The game of football...real football...is played by men. Large men. Large men with no necks and arms the size of mortal men's legs. Guys who aren't afraid of crashing head first into another large man every 40 seconds for 3 and a half hours a week.
Can you tell I was an offensive lineman?
Like most schools, Michigan has had its share of great linemen. Jake Long, David Baas, Jon Jansen, Steve Hutchinson, Greg Skrepenak, Jumbo Elliot, Kurt Becker, Mark Donahue, Reggie McKenzie, Dan Dierdorf...
...you get the idea.
My point is this: Games are won and lost on the shoulders of the offensive linemen.
The 2009 edition of the Michigan offensive line is oddly much better than most skeptics will say. First of all, every guy from 2008 is back. They are bigger, stronger, faster and better. And not to mention, smarter and more experienced. Not to mention some younger guys that will likely see their way into the starting rotation throughout the season.
A lot of times when a team struggles, it has to do with lack of production from the OL...and that might have been the case last year...at least a little bit. But it was never the lack of blocking or protection that really hurt Michigan in 2008.
The spring game was our first real look into who's going to probably be the starting 5 up front.
Of course so much can and will change between the spring game and September 5th, but this seems like the package that Michigan is going with right now.
It's interesting to note the changes from 08 to 09 in terms of playing weights. Ortmann went from 294 to 284. Schilling went from 295 to 304. McAvoy from 288 to 297. Not huge numbers of course, but noteworthy. Most of the other guys stayed pretty much the same. And, these are roster listed weights...not always the most trustworthy.
The OL is a position where there is usually quite a bit of shake-up early in the season. Any one of those 10 guys probably can play any of those positions...and some already have. I think we had something like 3 guys playing center last year.
Injuries can and will happen. If we just get to Sept. 5th injury free, we'll already be doing much better than we did last year.
Perry Dorrestein, Tim McAvoy and John Ferrara will likely see quite a bit of playing time again this year. One thing that was nice about 2008 being so awful, was that a lot of these guys got great experience. Stephen Schilling was injured last year, actually...so were most of the other starters...so experience is a huge benefit for this group.
Also making their way into the conversation will be freshmen Ricky Barnum, Rocko Khoury and Dan O'neill.
No doubt that 2009 will be that much better due to the further development of the offense and how well the skill players can adapt to the 2nd year of the spread. But one thing that did not change with the new scheme was the importance of consistent OL production. For the first time since I can remember, Michigan brings back it's entire offensive line, intact. Couple that with the experience that the backups gained last season, and Michigan is looking very good up front.