring position breakdown: OL

February, 28, 2014
Feb 28
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We're taking snapshots of each position group with each Big Ten team entering the spring. Up next: the big uglies.

Illinois: This is another group that appears to be in significantly better shape now than at the start of coach Tim Beckman's tenure. The Illini lose only one full-time starter in tackle Corey Lewis, as four other linemen who started at least eight games in 2013 return. Senior tandem Michael Heitz and Simon Cvijanovic are two of the Big Ten's most experienced linemen, and guards Ted Karras also has logged plenty of starts. Right tackle appears to be the only vacancy entering the spring, as Austin Schmidt and others will compete.

Indiana: The Hoosiers have somewhat quietly put together one of the Big Ten's best offensive lines, and the same should hold true in 2014. Everybody is back, and because of injuries before and during the 2013 season, Indiana boasts a large group with significant starting experience. Jason Spriggs should contend for first-team All-Big Ten honors as he enters his third season at left tackle. Senior Collin Rahrig solidifies the middle, and Indiana regains the services of guard Dan Feeney, who was sidelined all of 2013 by a foot injury.

Iowa: The return of left tackle Brandon Scherff anchors an Iowa line that could be a team strength this fall. Scherff will enter the fall as a leading candidate for Big Ten offensive lineman of the year. Iowa must replace two starters in right tackle Brett Van Sloten and left guard Conor Boffeli. Andrew Donnal could be the answer in Van Sloten's spot despite playing guard in 2013, while several players will compete at guard, including Tommy Gaul and Eric Simmons. Junior Austin Blythe returns at center.

Maryland: Line play will go a long way toward determining how Maryland fares in the Big Ten, and the Terrapins will make the transition with an experienced group. Four starters are back, led by center Sal Conaboy, who has started games in each of his first three seasons. Tackles Ryan Doyle and Michael Dunn bring versatility to the group, and Maryland should have plenty of options once heralded recruit Damian Prince and junior-college transfer Larry Mazyck arrive this summer. Prince is the top Big Ten offensive line recruit in the 2014 class, according to ESPN RecruitingNation. New line coach Greg Studwara brings a lot of experience to the group.

Michigan: The Wolverines' line is under the microscope this spring after a disappointing 2013 season. Michigan loses both starting tackles, including Taylor Lewan, the Big Ten's offensive lineman of the year and a projected first-round draft choice. The interior line was in flux for much of 2013, and Michigan needs development from a large group of rising sophomores and juniors, including Kyle Kalis, Kyle Bosch, Jack Miller, Graham Glasgow, and Patrick Kugler. Both starting tackle spots are open, although Ben Braden seems likely to slide in on the left side. Erik Magnuson is out for spring practice following shoulder surgery, freeing up opportunities for redshirt freshman David Dawson and others.

Michigan State: The line took a significant step forward in 2013 but loses three starters, including left guard Blake Treadwell, a co-captain. Michigan State used an eight-man rotation in 2013 and will look for development from top reserves such as Travis Jackson (Yes! Yes!) and Connor Kruse. Kodi Kieler backed up Treadwell last season and could contend for a starting job as well. Coach Mark Dantonio said this week that converted defensive linemen James Bodanis, Devyn Salmon and Noah Jones will get a chance to prove themselves this spring. It's important for MSU to show it can reload up front, and the large rotation used in 2013 should help.

Minnesota: For the first time since the Glen Mason era, Minnesota truly established the line of scrimmage and showcased the power run game in 2013. The Gophers return starters at four positions and regain Jon Christenson, the team's top center before suffering a season-ending leg injury in November. Right tackle Josh Campion and left guard Zac Epping are mainstays in the starting lineup, and players such as Tommy Olson and Ben Lauer gained some valuable experience last fall. There should be good leadership with Epping, Olson, Marek Lenkiewicz and Caleb Bak.

