Coming into the 2013 season, the Michigan Wolverines felt good about their offensive line thanks to the return of bookend senior tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield. However, as things have come apart for Michigan, losing five of their final seven games in the regular season, it has been the struggles of the offensive line that have hurt them. More often than not, a defender beating his block or an offensive lineman missing his assignment has blown up a play before it had a chance to get started and the Wolverines’ offense gets stuck in reverse. With Lewan and Schofield, the best and most experienced of the group, gone after the bowl game, will the problem get any better in 2014?
Part of the problem in 2013 was that the group was so inexperienced beyond the senior tackles. Redshirt sophomore Jack Miller started four games at center before sophomore Graham Glasgow stepped in to start the final eight. Redshirt freshman Kyle Kalis started seven games on the line this season while another redshirt freshman, Erik Magnuson, started six. For three games at right guard, Michigan rolled true freshman Kyle Bosch into the starting lineup. That youth hurt Michigan plenty this season as the Wolverines were forced to push their young guys into the lineup earlier than they were likely expecting.
On the bright side, however, that baptism by fire could serve the Wolverines well next season. Getting those young linemen experience this season, even if it was filled with negatives, will only help their growth moving forward. Next season, they’ll be more seasoned and ready to take on the challenges of the Big Ten for the offense and offer some protection for Devin Gardner and the Wolverines’ backfield. Youth today become veterans tomorrow, after all.
But Michigan will need to see major improvement this offseason before they can feel confident about their line moving forward. While they will have some good experienced interior linemen returning, they’ll lose both tackles and come back next season with less experience on the line than they had this year. They can’t lean on the veteran leadership of Lewan and Schofield to pick up the slack when things start to go sideways and will need some sophomores and juniors to step up and fill that void of leadership.
They were far from impressive in 2013 but the foundation has been laid for the Michigan offensive line to improve down the line. Can they regroup and find their footing quickly in 2014 or will they continue to take their lumps for another season before coming together as a solid offensive line?