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Michigan Football 2023 Position Preview: Offensive Line

michigan offensive line

Michigan has seen great success on offense the past two seasons. While the Wolverines have some star skill players, most of their success can be attributed to the play of their offensive line. Michigan has become well known for their play in the trenches after back-to-back Joe Moore Award winning offensive lines. Most of that unit is back in 2023 and this offensive line may be the best and deepest yet. Here is what to expect from Michigan’s offensive line this season.

A Third Consecutive Joe Moore Award May Be on the Horizon

Who Is In and Who Is out?

Returners: Zak Zinter, Trevor Keegan, Karsen Barnhart, Trente Jones, Giovanni El-Hadi, Raheem Anderson, Greg Crippen, Reece Atteberry, Tristan Bounds, Jeffrey Persi, Andrew Gentry, Connor Jones, Dominick Giudice, Dan Taraboi, Noah Stewart, James Kavouklis

Key Additions: LaDarius Henderson (Arizona State Transfer), Drake Nugnet (Stanford Transfer), Myles Hinton (Stanford Transfer), Amir Herring, Nathan Efobi, Evan Link

Key Losses: Olu Oluwatimi, Ryan Hayes, Alessandro Lorenzetti (switched to defense)

Michigan returns three of five starters from last season in Zak Zinter, Trevor Keegan, and Trente Jones. Karsen Barnhart also received multiple starts at tackle last season. The Wolverines lost Ryan Hayes and Olu Oluwatimi to the NFL, but bolstered their options to fill those voids through the transfer portal. LaDarius Henderson was considered a crown jewel of a strong transfer class this cycle. He will be in the running for the left tackle job along with Barnhart. Stanford transfers Myles Hinton and Drake Nugent are also in the mix for starting roles. Hinton will likely battle Jones for the right tackle spot. As for Nugent, he is the favorite to start at center, but is in a battle with returner Greg Crippen for the role.

Transfers aside, Michigan also made some notable additions through the high school ranks. Amir Herring, a West Bloomfield (MI) native and early-enrollee, is the top prospect Michigan brought in along the offensive line last cycle. He was a four-year starter in high school and is known for his intangibles. Herring shows strong technique for a high school player and has violent hands in both the run and pass game. He will kick inside at the college level, but he has the intelligence and toughness to succeed at guard or center. Aside from Herring, Michigan brought in tackle Evan Link and guard Nathan Efobi. Link has the combination of size, length, and athleticism that Michigan typically covets. Efobi is another player with Big Ten caliber size and length. He will need some time to develop, but he has a good anchor and flashes good hand usage.

Projected Depth Chart

Starters: LaDarius Henderson (LT), Trevor Keegan (LG), Drake Nugent (C), Zak Zinter (RG), Trente Jones (RT)

Backups: Karsen Barnhart, Giovanni El-Hadi, Greg Crippen, Raheem Anderson, Myles Hinton

Key Contributors: Jeffrey Persi, Tristan Bounds, Andrew Gentry, Reece Atteberry

The collection of talent and depth on Michigan’s offensive line is some of the best in recent memory. The amount of starting caliber players in this room make it difficult to project. Right now, Zinter and Keegan are locked in as starters at guard, but center and both tackle spots are up for grabs. At center, Nugent feels like the favorite given his experience, but Crippen will challenge him for the job. Raheem Anderson is another name to monitor for the starting center spot, but it appears to be a two-man race in preseason camp.

The two tackle spots are both intriguing battles with many names involved. Henderson and Jones get the nod in this projection. Henderson did not early enroll in the spring, but he may be too talented to keep off the field. If there are any setbacks picking up the offense, then Barnhart will be the next man up. After a revolving door at right tackle in 2022, Jones, Barnhart, or Hinton have the ability to start this season. Jones started the first six games before an ankle injury forced him to miss time, which allowed Barnhart to take over the rest of the year. Entering 2023, a healthy Jones should be able to reclaim his job.

Giovanni El-Hadi should find playing time in relief of Keegan and Zinter after seeing a few spot starts last year. Jeffrey Persi, Tristan Bounds, and Reece Atteberry could push for playing time, but they all appear to be another year away from starting roles. Andrew Gentry is another name to keep an eye on. He spent his first two post high school years on a religious mission, but joined the team last season. He should be in the mix for more playing time.

Read more Michigan Football position previews here: Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Tight Ends

Outlook At Offensive Line In 2023

After back-to-back Joe Moore Award-winning seasons, Michigan’s offensive line feels like the favorite to earn the honor once again. This group may be the best yet for offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore. Zinter is one the best guards in college football and the rest of the unit features multiple players that could hear their names called in the 2024 NFL Draft. Time will tell how each position battle plays out, but the starting five will certainly be a talented group.

Michigan has plenty of established and budding stars on offense, but the real strength of the operation is the offensive line. With quality blocking up front, quarterback J.J. McCarthy could be poised for a breakout season. Additionally, running backs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards should form one of the more dynamic rushing attacks in college football. Behind a strong offensive line, Michigan’s offense should help the team reach the College Football Playoff once again. But can this unit help the Wolverines finally break through to the National Championship? That remains to be seen, but it is a good foundation to build upon.

 

michigan offensive line

Photo courtesy: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

 

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