Nebraska: Graduation hit the line hard as five seniors depart, including 2012 All-American Spencer Long at guard and Jeremiah Sirles at tackle. Nebraska will lean on guard Jake Cotton, its only returning starter, and experienced players such as Mark Pelini, who steps into the center spot. Senior Mike Moudy is the top candidate at the other guard spot, but there should be plenty of competition at the tackle spots, where Zach Sterup, Matt Finnin and others are in the mix. Definitely a group to watch this spring.

Northwestern: Offensive line struggles undoubtedly contributed to Northwestern's disappointing 2013 season. All five starters are back along with several key reserves, and coach Pat Fitzgerald already has seen a dramatic difference in the position competitions this spring as opposed to last, when many linemen were sidelined following surgeries. Center Brandon Vitabile is the only returning starter who shouldn't have to worry about his job. Paul Jorgensen and Eric Olson opened the spring as the top tackles, and Jack Konopka, who has started at both tackle spots, will have to regain his position.

Ohio State: Like Nebraska, Ohio State enters the spring with a lot to replace up front as four starters depart from the Big Ten's best line. Taylor Decker is the only holdover and will move from right tackle to left tackle. Fifth-year senior Darryl Baldwin could step in at the other tackle spot, while Pat Elflein, who filled in for the suspended Marcus Hall late last season, is a good bet to start at guard. Jacoby Boren and Billy Price will compete at center and Joel Hale, a defensive lineman, will work at guard this spring. Ohio State has recruited well up front, and it will be interesting to see how young players such as Evan Lisle and Kyle Dodson develop.

Penn State: New coach James Franklin admits he's concerned about the depth up front despite the return of veterans Miles Dieffenbach and Donovan Smith on the left side. Guard Angelo Mangiro is the other lineman who logged significant experience in 2013, and guard/center Wendy Laurent and guard Anthony Alosi played a bit. But filling out the second string could be a challenge for Penn State, which could start a redshirt freshman (Andrew Nelson) at right tackle. The Lions have to develop some depth on the edges behind Nelson and Smith.

Purdue: The Boilers reset up front after a miserable season in which they finished 122nd out of 123 FBS teams in rushing offense (67.1 ypg). Three starters return on the interior, led by junior center Robert Kugler, and there's some continuity at guard with Jordan Roos and Justin King, both of whom started as redshirt freshmen. It's a different story on the edges as Purdue loses both starting tackles. Thursday's addition of junior-college tackle David Hedelin could be big, if Hedelin avoids a potential NCAA suspension for playing for a club team. Cameron Cermin and J.J. Prince also are among those in the mix at tackle.

Rutgers: Continuity should be a strength for Rutgers, which returns its entire starting line from 2013. But production has to be better after the Scarlet Knights finished 100th nationally in rushing and tied for 102nd in sacks allowed. Guard Kaleb Johnson considered entering the NFL draft but instead will return for his fourth season as a starter. Rutgers also brings back Betim Bujari, who can play either center or guard, as well as Keith Lumpkin, the likely starter at left tackle. It will be interesting to see if new line coach Mitch Browning stirs up the competition this spring, as younger players Dorian Miller and J.J. Denman could get a longer look.

