The Michigan Wolverines will have a blend of senior experience and youth along its offensive line this season. Stalwart tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield return for their redshirt senior seasons, and at 6’8 308 lbs. and 6’7 303 lbs. they form the biggest and best tackle duo in the Big Ten. Lewan, coming off a season in which he was named an All-American by many outlets and also received the Big Ten Remington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year award, made a bold and somewhat unexpected move when he announced that he would pass on the NFL Draft, where he likely would have been a top five pick, to return for a final season at Michigan. He will line up at left tackle where he has made 28 consecutive starts. The less heralded Schofield started at left guard in 10 games in 2011, but he is coming off of his first year as a right tackle where he started all 13 games. He will likely challenge for All-Big Ten recognition this season.
While the tackle positions will be a major strength, the Wolverines will be replacing three starters from last year’s offensive line. Guards Patrick Omameh and Ricky Barnum and center Elliot Mealer have all moved on to the NFL where each signed undrafted free agent contracts. Waiting in the wings are young prospects with lofty expectations but little to no game experience. Lining up at left guard will be redshirt freshman Ben Braden who seems to be taking a similar path as Schofield as he came in as a tackle prospect and will likely end up there before his career is over. Braden grew up playing hockey before eventually outgrowing the sport, but it wasn’t all for not as he developed great feet and hand eye coordination due to his experience on the ice. That translates well to the left guard position as he will often be asked to pull and be the lead blocker on sweep and stretch plays. At 6’6 314 lbs. Braden will team with Lewan to create two imposing figures on the left side of the line. At the other guard spot will be another redshirt freshman, Kyle Kalis. The former five star prospect was expected to come in and compete for playing time right away as a true freshman, but Michigan got decent play out of Barnum and Kalis was able to take a redshirt which will benefit both he and the Wolverines down the line. He is more of a run blocker known for his nasty streak and playing until just after the whistle blows. At center, redshirt sophomore Jack Miller will take over as the signal caller along the offensive line. Miller is similar to former Michigan center David Molk in that he’s a bit undersized at 6’4 291 lbs. but has great technique and football IQ to go along with a mean streak.
You would think that losing three seniors along the offensive line would be a reason for worry, but aside from Denard Robinson, Michigan’s running backs struggled to find running room up the middle in 2012. With Lewan and Schofield coming back and the promise that the young guys have shown in practice, there is reason for optimism when it comes to the Wolverines’ offensive line in 2013.