They'll know when they know, it appears.
That seems to be the philosophy the Michigan offensive coaching staff and players are taking when it comes to finding the right combination of starters on the offensive line. Supposed starting center, or even tackle, Mason Cole said last week that the Wolverines are trying to find the best five guys to start on the offensive line. Needing to replace both tackle positions and finding capable guards, their work is certainly cut out for them this offseason.
According to co-offensive line coach Greg Frey, every position is under the microscope regardless if a starter is penciled in or not. This spring will be dedicated to competition and the best rising to the top.
"What's beautiful about [Jim] Harbaugh is that every position is challenged and every position is open," Frey said. "We'll find out when it comes to game time who those guys are."
Like Cole, the coaching staff value players that can play multiple positions. Frey is particularly interested in players that he can shuffle on the offensive line as he works to find the appropriate combination to start the season. Frey says that if you're a player looking to make it to the next level, then versatility better be in your repertoire.
"I think it's important when you have players," Frey said. "When you get guys that can do multiple things, it helps. It helps alleviate stress where you can bring players along. You want guys to do multiple things and, as a player, you want versatility going forward when you're trying to chase that NFL career."
While winners of the offensive line position battles are unlikely to be declared this spring, it sets a good benchmark on where they need to be by opening day of the season. As the Wolverines learned last year, nothing ever goes quite to plan and quality depth needs to be established in order to survive the rigors of the Big Ten season.
Frey says that the spring will be dedicated to creating the blueprint for a plan for the position and will be reevaluated again down the line.
"The thing about athletics and the thing about playing is that adversity is going to hit," Frey said. "It's a physical game so injuries are going to happen, so you have to be ready. You're never going to start five guys on the line and one tight end and play the whole year. A thousand snaps in the Big Ten is hard. So your guys have to be ready and we have to have multiple guys ready. Really, what you're trying to do in spring ball, is lay the foundation, the fundamentals, the toughness, the competitiveness. You're seeing how winter conditioning made everyone stronger and faster and you're reevaluating it at the end of spring and then you start a summer plan. You reevaluate after two-a-days and then you start a season plan. You're always planning on how you're building your five o-lineman, your 11 offensive players, the 22 defensive players and 33 special teams players together. It's a constant revolving plan."
U-M also has talented true freshman players either already on campus or joining the team in the fall. When asked if a true freshman could work his way on to the field early, Frey did not seem opposed. Whatever it takes to win.
"In my vote the best players play," Frey said. "Whoever gives us the best chance to win, I'm all for throwing them on the field."