Michigan Football Preview 2019

Digital Edition

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 87 of 179

86 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2019 FOOTBALL PREVIEW OFFENSIVE LINE BY JOHN BORTON M ichigan' offensive line became very good last fall under new blocking builder Ed Warinner. Warinner's job now consists of reminding the troops that good isn't good enough. The Wolverines return 80 percent of their starting front from 2018. All four returning starters earned some sort of All-Big Ten mention. Fifth-year senior left tackle Jon Runyan became a first-team all-conference performer according to the coaches. Senior left guard Ben Bredeson earned unanimous second- team All-Big Ten recognition for a second straight year, while junior center Cesar Ruiz and senior right guard Michael Onwenu each checked in with a highest placement of third- team all-league. It's time to improve across the board, Warinner assured. "They're at a whole different place now," the coach insisted. "It's a whole different conversation. We're trying to take them to the next level, which is winning conference championships and playing at a champion- ship level in all the games. "It's each guy playing at a level where they can be better. If you were second-team all-conference, what have you got to do to be first-team all-conference? If you were first- team all-conference, what do you have to do to be an All-American? "If I was honorable mention, what do I have to do to get to second-team or first- team all-conference? That's the objective, for everybody to take a step. They're very into that." They're also into watching the competi- tion play out for the position where there's no returning full-time starter. Redshirt soph- omore Andrew Stueber (6-7, 323) and red- shirt freshman Jalen Mayfield (6-5, 296) will battle it out for the open spot at right tackle. Stueber drew a pair of starts last season, at Ohio State and in the Peach Bowl against Florida. Mayfield appeared in three games at left tackle — allowing him to retain a red- shirt under new NCAA rules — and looms as a strong challenger for the spot. "I don't think that will be resolved in the near future, but it doesn't need to be," Warin- ner said. "Andrew Stueber started the last couple of games for us, and he was solid. We have Jalen Mayfield, who didn't lose his redshirt but played a little bit throughout the season, and we saw a lot of bright things in him. "Eventually, it will separate itself. Some- body will be more consistent. Both have very redeeming qualities, and we'll see where it goes. It's fun to watch, because competition brings out the best in everybody." Stueber's starts certainly have to be taken into consideration in the experience cate- gory. But they aren't a trump card in the competition, Warinner indicated. "We had some good video on Andrew, and he earned the right to start in those games," the coach said. "Even though we didn't win either game, you couldn't go back and say he was a major reason why we didn't. He held his own and did his job. "It's good to have a test of what some- one will do in those big games. But you go against our defense every day, and the slate is clean. What can you do against them? If you can perform against them, you can per- form against most any team we play." Meanwhile, Mayfield remained in physi- cal development, moving up rapidly from his high school weight of 275. Warinner also tagged him as someone he'd still like to be coaching in four years, hence the redshirt. "He needed to develop size and strength," he explained. "High school techniques are different than college. High school players are different. It's how to get used to the new body and the new size. Right now, he's at 307 [though still 296 on U-M's spring ros- ter]. Last year, he was at 287. I don't know if there were many tackles that started in the Big Ten at 287 that were true freshmen. "Allowing him to develop the size and strength you need to be competitive on a consistent basis was important. We saw tre- mendous signs of him growing, all through- out the year. "There's no sense putting a guy out there and having him not ready, because he just hasn't gotten there yet. … We just took our time with him." Over time, Runyan (6-5, 310) has devel- oped into a tackle considered the best the Big Ten had to offer last year. Warinner noted Runyan's big jump last PRESEASON ANALYSIS: OFFENSIVE LINE STARTERS ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Putting out four starters with some level of All-Big Ten status says plenty about this group, but there's more to the story, they all agree. Jon Runyan Jr. and Ben Bredeson will form a powerful left side of the line — one of the best in the conference and beyond — while Cesar Ruiz should be masterful in directing the show from the center spot. Michael Onwenu's progress at right guard will be watched carefully, along with the battle at right tackle, but this group should be Michi- gan's best since Jim Harbaugh has been in town. DEPTH ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ There's some quality available, underscored by offensive line coach Ed Warinner's willing- ness to verbally fill out a two-deep at the end of spring practice. Players such as redshirt sophomore Chuck Filiaga and redshirt frosh Ryan Hayes are on the rise, and they need to be — Michigan loses (at least) three starters following the 2019 season. X-FACTOR Can a freshman like Nolan Rumler or one of his classmates bull their way into the two- deep? The aforementioned depth makes it seem unlikely, but the Wolverines have featured plenty of exceptional rookie offensive linemen before. They've started some out of ne- cessity, but a good backup trainee might be more the perfect fit here. OVERALL ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Michigan is in a very good spot on the of- fensive line if it keeps the big uglies healthy. A veteran front wall stands in its second season of advancement under an elite position coach, while the next wave gets ready. Those who have helped the rise at this spot can't wait. Back For More Michigan's Offensive Line Features Experience Stamped With Honors Senior left guard Ben Bredeson has earned unanimous second-team All-Big Ten honors each of the last two years. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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