Michigan Football will kickoff the 2017 season on September 2 at AT&T Stadium against the Florida Gators. Between now and then we will preview each position group and project the starters. The first edition of the series will focus on a new-look offensive line.
As I’m sure you have heard by now, the Wolverines will be replacing three long-time starters this year. There are a lot of variables for the coaching staff to consider as they search for the five best linemen to fill out the positions. Mason Cole is a surefire starter. The question with Cole is will it be at left tackle or center? Ben Bredeson, who as a true freshman started the final seven games last season at left guard, can also be penciled in as one of the five starters.
Left tackle: Mason Cole will start here or at center, but then again he could play guard, if needed. Look for the fourth year starter to anchor the line at left tackle.
Left guard: Ben Bredeson was a freshman All-American last season and figures to have this position locked down. If he had to, Bredeson could slide out to tackle, but I think the coaches would like to keep him at guard.
Center: This is where things get interesting. Cole played center the last two seasons for the Wolverines and can certainly do it again this season. However, fifth year senior Patrick Kugler has worked his way into the mix here. Also, true freshman Cesar Ruiz has a chance to become one of Michigan’s great centers. Ruiz might not start right away, but don’t be surprised if he is starting by the end of the season.
Right guard: Michael Onwenu is the frontrunner. He has reportedly trimmed down closer to 300 pounds than the 350 he played at last season. However, he will be in an all-out battle with others for this starting position. Redshirt freshman Stephen Spanellis has impressed the coaches and is pushing hard for the chance to start. Also, Jon Runyan Jr., who is in contention for the right tackle gig, could start here, if needed.
Right tackle: This is Michigan’s biggest position of uncertainty. Jon Runyan Jr. started here at the spring game and is one of the main competitors for the job. Juwan Bushell-Beatty has some experience and is competing here. Redshirt freshman Nolan Ulizio along with true freshmen Chick Filiaga and Andrew Stueber will compete here as well.
Are we clear?
The left side of the line is locked down with Cole and Bredeson. Right tackle and right guard will be position battles to keep an eye on throughout fall camp. The good news is that, unlike the last few years, there is a lot of depth across the line. The players might be lacking in experience, but it is a talented bunch. “All these young guys are so gifted,” Mason Cole said at Big Ten Media Day. “Being athletic isn’t something you can really teach. You either have it or not.”
True freshman Cesar Ruiz is a guy who could really shake things up. “Cesar had a nice summer,” Tim Drevno said on Thursday. “He’s a guy that can play outside, could be a center, could be a guard. He’s really understanding what we’re doing.” Ruiz was the top-rated center in last year’s recruiting class, he enrolled at Michigan early and has an elite combination of strength and quickness. He might be too good to keep off the field. Even if he’s not at center, he could slot in at guard or tackle, according to Drevno.
Source: Yard Barker