Thursday, August 21, 2008

Michigan Preview 2008: Part 4-Offensive Line

Quick note: Terrence Robinson will be out at least for the opener and he’ll be out for a few weeks (small knee injury). And transitioning to offensive line, a HUGE LOSS as Cory Zirbel, starting RG, will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery and be out for a large part of the season if not the entire season. He was a projected starter and this is a huge loss for the O-line that has virtually no depth. Guard Mark Huyge is week-to-week and might be ready for Utah, but its doubtful.

Speaking of the O-line, it is the major question mark on this team other than the quarterback spot. With only one starter returning in Stephen Schilling, and, with Zirbel’s injury, only about 6 other offensive linemen with experience, this unit is inexperienced and absolutely cannot afford any more injuries. Having said that, the starting five, even without Zirbel, could be better than some think. The offense should involve a lot of quick 3-step drops where the quarterbacks get the ball to receivers or backs out in space. That should alleviate the role of the O-line. But there is no getting around an inexperienced O-line at times. At times, the quarterbacks are going to get banged up, the running backs will get stuffed. The offensive can find a way, however, to avoid that by getting the ball outside quickly. Here is the tentative depth chart, if you can call it that. I’m only going to go two deep, and I’ll still be guessing some there.

This is what it’s looking like for Utah, from LT to RT, if Huyge is injured:

Mark Ortmann-Tim McAvoy-David Molk-Dave Moosman-Stephen Schilling

Top back-ups: Perry Dorrestein (tackle or guard), John Ferrara (Guard), Rocko Khoury (Center or guard), Ricky Barnum (Guard), Dann O’Neill (Tackle who isn’t ready)

I think we are screwed with depth at tackle.

If Huyge is ready to go, move Moosman back to center, take Molk out, and insert Huyge as the starter at RG. Rodriguez has said that Ferrara (converted DT who never played O-line even in high school) will have a chance to compete for that starting job as well.

Starters:

#71 Mark Ortmann 6’7” 294 RSJr. Klein, TX (Klein)
Ortmann started two games at right tackle last year (EMU and Purdue). He also played in another four games. In 2006, he played in seven games mostly as a backup LT. So Ortmann has played some. Though he played tight end in high school, he was recruited mostly as a tackle and was a 3 star prospect by rivals. For this offense, one huge factor to note is that he ran a 4.9 40 yard dash in high school, pretty good speed for an O-lineman. I’m sure Lloyd and co. slowed him down, but enter Barwis and he is probably back at that 4.9 level. He is athletic and still weighs in the 290s, which plays right into what the coaching staff wants out of their O-lineman. This system might work out for him, I’m just confused as to why the inexperienced tackle is protecting the blind side while the only experienced guy (Schilling) is on the right. We’ll see.

#62 Tim McAvoy 6’6” 288 RSJr. Bloomington, IL (Bloomington)
McAvoy played in five games last season as a backup guard and made one start at RG (Northwestern). He was injured the remainder of the season (sat out games and then just banged up) so he actually might have started a few more games or at least been a key backup. He also played tight end in high school, but was recruited as a tackle by some, and an interior lineman by others. He was actually pretty highly regarded with Tom Lemming ranking him as the 20th best interior lineman in the country. Rivals gave him 3-stars looking at him as a tackle. SuperPrep Magazine named him an All-American on the O-line, maybe a stretch, but that’s what they thought. McAvoy also ran a 4.9 40 coming out of high school and I expect him to be around there for the same reason I think Ortmann will be running that speed. This system, which values athleticism, could also benefit McAvoy. I would not be surprised if this left side does very well as the season progresses, but that’s hard to project when they have never started. Both do have plenty of playing experience though so it might not be too bad.

#50 David Molk 6’2” 282 RSFr. Lemont, IL (Lemont Township)
Redshirted last year and has no playing experience which is scary since he is the projected starter for Utah. He was very highly regarded out of high school though. Scout.com gave him four stars and ranked him the 3rd best center in the country. Rivals named him the 5th best center in the country and gave him 3 stars. The one thing that concerns me with Molk is his size and strength. Hopefully Barwis has gotten him stronger because I keep picturing him snapping the ball and then a nose tackle getting under him and putting him straight on his back. I really hope I’m wrong and maybe his lack of height will help him get some leverage on guys coming at him. He is supposed to be good if not great at some point, but he was not supposed to start until the injuries and I don’t know if he is quite ready to yet. The coaches have said that there have been virtually no problems snapping the ball though which alleviates one concern.

