The composition of Michigan’s offensive line is far from certain heading into the spring, but that ironically has generated an air of excitement inside Schembechler Hall. The reason for that optimism is the encouraging promise the coaching staff saw its young lineman both in practice and in winter conditioning. That sets up for some fierce battles in the coming weeks. One of the most intriguing could be at right tackle where Nolan Ulizio and Stephen Spanellis factor in the equation.
“Nolan is very physical, loves to play hard and play physical,” said Michigan offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Tim Drevno. “He has very quick twitch with his hands. He can put his hands on you very quickly and I just love the way he plays the game because it is all out. He is trying to finish somebody, which is a great mentality to have as an offensive lineman. He likes to be physical at the point of attack and has really, really developed nicely through this winter conditioning.”
“Steve has really changed his body type since he has been here. He is really smart. You ask him a question and he’ll remember something that you told him two months ago. It is pretty cool because I asked a question and Steve was the first person to blurt it out, which is neat. He has really done a good job with his body and has really transformed it. He is moving a lot better and just a transition that sometimes people have to go through from high school to college in terms of the offensive line play.”
Spanellis isn’t the only one experiencing a metamorphosis. Michael Onwenu tipped the scales at over 380 lbs. when he entered his freshman season. Players and coaches alike marveled at how well he moved at that size. That’s why Drevno wasn’t keen on having his star pupil shed the 50-plus pounds some were suggesting was necessary. What Drevno wanted to see was a tune up, and that’s exactly what Onwenu is in the process of doing.
“His game is going well,” said Drevno. “He’s really won in the room and on the field. He is doing a nice job of getting in better physical conditioning. He understands the offensive playbook and he is a big man. You cannot coach ‘big.’ His biggest thing is to get himself in shape to be able to play a full game. He’s doing that. He has really taken big strides in the winter conditioning in the mornings. I expect big things. His maturity level is going up just as you would. His football lens is opening up and his being able to put the week together in terms of managing his time and understanding what is important and what’s not important. You’ve really seen a great growth out of Mike. I’m excited about him.”
Onwenu is one of the favorites to win the guard post vacated by Kyle Kalis. He’ll be pushed by another young lineman that could also factor in at tackle, Jon Runyan Jr.
“I really love Jon. He had a temporary setback last fall, but I love his athleticism. I love his strength with his hands and he can play with some leverage that is very unique. He can come off flat back and keep his cleats in the ground to get lower than the defensive lineman, which is hard to do. Most guys stand up. I see him do some things that (I did when) I coached a young man named David DeCastro at Stanford. (Jon) does things like him. You’re like ‘wow’ because he is a heavy handed, flat back, come off, and he’s got real brute strength. He can grab you and kind of hold onto you. He showed some characteristics and skill set you’re very excited about. I’m excited about Jon. I’m really looking forward to working with him this spring. I expect big things out of him. There are a couple of guys Michael Onwenu, Jon Runyan that are battling it out for that right guard spot. He’s a guy that could start here.”
Stay tuned to the #Michigan Insider for word on Cesar Ruiz’s impressive beginning to his Michigan career and how he is a legitimate factor at center. In the meantime, look at how well Runyan fared in Michigan’s spring combine.