Wisconsin: There are a lot of familiar names up front for the Badgers, who lose only one starter in guard Ryan Groy. The tackle spots look very solid with Tyler Marz (left) and Rob Havenstein (right), and Kyle Costigan started the final 11 games at right guard. There should be some competition at center, as both Dan Voltz and Dallas Lewallen have battled injuries. Coach Gary Andersen mentioned on national signing day that early enrollee Michael Deiter will enter the mix immediately at center. Another early enrollee, decorated recruit Jaden Gault, should be part of the rotation at tackle. If certain young players develop quickly this spring, Wisconsin should have no depth issues when the season rolls around.
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Maryland Terrapins, Michigan Wolverines, Big Ten Conference, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Northwestern Wildcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Penn State Nittany Lions, Purdue Boilermakers, Wisconsin Badgers, Michigan State Spartans, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Jack Miller, Kyle Kalis, Evan Lisle, Patrick Kugler, Erik Magnuson, Kyle Bosch, Brandon Vitabile, Michael Heitz, Travis Jackson, Damian Prince, Brandon Scherff, Brett Van Sloten, Donovan Smith, Jeremiah Sirles, Rob Havenstein, Simon Cvijanovic, Spencer Long, Taylor Decker, Ted Karras, Pat Fitzgerald, Andrew Donnal, Zac Epping, Gary Andersen, Graham Glasgow, Josh Campion, Jon Christenson, Jordan Roos, Jaden Gault, Paul Jorgensen, Blake Treadwell, Dan Feeney, Michael Deiter, James Franklin, David Hedelin, Tommy Olson, Zach Sterup, Kyle Costigan, Darryl Baldwin, Miles Dieffenbach, B1G spring positions 14, Andrew Nelson, Angelo Mangiro, Austin Blythe, Austin Schmidt, Betim Bujari, Cameron Cermin, Collin Rahrig, Connor Kruse, Conor Boffelli, Corey Lewis, Dallas Lewallen, Devyn Salmon, Dorian Miller, Eric Olson, Eric Simmons, Greg Studrawa, J.J. Denman, J.J. Prince, Jack Konopka, Jake Cotton, James Bodanis, Jason Spriggs, Justin King, Kaleb Johnson, Keith Lumpkin, Kodi Kieler, Kyle Dodson, Larry Mazyck, Marek Lenkiewicz, Mark Pelini, Matt Finnin, Michael Dunn, Mike Moudy, Mitch Browning, Noah Jones, Pat Elflein, Robert Kugler, Ryan Doyle, Sal Conaboy, Tommy Gaul

Spring football started Tuesday, so the competition for positions is officially under way and under the watchful eyes of Brady Hoke and his staff. This week, we’re counting down the five position battles you should also keep an eye on during the next month.

No. 3: Center

Who’s in the mix: Graham Glasgow, Patrick Kugler, Jack Miller, Blake Bars

[+] EnlargeGraham Glasgow
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsGraham Glasgow moved over to center in 2013 and could remain there this fall.
What to watch: It shouldn't be a surprise that the offensive line is making an appearance on this countdown (and it won’t be the last time, either). There was a lot of shuffling at center last season. Miller started the first four games and Glasgow finished out the season. The interior offensive line struggled so much that it’s hard to really pinpoint anything, but it’s obvious the center spot was far from stout. Glasgow is remembered for his few badly botched snaps (against Michigan State and Nebraska), but he definitely showed improvement as the season went on. The big question will be whether he can keep the position, if it will turn back to Miller (unlikely) or if a younger guy such as Kugler or Bars (both took reps at center during bowl practice) can step in. Bars seems like a better fit outside, but Michigan made the move out of necessity during those practices. Most likely, this position race will come down to Glasgow and Kugler.

Glasgow was formerly a guard, and he's probably better suited there naturally. Kugler came in as a true center. At 6-foot-5 and 287 pounds, Kugler has good size for a center, though he needs to put on more weight. The average size of the six finalists for the Rimington Trophy last season was 6-4 and 304 pounds, so Kugler is still a bit small in comparison. However, Kugler is a bit more compact than Glasgow and has the benefit of spending a year in the playbook and weight room before playing a down for the Wolverines.

They say that if there’s going to be youth on the offensive line, it’s best to have it on the outside, which will likely be the case for the Wolverines in 2014. The opposite was shown this past season, as the youth was on the interior and Michigan averaged an almost-conference-worst 3.3 yards per rush and allowed 36 sacks, which was better than just two other Big Ten teams. Glasgow certainly has the upper hand when it comes to experience and the in-game chemistry he already gained with the likely guard starters, Kyle Bosch and Kyle Kalis. However, with Kugler’s football pedigree -- his father, Sean, is currently the head coach at UTEP and is a former offensive line coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills -- and his time spent solely learning the scheme with Darrell Funk, Kugler could make this a battle.

Previous posts:
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.”
The Big Ten season is here. The Little Brown Jug (which really isn’t “little”) is being brought out of storage. And Brady Hoke is looking to stay undefeated in the Big House.