#60 Dave Moosman 6’5” 292 RSJr. Libertyville, IL (Libertyville)
Moosman played three games last year, and four games two years ago, all as a reserve center. Not much experience, especially at guard. But the coaches have taught him guard especially with the injuries to Zirbel and Huyge, and the fact that Molk only can play center right now. Hopefully Huyge gets back and Moosman can move back to center, but for now he has to be RG. He was highly regarded out of high school. Rivals gave him four-stars projecting him at guard, and naming him the 11th best guard in the country. Tom Lemming ranked him the 7th best interior lineman in the nation. He came out a bit slower running the 40 in 5.2, but hopefully Barwis has worked with him. We will have to see, but I think he will be better at center when Huyge gets back.

#52 Stephen Schilling 6’5” 295 RSSo. Bellevue, WA (Bellevue)
Started 11 games at RT and moved to RG for 2 games when injuries struck the O-line (those two are when Ortmann filled in at RT). While people attack Schilling for getting blown up at times last year, let’s not forget, he was a RS freshman last year. Players improve, and with Barwis and co. I’m sure Schilling will too. He was voted second team freshman All-America by The Sporting News and is obviously the only returning starter on this O-line. He gives the right side more stability on the outside while the RG spot will probably remain questionable throughout the year IMO. Yes, Schilling was rated a five-star by BOTH rivals and scout. He will have to live up to the billing this year in order to keep that right side intact. I really think Schilling will have a great year. I wonder why they are keeping him on the right side though, and not moving him to the left to protect the blindside. Either the coaches have a lot of confidence in Ortmann or Schilling can only play the right. I hope it’s the former.

Backups:

#79 Perry Dorrestein 6’7” 308 RSSo. Plainfield, IL (Plainfield Central)
He played in four games last year as a back up tackle (2 at LT 2 at RT) and that is his experience since he redshirted his first year. He is a Carr regime tackle: big and slow, though I’m sure Barwis has tried to change that. Apparently it took a while for Dorrestein to get on board with the new staff, but he did, and hopefully he slimmed down a little and got a little faster. He will play a lot since he will be the backup for both tackle spots. Hopefully there are no injuries so he does not have to play extended time, but chances are there will be a game in which he will have to play extended minutes. He was a 3-star and the 43rd best tackle in the country three years ago, according to rivals.

#74 John Ferrara 6’4” 274 RSSo. Staten Island, NY (Monsigor Farrell)
His switch really shows how desperate this team is for some depth on the O-line. He has played DT and was going to rotate in there this season. He played tight-end in high school, absolutely no offensive line. He has been on the defensive line since he stepped onto campus. Now, as of earlier this week, he is on the O-line at guard. There is no experience or any other way to guage how he will be at OG. The coaches think he can compete to be a starter right now, which again, is a sign that this offensive line, well, isn’t too great right now. He is athletic and quick for a lineman. And maybe he plays mean? I don’t know, but the coaches see potential in him to start and I have to agree with them because they know more about what they want from O-linemen than anyone else. I count this as a Rodriguez recruit to the O-line so he could be alright. But no experience here, ever.

#63 Rocko Khoury 6’5” 280 Fr. Traverse City, MI (Traverse City West)
Khoury has been impressing the coaching staff at guard and particularly at center. At a press conference last week, Rodriguez specifically mentioned Khoury and Ricky Barnum as freshmen who will be on the two-deep for the O-line. Khoury was mainly recruited as a tackle and was a 3-star prospect by both rivals and scout. He played some D-line in high school and seems to be pretty athletic, which is probably why the coaches like him. He will rotate in there at times, and if Molk struggles at center while Huyge is out, Khoury might get a chance there early. This is really getting scary as we know that the third guy off the bench right now, will be a true freshman. But Khoury will certainly be good down the line, the question is how he will adjust being thrown into the mix right away. There will certainly be some growing pains.

#56 Ricky Barnum 6’2” 265 Fr. Lakeland, FL (Lake Gibson)
He was highly recruited, remember the wizard hat RichRod wore to get him from Florida? Barnum comes in as a four-star by rivals, scout, and ESPN. He was in the ESPN top 150. Scout named him the fourth best guard prospect while rivals named him the fifth best center. He will play guard, at least this year. He played tackle in high school, so perhaps he will get in there as well considering Dorrestein is the only experience backup at tackle, and then O’Neill has been said by many to not be ready yet. Barnum will play, most likely at guard, but if the team avoids injuries, hopefully he won’t get thrown into the fire too much. But he is certainly on the two-deep.

