2016 Michigan Spring Football Preview: Offensive Line

Days away from packing up the trucks and heading down to Florida, Michigan football is ready to officially kick off spring ball. And though they’re returning four of the five starters on the offensive line, it is, like most, a position that could see a couple big changes this offseason.

Overview

The offensive line was a work in progress for OC/OL coach Tim Drevno. He was left with several talented but inconsistent lineman that were still in need of technical coaching. For the most part, they held strong through 2015 but have plenty of room for growth which is why there could/should be a youth movement this spring.

Junior Mason Cole is the most consistent starter returning but, according to Jim Harbaugh, will be moving from left tackle to the center position to replace Graham Glasgow. As for Cole’s replacement, that is expected to be sophomore Grant Newsome who saw spot time as a 6th lineman last fall.

Besides those two spots, the remaining positions could go to returning starters LG Ben Braden, RG Kyle Kalis and RT Erik Magnuson though I wouldn’t be shocked to see a shakeup. Braden and Magnuson solid for the most part in 2015 while Kalis struggled more than anyone else. Could Mags make a move to guard and the staff look for a new right tackle? I wouldn’t rule it out as the staff will look to put the five best offensive lineman on the field at a time and David Dawson, Patrick Kugler or any of the underclassman (including true freshmen) could be one of those five.

Pre-Spring Expected Depth Chart

-Not enrolled yet

Left Tackle

  1. #77 Grant Newsome, SO
  2. #52 Mason Cole, JR 
  3. #62 Blake Bars, 5th
  4. #70 Nolan Ulizio, SO*
  5. Ben Bredeson, FR

Left Guard

  1. #71 Ben Braden, 5th
  2. #55 David Dawson, SR* 
  3. #75 Jon Runyan Jr, SO*
  4. Ben Bredeson, FR
  5. Michael Onwenu, FR

Center

  1. #52 Mason Cole, JR 
  2. #57 Patrick Kugler, SR* 
  3. #62 Blake Bars, 5th

Right Guard

  1. #67 Kyle Kalis, 5th
  2. #76 Juwann Bushell-Beatty, JR* 
  3. #70 Nolan Ulizio, SO*
  4. Michael Onwenu, FR
  5. Stephen Spanellis, FR

Right Tackle

  1. #78 Erik Magnuson, 5th
  2. #71 Ben Braden, 5th 
  3. #76 Juwann Bushell-Beatty, JR* 
  4. #75 Jon Runyan Jr, SO*
  5. Stephen Spanellis, FR

Name to Watch Closest

Cole. The center position is extremely important and replacing a talent like Glasgow doesn’t make it any easier. However, Cole is the most talented lineman on the roster and has seen time at the position in previous practices. If he can solidify the spot, it will impact every other position.

Don’t Forget About Us 

Dawson and Kugler. Both of these now seniors were top flight recruits and came in with high expectations. However, log jams at the guard position have kept Dawson from seeing more than garbage time/spot duty while injuries have thrown off Kugler’s career to this point. But this could be their year. Both are expected to be healthy this spring and could really impact the line in the fall.

If Kugler can stay healthy and show he’s the best option at center, the staff can move Cole to right tackle or whichever position is in the biggest need. As for Dawson, he has the talent but just needs to put it all together. If that happens, I believe he could end up starting at one of the guard positions this fall.

Breakout Prediction

Newsome. After seeing time during his true freshmen season as a 6th lineman on heavy sets, Newsome is now expected to take over at left tackle. He flashed signs of promise and, according to multiple reports, is expected to protect the blindside this fall for Michigan (barring any unforeseen changes). If the reports are true and the staff is that high on him, this spring/summer could be his coming out party.

Other Spring Positional Previews

Who do you believe will leave spring ball as the starting line? 2nd team? Breakout candidates? Add your predictions in the comment section below! 

Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports