Camp battles will help shape Michigan’s offensive line this fall
Michigan has already identified three starters along the offensive line for this season, but only one of them is stuck in a specific position.
And it turns out that what happens this month in preseason camp – and who, in particular, wins inside jobs – could determine where the other two play.
With new offensive line coach Sherrone Moore in charge up front, the Wolverines have returned to their philosophy of playing their top five players.
“Ryan Hayes is starting,” Jim Harbaugh explained last month at Big Ten Media Days. “(Andrew) Stueber starts. Zak Zinter starts up. These three are solid.
Only Hayes, a junior redshirt from Traverse City, is blocked on the left tackle. The Michigan coaching staff have always viewed Hayes’ long athletic figure as that of a natural tackle, that’s where he will stay.
Meanwhile, Stueber and Zinter are considered versatile and could play one of the two spots. Stueber lined up on tackle and guard last year, while Zinter is vying inside on guard or center.
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And their roles, Harbaugh said, could depend on what happens with the open left guard and center competitions in the preseason camp, which kicks off Friday in Ann Arbor. Redshirt sophomore Trevor Keegan became the starting left goalie, but his direct competitor, fifth-year senior Chuck Filiaga, “had the best offseason of any offensive lineman,” Harbaugh said. . “There will be real competition there.
There is no clear indicator in the center, where fifth-year senior Andrew Vastardis is trying to fend off Zinter, who started four games on the right as a true rookie in 2020. There is a desire to have Zinter into the lineup this fall, in the best position available, which makes things difficult for the lineup up front.
“If it’s Zinter there (center) then you’re going to see the right tackle which would most likely be the (change) position,” Harbaugh said. “Stueber would move on to the right guard, then the right tackle could be Trente Jones, (or) could be Karsen Barnhart. It is reduced to the top five. This is how we do it. “
Time will tell who gets left behind. Injury is always a concern and can play a role as well. But Stueber, speaking to reporters recently in Detroit, said he had no problem playing right guard or right tackle. Although he thinks he’s a more natural adjustment to the tackle, he has experience with line-up on guard.
“Versatility is your best friend at this level and the next, so it’s something I focused on,” said Stueber. “The coaches are trying to put the top five in there. “
The approach departs from the philosophy of former Michigan offensive line coach Ed Warinner, whose contract was not renewed in January. Warinner preferred to place linemen in specific positions during the preseason, allowing them enough time to familiarize themselves with the role and grow.
But it is not entirely different. Harbaugh cobbled together this approach under previous coaches and offensive line coordinators, believing in picking the top five and determining who would play where the best was afterwards. It remains to be seen how this will benefit the team. Redshirt sophomore Cade McNamara is the favorite to start quarterback this fall, as Michigan fires their season-ago main rusher Hassan Haskins.
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