It should be stated right here and now in language so plain as day that the hopes and dreams of every Michigan fan…all of them...are pinned on new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. How much can Nuss do in year one to improve the offense and will it be enough to make a substantial impact (i.e. win more games)? That's really the only question that matters now isn't it?
Nowhere is the key to victory more impacted than by the offensive line. Last year's group underachieved for numerous reasons, but mainly poor leadership and (obviously) poor coaching. I mean really, how can a group of guys presumed to be so talented play so bad? Even with the loss of both senior tackles to the NFL, there is still an abundance of bodies, talent and experience that can offer Michigan at least a chance to make up for last year's debacle.
One big thing going in Michigan's favor this year, as we mentioned, is the hiring of Nussmeier as OC. Nuss brings with him to Ann Arbor a much more consistent offense which operates using zone blocking schemes. Existing OL coach Darrell Funk prefers zone blocking schemes as well…which is great now, but had to be at least somewhat frustrating the previous 3 years, no?
Not only do zone blocking schemes simplify things across the board, but it also allows linemen to be able to move better in space rather than having to key in on a rotating smorgasbord of formation/play-specific assignments…which may or may not make sense depending on what the defense is doing.
As far as a possible depth chart goes, I wouldn't know a starting O-lineman at Michigan if he came up to me and introduced himself. Based on what we saw last year and this spring, I think its a long shot for anyone to speculate at a lineup at this point. There are presumed starters such as Kalis, Bosch, and Braden. But true-freshman Mason Cole could be in the mix at left tackle with Magnuson out for the opener. The center spot is a toss up between Jack Miller and Graham Glasgow who's had off-the-field issues of his own this off-season. The simple fact is last year was last year…and even the spring game was last year. Borges is gone and so is his depth chart. The new boss is in town and with him all new rules.
More crucial than who's in what spot for week 1, is will that same body be in that same spot in week 2…week 3…and so on? Michigan must have constancy on the offensive line. Last year, the interior was shuffled constantly, and with expected results. Baring significant injuries, a cohesive unit thats decent will have a better chance to get better together than 6 to 8 guys constantly rotating around week after week.
Assuming all things go smoothly in camp and so on and so forth, can Michigan field a championship caliber OL this season? That answer is probably no just because these things take time. To go from last year's tire fire to a cohesive unit that looks and feels like a proper Michigan OL is at minimum a two year process. But to go from tire fire to serviceable is possible. And thats what Michigan needs to do.
Nussmeier, and Hoke I assume, want Michigan to be a ground and pound type of offense. Big OL, prominent TE, big backs, and pocket QB's with big arms. Sound familiar? Sound like the squad Michigan opened up against in 2012? That's the rallying cry for 2014 and beyond.