The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 127 OL times. They've got to live it, every day." That might be easier said than done, given the loss of not one but two NFL tackles. Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield were drafted in rounds one and three, respectively, at the welcome-to-the-pros party, leaving Funk with an even younger crew to round into shape. Not surprisingly, he's conceding little. Sure, replacements won't be at an NFL-ready level on the edges right away, he acknowledged. That doesn't mean the group as a whole won't improve. "These kids have already moved forward," Funk said. "Every room is different. Those guys ran the room. Those guys had a lot of leadership capabilities and did it their way. Well, it's a new team and a new room. "I think these guys have already started to bond in a way that's maybe more of a group effort. When you have guys you know are going to be in the NFL, you're following them. The dynamics of the room are, 'Okay, we're following two really good players.' That's the way it goes. "This year may be more of a democracy. No dominating player, no established hierarchy. I think that can be healthy for a room. That, coupled with schematics … you take that into account." The scheme has already changed. Nussmeier ran an offensive show that produced more than 3,000 yards passing and rushing in Alabama's national championship season of 2012. Last year, the Crimson Tide averaged more than 200 yards per game on the ground and in the air. In other words, the new guy knows very well how a balanced power attack is supposed to look. "Doug didn't come and dwell on the past or point fingers or say, 'This is wrong,'" Funk explained. "He came in with his system, and these kids feel good about it. That's the first positive step. "He's got a system that won a national title. It's a system that won more than just the two years, but they can see it on the tape, for the last two years. That helps kids. They can visualize guys, the Alabama line. They've watched that tape and watched them having success. "Our running backs can see how those backs hit things. They can see every part of it. Bringing his system and the tape and selling it, that's already pushed our guys past memories of last year into, 'Hey, this is how we're going to do it. We're excited about it.' "Doug has an enthusiasm for the game and his system, and he's infected those guys in my room with that." Now it's a matter of turning infected into effective, and that will likely come down to a starting offensive line devoid of a single senior. The Wolverines took their lumps last year, and plan to push back. At left tackle, well-traveled redshirt sophomore Erik Magnuson (6-6, 295) gets the first crack. He played four offensive line positions a year ago, then sat out the spring with labrum surgery on his shoulder, but figures to start fall camp in the top spot protecting the quarterback's blind side. "He was the one we had to move around, until we found something last year," Funk noted. "It stopped some of the bleeding. He played every position but center, and he's the leading candidate to be the left tackle. "Sometimes, when they're not practicing, they're not paying attention. He knows all the calls. He hasn't body learned it yet. But I think he's going to have a terrific year. Play one position, get your reps with the ones, and then watch — not have to jump over to right tackle. I'm really excited about him coming up this fall." A natural tackle, Magnuson started four games at right guard, then three to finish out the season at left guard. With him going back to tackle, the Wolverines feature three potential candidates at left guard with starting experience. Sophomore Kyle Bosch (6-5, 301) got thrown into the fire as a true freshman, starting at Michigan State, versus Nebraska and at BIG TEN RANKINGS PLAYERS 1. Brandon Scherff, 5th-Sr., Iowa — The 6-5, 315-pound tackle is the lone returning All-Big Ten lineman from 2013, and getting mentions as maybe the best in the nation. 2. Rob Havenstein, 5th-Sr., Wisconsin — At 6-8, 327, Havenstein fits right in at tackle with the mauling Badgers offense. 3. Jack Allen, Jr. Michigan State — This 6-1, 300-pound veteran grew up along with the MSU offense in 2013. 4. Sal Conaboy, Sr., Maryland — At 6-3, 290 pounds, Conaboy helps lead the Terps into Big Ten play. 5. Jake Cotton, Sr., Nebraska — A 6-6, 305-pound guard, Cotton gives the Cornhusk- ers some starch inside. 6. J.J. Prince, So., Purdue — Prince began to emerge last year, and at 6-6, 288, he has room to grow into one of the Big Ten's best. 7. Taylor Decker, So., Ohio State — Decker is another sophomore who, at 6-7, 315, could provide a solid presence at tackle for a young OSU line. 8. Jason Spriggs, Jr., Indiana — Spriggs will man a tackle at 6-7, 307, providing a boost to one of the Big Ten's top offenses. 9. Kaleb Johnson, Sr., Rutgers — The 6-4, 305-pound Johnson considered a jump to the NFL. Instead, he's back for a fourth year of starting for the Scarlet Knights. 10. Tyler Marz, R-Jr., Wisconsin — This honorable mention All-Big Ten performer looms large (6-5, 321) for the Badgers in more ways than one. UNITS 1. Wisconsin — The Badgers just keep churning them out, and with Havenstein and Marz leading the way, this will be another band of bruisers. 2. Iowa — Scherff paces a group that figures to do a lot of damage for the Hawkeyes, in an overlooked West Division of the Big Ten. 3. Michigan State — The Spartans lost some key components from 2013, but Allen & Co. will grow from last year's Rose Bowl experience. 4. Indiana — The Hoosiers have everybody back, from a crew that paced a wild of- fensive show in 2013. Spriggs stands as the anchor, but he's not alone. 5. Maryland — The Terrapins return four starters up front for their first foray into Big Ten play. Conaboy will be a four-year starter, with no lack of experience around him. Iowa tackle Brandon Scherff (No. 68) may be the Big Ten's best of- fensive lineman, and the Hawkeyes have a good line overall. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL 126-132.OLs.indd 127 6/19/14 3:15 PM

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