There’s lots to talk about. As always, send your questions in (@chanteljennings, jenningsESPN@gmail.com). I’m here every Wednesday.

John Babri, Kentucky: With the way the Wolverines looked in their last two games is there any hope for them in The Game?

A: Well, if Michigan plays like it did against Akron and Connecticut when Ohio State comes to town at the end of November, the Wolverines will get embarrassed. However, with that game, nothing really matters as far as stats and records. I would imagine that both teams will bring their A game and assuming Michigan’s offensive line can pull it together and protect Devin Gardner while also opening some holes for Fitzgerald Toussaint, then good things could happen. However, if we’re still discussing offensive line depth/chemistry/whatnot in November, that will be a very, very bad sign for Michigan.

@SahamSports via Twitter: Where does the responsibility of the early struggles lie on Hoke, [Taylor] Lewan and leadership, Devin [Gardner], etc.?

A: All the above … and some. The answer is never just one thing. I think you have some youth at key positions (interior offense line, wide receivers outside of Drew Dileo and Jeremy Gallon, quarterback -- yes, he only has a handful of starts). Add to that how the Wolverines didn’t prepare well for Akron and then maybe overprepared and overthought UConn and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. And it’s not as if Michigan’s offense is built to completely avoid turnovers. The Wolverines are relying on high-risk, high-reward plays because of some of that youth, and of late it hasn’t paid off.

Jerry Mead, via Twitter: Are we going to see more Derrick Green?

A: On Monday, Hoke said that he would like to lessen Toussaint’s load by giving Green and freshman De’Veon Smith some carries. That kind of an answer would benefit the Wolverines in multiple ways. For starters, it gives Toussaint a bit more of a rest through the game and season. But Green and Smith are built differently than each other and Toussaint, so it changes things up for defenses a bit when the Wolverines can shuffle different guys in there. With how effective Iowa was with the run last weekend against Minnesota, there’s a pretty good idea of what you need to do against the Gophers to get the run game going. If Michigan can open holes as well as the Iowa offensive line did against Minnesota, then I think we will see all three guys with some pretty impressive runs.

Mike Ziemke, Chicago: Do you think it's possible we'll have two redshirt freshman and three redshirt sophomores as our starting O-line next season?

A: I highly doubt that. I think Ben Braden will step in at right tackle and Erik Magnuson will come in for Taylor Lewan at left tackle, so that gives you two redshirt sophomores. Add to that Kyle Kalis, who I believe will keep his job at right guard -- so then you have three. The center and left guard positions will be interesting and we could learn a lot about those this weekend. At left guard, I think we’ll see more Graham Glasgow and Chris Bryant, which would be a redshirt junior. Center will be the most interesting because you’ll either have Glasgow, Jack Miller, Joey Burzynski (who’d be a redshirt senior) or redshirt freshman Patrick Kugler, which would be an interesting situation.
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

WolverineNation Roundtable 

March, 21, 2013
3/21/13
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Every Thursday our writers debate and discuss three issues surrounding the Wolverines. Today, they look at kids who would’ve benefited from an early enrollment, some March Madness and some under-the-radar 2014 prospects.

1) Which 2013 signee who didn't enroll early would've benefited the most from doing so?


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State of the Rivalry: Offensive line 

February, 25, 2013
2/25/13
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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. -- 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.


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WolverineNation roundtable 

February, 14, 2013
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Each Thursday, the WolverineNation writers sit down to discuss three issues surrounding Michigan sports. This week, they check out future draft stock, the Big Ten basketball tournament and the 2014 class' signing day.

1. Looking at this year's true freshmen and sophomores on the football team, who do you think has the potential to go the earliest in the NFL draft when they declare?

