The Wolverine

2021 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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86 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2021 FOOTBALL PREVIEW WORK IN PROGRESS U-M's Blockers Have Talent, But Need Experience BY CHRIS BALAS [ O F F E N S I V E L I N E ] I t's been years since Michigan has been thought of as "Offensive Line U," the Big Ten's best at churning out NFL linemen and putting dominant fronts together. The Wolverines have had good lines and pieces, but not since 2000 in which future NFL stalwarts Steve Hutchinson, Jeff Backus, Maurice Williams and Co. dominated conference foes have they consistently fielded great groups. The 2021 line hopes to change the narrative this year, but it won't be easy. First-year line coach Sherrone Moore has six players with starting experience, yet he doesn't have a group with significant time playing together due to inju- ries and last year's shortened season. He replaces Ed Warinner, now at Florida Atlantic, and brings a different style but plenty of knowledge about the players he inherited, having coached tight ends the last three years. Former Michigan All-American offensive lineman Jon Jansen saw his share of practices in the spring. He witnessed enough to feel comfortable about the line's direction under Moore's tutelage. "I thought he did a great job," Jansen praised. "You can tell the kids really respond to him. He does a good job of teaching technique, which you'd expect from someone who played the position [at Oklahoma from 2006-07]. "One of the things I think he does really well is allows the kids in practice — whether it's one-on-one pass, one-on-one run, half line, full line or team drills — to go out there and try new techniques. You can't get better and don't know what you can do until you try it, and he allows those kids the opportunity to go out there and try some new things." When they don't work, Jansen noted, he coaches them up, puts them back in and asks them to do it again. "I saw technical improvements on a daily basis because kids are allowed to have the opportunity to go out there and try something new," Jansen added. "If something doesn't work, he'll take that idea, bundle it up, throw it in the scrap heap and move on to something that does. "But there are so many different techniques and ways you can do things, and every offensive lineman is going to be different. You can't just say, 'This guy has to do the same thing as this guy, has to do the same thing as everybody else.' They're all going to be a little bit different, and I think he does a good job of bringing out those differences and coaching them up differently." There's enough talent, Jansen insisted, to put together at least a solid Big Ten line, though youth will be served. In the last 15 months the offensive line has faced a series of challenges — having to replace four guys who played in 2019 and were drafted by NFL teams, missing all of spring practice in 2020 due to COVID-19, playing only six games as a result of the pandemic and facing stoppages in the fall, as well, with a number of players missing time. Even the most veteran linemen — sixth-year senior center Andrew Vastardis and redshirt junior Andrew Stueber —have only 12 starts between them, and Stueber has started only six games at right tackle, the position he's expected to man this fall. Still, Jansen said, the 6-7, 339-pound Stueber is one of the guys U-M will count on this year. He's played in 20 games and been tested in some of the biggest ones, with his first start coming at Ohio State in 2018. Plus, the team's success means a lot to him. QUICK FACTS Position Coach: Sherrone Moore (fourth year on staff; first year with OL). Returning Starters: RT Andrew Stueber (8 career starts, 6 at RT), LG Chuck Filiaga (6), LT Ryan Hayes (4), C Andrew Vastardis (4) and RG Zak Zinter (4). Departing Starter: RT Jalen Mayfield (15). Projected New Starter: LG Trevor Keegan. Top Reserves: G/T Karsen Barnhart (4), G Nolan Rumler, C Reece Atteberry, C Greg Crippen and G Joel Honigford. Wait Until 2022: T Jeffrey Persi and T Trente Jones. Newcomers: Crippen, G/C Raheem Anderson, T Giovanni El-Hadi and T Tristan Bounds. Moved In: None. Moved Out: Willie Allen (transferred to Massa - chusetts), Jack Stewart (to DL) and Zach Carpenter (transferred to Indiana). Rookie Impact: None. Most Improved Player: Keegan. Best Pro Prospect: Zinter. Redshirt junior Andrew Stueber, who measures 6-7 and 339 pounds, has appeared in 20 games with six starts at right tackle. He will be one of the players U-M will count on to be a founda- tion of the line this year. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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