The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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130 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW OL but he gives us some flexibility if he keeps coming on." Redshirt freshman Chris Fox (6-6, 310) looks physically impressive, and should finally be healthy come fall camp. "He's got a ton of talent, some raw ability and some explosiveness, but he had the knee coming in, a thumb last spring, and a calf deal that limited him," Funk noted. "He should be full-go by the fall." Redshirt freshman Logan Tuley-Tillman (6-7, 290) is also battling at tackle, following a cast-impeded spring. "He even had a bigger cast on his hand than Braden, but he got some work in the last couple of weeks of spring," Funk said. "I had counted him out, although he wanted to play. As he gets bigger and stronger, he's going to get better and better. "He's a terrific athlete, and he did some things this spring that were really good. He and Braden will lose the casts. Oh my gosh. He got called for holding twice in the scrimmage, and I said, 'How is he holding with that hand?' Logan is going to be a good player. He's got to get stronger and bring his weight room numbers up." Redshirt sophomore Blake Bars (6-5, 290) adds depth to the right side of the line, according to Funk. "I thought he had a productive spring," Funk said. "He was mostly at tackle in the spring. He'd been at guard, but I played him at tackle, mostly out of necessity. He's always been pretty versatile — he can play left, right, even center. We'll see where he's at." Redshirt freshmen Dan Samuelson (6-5, 282) and Greg Froelich (6-2, 266) add depth to the interior, and so does redshirt sophomore Ben Pliska (6-3, 277), Funk noted. Meanwhile, true freshman Juwann Bushell-Beatty (6-5, 295) arrives this summer. "We'll play him on that right side," Funk said. "I watched him in the state title game in New Jersey, and he's lost some weight from then. He's moving better. It's going to be good to have him here at the end of June, and get these other guys in summer school." One thing they'll all have in common — a burning desire to reassert Michigan's fortunes in the ground game, while getting back to the expected anonymity of offensive linemen. This group drew too much negative attention a year ago, and only an enhanced performance makes it go away. ❑ PRESEASON ANALYSIS: OFFENSIVE LINE Starters ✪ ✪ The good news is, Michigan returns a host of performers who earned experience in 2013. The offset to that involves the immense struggles the Wolverines faced in moving the ball on the ground, pass protecting at times and avoiding negative-yardage plays. The starters will be young, with great room for growth and potential, but will start out in an all too bright spotlight. Depth ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ This roster appears a world away from the eight-man list Brady Hoke inherited in 2011. The Wolverines have recruited depth and talent, but it's not exactly a grizzled crew of veterans. The Wolverines have had to garner experience the hard way, and still boast only one performer with a full year of starting experience. They could feature a much more solid top eight this season, with others continuing to develop and challenge. X-Factor New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier comes directly from Tuscaloosa, Ala., where they've set the standard for rampaging power offenses of late. He might not work miracles in a few months, but his system, combined with the growing experience of Michigan's younger players, could pay off strongly down the road. Overall ✪ ✪ Everything depends so much upon development. Michigan faces its toughest games on the road — at Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State — where communication will be both crucial and difficult. Sophomore-eligible players such as Erik Magnuson, Kyle Bosch, Kyle Kalis and Ben Braden should be ready to make a move forward, but how forcefully and how soon? They also need to form a cohesive unit within a new offensive scheme, one they've embraced but certainly not mastered. This assessment should only go up over the course of the season, but this is an unproven crew that lost its best two performers from a year ago. Note: Star rankings are made on a scale of 1-5 stars. Redshirt sophomore Ben Braden could be ready to break into the lineup this fall at right tackle, after getting a cast removed from his broken hand. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL 126-132.OLs.indd 130 6/19/14 3:16 PM

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