#78 Dann O’Neill 6’7” 295 Fr. Grand Haven, MI (Grand Haven)
O’Neill was the most anticipated offensive lineman in this freshman class with so going as far to say he is the next Jake Long. While I think that’s way too far of a stretch, he should be very good down the road. A four-star prospect by rivals and scout, and ranked 69th in the ESPN Top 150, O’Neill, a tackle, should be great. The only problem is, the coaches, and others I have talked to who have seen practice, say that O’Neill just is not ready yet. He has a great frame, but needs to work a little on his technique and grasping the scheme. Regardless, right now, with the injuries on the line, and the lack of depth at tackle, I think O’Neill will be on the two-deep and see some time. Hopefully he starts to understand the schemes better as the season goes on so he can fill in if needed. In an ideal world though, he would be redshirted. This season is not exactly what you would call ideal though.

Injured Players:

#75 Cory Zirbel 6’5” 292 RSJr. Murray, KY (Murray)
I won’t say much about him because it looks like he could be out for the year and it upsets me to think about injuries on the O-line. But he would have been the starter at RG. He’s played in 21 games in his career including all 13 last year along the offensive line. He was a four-star top-100 player out of high school and his talent and experience was sorely needed and it really sucks that he is injured. Hopefully he responds well to surgery and maybe, just maybe, we can get him back sometime in the second half of the year. Doubtful though.

#72 Mark Huyge 6’6” 292 RSFr. Wyoming, MI (Catholic Central)
He is “week-to-week” and there is still a chance that he is ready for Utah, but I doubt it. He should be back sometime early in the season though. He redshirted last year and has no experience. He was an average guy coming out of high school getting three stars from rivals and two stars from scout. Still, he impressed the coaches enough to initially fill into the starting right guard spot vacated by Zirbel. His return will be huge, regardless of whether he is very good or not, because he is the only guy who the coaches trust enough at guard, that will allow Moosman to move back to center taking young David Molk out of the starting lineup. The sooner he gets back the better. He played hockey and basketball so he must be athletic (hockey? Really?). That’s probably why the coaches like him. He will start at RG at some point during the year, unless Ferrara catches on fast.

Michigan needs to avoid any more injuries at the O-line or this will be a long year filled with watching freshman linemen getting bowled over, blown by, learning on the job, and getting the quarterbacks and running backs pounded. If you are a semi-religious Michigan fan, please pray for the health of these guys all year. I will be. Because if more guys get hurt, this could be that dreaded 4-8 season or even as bad as ND’s 3 win year last year. Hopefully the guys who are hurt return soon and those who are healthy stay healthy. There is enough talent among the starters to form a formidable Big Ten offensive line. There is virtually no depth here and that is scary thing. Please stay healthy O-line, PLEASE.

Current Grade: D+/C- This is not lower because I see talent in the starting five and see Huyge coming back. If he doesn’t or if one more starter gets injured, this is an F or D- though and I’ll be peeking through my fingers every time the offense takes the field. If they stay health though, they can be an average O-line IMO. They certainly won’t be great, and probably not good, but on the average/good borderline. Staying healthy is a tough task for O-lineman though, so we really just have to hope. PLEASE STAY HEALTHY.

Move to the more promising defense tomorrow! Thank God. We’ll start with the D-line.

4 comments:

Jimbo said...

I have just read your entire synopses and its obvious your an arm chair quarterback. You have got to stop making your assumtions by scout.com and other web sites.
Have you ever been in the University Of Michigan weight room? Watch at practice or even spoke to a insider at Michigan football? If you had you would have found out everything you wrote about Dave Molk is WRONG! He is ranked as the strongest all around lineman at Michigan the fastest linemen at Michigan and is respected by the entire team for his effort in the weight room... He is ranked #1 in 5 out the 8 physical tests at Michigan. He is Mike favorite player. One more thing he is very smart and is the best man for center position... I have more to say about some of the statments you have made about other players but I dont have time. I suggest anybody that reads your blog stop!

Rushi said...

Actually the bits of practice I have watched I have seen Molk get pushed over and there must be some reason that the coaches originally had Moosman starting at center and not Molk. I do not have insider access to everything Michigan, not many people do. I agree Molk can be great at Michigan. I'm just saying that right now, he's not the best yet and when Huyge gets back he will probably be taken out of the lineup since he wasn't in it when Huyge was healthy.

-Thanks

Anonymous said...

Looking back? You were way off on Molk! He is here to stay and rock solid

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