[+] EnlargeDevin Funchess
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesDevin Funchess might have the best NFL potential of all the current Wolverines.
Michael Rothstein: On principle, I'm not picking a true freshman here because development is such a fickle thing in college, so I'm looking at the sophomores and redshirt freshmen and immediately drawn to Devin Funchess. He had a strong freshman season and as the offense shifts from a hybrid to the pro style, his production should skyrocket. Combine that, his physical tools and how tight ends are being used in the NFL, and he screams potential first-rounder if everything progresses as it should.

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Signing day primer: Michigan 

January, 23, 2013
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Commitments: 26
ESPN 150 commitments: 9


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Depth chart analysis: Right guard 

January, 15, 2013
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Over the next few weeks, WolverineNation will look at every position on the Michigan roster and give a depth chart analysis of each position on the roster heading into the offseason.

For three seasons, Patrick Omameh was a significant, serviceable option for Michigan at right guard. He would rarely wow anyone off the line with a crushing block, but he also had his moments going against quality defensive linemen almost every week.

Now, though, Omameh is gone and Michigan will lose its most experienced offensive lineman. In his place, no matter who it is, will be someone with almost none.

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Depth chart analysis: Center 

January, 14, 2013
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Over the next few weeks, WolverineNation will look at every position on the Michigan roster and give a depth chart analysis of each heading into the offseason.

Two seasons ago, Michigan had the best center in the country, a guy with one heck of a mean streak and an edge that never really went away. Last season, the Wolverines had the opposite, a guy who might have been one of the more friendly players on the team and someone who was good in stretches and struggled in others.

For the third straight season, Michigan will have a new starting center and no matter who it is the player will have minimal to no experience.

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Michigan's 2013 OL haul is much needed 

January, 12, 2013
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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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Hackenberg, Olsen earn UA Game starts

January, 3, 2013
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Black Team offense

Quarterback: Christian Hackenberg (Penn State)

Running back: Alvin Kamara

Receiver: Alvin Bailey (Florida), Robert Foster (Alabama), Damore'ea Stringfellow (Washington)

Tight end: O.J. Howard (Alabama)

Offensive tackle: Darius James (Texas), Denver Kirkland

Offensive guard: Grant Hill (Alabama), Joas Aguilar (Texas A&M)

Center: Hunter Bivin (Notre Dame)

Captains: Kelvin Taylor, Hunter Bivin, Robert Nkemdiche, Ben Boulware

Black Team defense

Defensive end: Robert Nkemdiche, Elijah Daniel

Defensive tackle: Greg Gilgmore (LSU), Kennedy Tulimasealii (Hawaii)

Inside linebacker: Ben Boulware (Clemson)

Outside linebacker: Alex Anzalone (Notre Dame), Matthew Thomas

Safety: Keanu Neal (Florida), Leon McQuay III

Cornerback: Vernon Hargreaves III (Florida), Tarean Folston (Notre Dame)

Black Team special teams

Long snapper: Tyler Kluver (Iowa)

Kicker/punter: Sean Covington (UCLA)

White Team offense

Quarterback: Kevin Olsen (Miami)

Running back: Keith Ford (Oklahoma)

Receiver: Laquon Treadwell, Ryan Green (Florida State), Jalin Marshall (Ohio State)

Tight end: Hunter Henry (Arkansas)

Offensive tackle: Derwin Gray (Maryland), Dorian Johnson (Pittsburgh)

Offensive guard: Patrick Kugler (Michigan), David Dawson (Michigan)

Center: Scott Quessenberry (UCLA)

White Team defense

Defensive end: Carl Lawson (Auburn), Joey Bosa (Ohio State)

Defensive tackle: Henry Poggi (Michigan), Kelsey Griffin (South Carolina)

Inside linebacker: Reuben Foster, Yannick Ngakoue

Outside linebacker: Trey Johnson

Safety: Max Redfield, Antonio Conner

Cornerback: Gareon Conley (Ohio State), Shaq Wiggins (Georgia)

White Team special teams

Long snapper: Brendan Turelli

Kicker: Ryan Santoso (Minnesota)

Punter: Shane Tripucka

Captains: Ryan Green, Hunter Henry, Patrick Kugler, Reuben Foster

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