Michigan football spring preview: Even without Jack Miller, offensive line has experience to shine

Devin Gardner Jack Miller Michigan footballBy JERAMY STOVER, Staff Reporter

The offensive line is a pivotal position group to every football team’s success. A bad offensive line can wither away any team’s hopes of moving the ball. For Michigan, that was the case last season. A combination of inexperience and lack of talent kept the Wolverines from driving down the field in many games last year.

Under new head coach Jim Harbaugh, the offensive line will have to be a lot better. Harbaugh likes to use a power run system that is dependent on the big brutes up front creating holes for the running backs to help move the offense.

The Wolverines were going to return all five starters for this season. But with recent news that starting center Jack Miller won’t be returning to the team, Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno now have to reconfigure who will play where. Miller was the veteran leader of the offensive line. He’s not a center that will wow you with his size or strength but is an effective center that communicates greatly with the rest of his linemates and helps bring the offense together.

It might be too early to tell who will replace Miller as the starting center, but we might have a clue as to who that player will be.

“Graham Glasgow has stepped up tremendously,” Michigan junior running back De’Veon Smith told MLive.com Thursday. “And I commend him for stepping into that role.”

Glasgow is familiar with the position, starting nine games at center his sophomore year back in 2013.

But if Glasgow makes the transition to center, that will open up a hole at left guard which is where he started 11 games last year. The top candidate to fill that void would be redshirt junior Erik Magnuson, who has started 13 games for the Wolverines in his career with the majority of them at guard.

With a new head coach leading the football program, no position is necessarily a lock. But if you were to place a safe bet anywhere it would be at left tackle. Mason Cole started all 12 games last season at the critical position. Cole is the first true freshman in Michigan football history to start a season opener on the offensive line. Many analysts praised Cole for his consistency and ability to not take many penalties.

The right tackle position is also one’s to lose. Ben Braden started every game last season at the position and is primed to repeat that feat this season. Braden has put on nine pounds over the off-season now totaling 331 pounds. His role could be increased heavily if Harbaugh decides to start Shane Morris at quarterback. Morris is a left handed thrower which means Braden would be the tackle protecting Morris’ blindside.

Redshirt junior Kyle Kalis is expected to be the starter at right guard. That could change, depending on what happens with the starting center situation. Kalis has started at right guard in 16 games for the Wolverines including the final seven games of last season. Kalis was injured during preseason last year which caused him to miss time early on in the season.

One thing that’ll make Harbaugh’s job much easier is that many of the offensive linemen are versatile. Redshirt sophomore David Dawson has appeared in minimal game time during his tenure at Michigan but has the tools to step in the lineup if called upon. Dawson came to Michigan as a guard but after gaining 10 pounds over the winter, he now has the tools to play tackle if needed.