There is no hiding that Michigan hasn’t been able to run the ball like they used to during the Lloyd Carr era. In Jim Harbaugh’s first two seasons, the Wolverines’ run game has been rather inconsistent. Sure, multiple running backs and receivers combined to rush for over 2,000 yards in 2016, but the maize and blue still seemed to have problems with multiple teams.
Michigan struggled running the ball in their most crucial games last season. They specifically had trouble against Iowa, Ohio State, and Wisconsin. The Wolverines ran the ball 44 times against Wisconsin, only resulting in 130 rushing yards. In their first true road game of the season, Michigan only recorded 98 rushing yards against a 5-4 Iowa team. In their worst loss of the season on the road at Ohio State, Michigan only compiled 91 rushing yards on 43 attempts.
It seemed like the reason that Michigan had problems in all of these games was because their offensive line was over matched. Three starting offensive linemen departed after last season and will need to be replaced. Can Michigan’s inconsistent line improve in 2017 after losing three starters?
The primary returning man on the offensive line is Mason Cole. He’s played center and left tackle very efficiently, and is ranked highly as an NFL prospect. Look for Cole to secure the starting center spot come fall.
The main question marks are at the tackle spots. Grant Newsome looked very good at left tackle last season before suffering a very serious knee injury. Newsome is still recovering and is very unlikely to be ready to play in September. This leaves both tackle spots open for competition between Chuck Filiaga, Juwann Bushell-Beatty, and Jon Runyan Jr. I’m going to say that Bushell-Beatty and Runyan will get the two tackle spots over the true freshman.
The guard spots are less of a question mark than the tackles, but are still up for competition. Ben Bredeson started as a true freshman last year and actually did a pretty decent job at right guard. Another guard that turned heads in the spring is Michael Onwenu. Onwenu came to Ann Arbor weighing 380 pounds, but has shed 20 of that. The redshirt freshman is now a lot more nimble and looking really good at the guard spot. Look for those two to be the starting guards on Sept 2.
The main competition for primary back ups will be between a number of guys. I think the main back ups will be true freshmen Cesar Ruiz and Chuck Filiaga. Ruiz is the No. 1 center recruit in the class of 2017 out of the football factory high school, IMG Academy. If he doesn’t make an impact in 2017, he will definitely replace Mason Cole after he departs for the NFL. Chuck Filiaga is the 14th ranked offensive tackle in the class of 2017. His highlight tapes consist of him pancaking multiple defensive linemen. Look for Ruiz and Filiaga to be the future of Michigan’s offensive line unit. It also wouldn’t be a shocker if Cesar Ruiz was able to start at center, sending Mason Cole else where on the line. Cole played the entire 2015 season at left tackle, where he also excelled.
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