Ouimet Evaluates the '04 Wolverine O-line

The main competition for the 2004 Wolverine football team is at two of the offensive line spots: <b>center and right tackle</b>. Former U-M staffer Mark Ouimet has unique insight on this competition -- Ouimet's anaylsis reveals far-reaching ramifications for the whole '04 U-M offense.

Note: there is competition at SEVERAL positions on the Wolverines this year, both on offense and defense. But, unlike most positions, the offensive line starters, once named, usually play the whole game without a regular substitution rotation (O-Line and quarterback are similar in this regard). So the O-Line competition is, right now, the most 'acute' on the team.

Here, first, is Ouimet's depth chart for the O-line.

Right Tackle
77 Jake Long 6-6 331 So./Fr.
76 Mike Kolodziej 6-7 319 Jr./So.
73 Alex Mitchell 6-5 305 Fr./Fr.

Right Guard
67 Matt Lentz 6-6 316 Sr./Jr.
65 Leo Henige 6-4 331 Sr./Jr.
70 Jeremy Ciulla 6-4 275 Fr./Fr.

54 Mark Bihl 6-4 301 Jr./So.
57 Adam Kraus 6-5 291 So./Fr.
68 Pat Sharrow 6-3 287 So./Fr.
63 Derek Bell (walk-on) 6-5 261 Sr./Jr.

Left Guard
75 David Baas 6-5 320 5th/Sr.
64 Grant DeBenedictis 6-4 267 Fr./Fr.
69 David Schoonover (walk-on) 6-3 276 Sr./Jr.

Left Tackle
79 Adam Stenavich 6-5 313 Sr./Jr.
72 Rueben Riley 6-3 311 Jr./So.
74 Brett Gallimore 6-6 302 Fr./Fr.

And here is Ouimet's analysis of the O-line competition, and its ramifications for the 2004 Michigan offense.

"Is there a lot of compeition on the O-line? Really there isn't THAT much -- except for one tackle position, with Long, Riley and Kolodziej competing for it."

As far as the interior line goes:

"At center, at this point Bihl is the starter unless something drastically changes in two-a-days. And no one is going to pass Bass or Lentz at offensive guard. But Henige is the next best at all three positions. Henige will be the first substitute in the game at any interior O-line position, center or guard."

"It's actually better for Bilh to win the center job ... because Henige as the 2nd team guy can backup all three interior spots, whereas Bihl would only be a backup at center. Plus Henige HAS to play OG next year, so it's better not to have him spend a year solely at the center spot."

"The question in people's minds is: why did Henige start at center in the spring game. Maybe Bihl was a little banged up -- but at any rate it created competition for Bihl, and it got Henige reps at center to make sure he is ready there if Bihl goes out with an injury."

At the tackle spots:

"Left tackle is set with Stenavich. Left tackle is the weakside, opposite the tight end. The left tackle is the one who is 'on an island', with no tight end on his outside. Stenavich played left tackle last year and Michigan usually puts its better tackle on the left side."

"As far as right tackle (the 'strongside', the side with the tight end) -- that's where the main competition is. If the first game were today, I believe Long would start. But Riley is coming along. And Klodziej is in there too. It's going to be a heck of a competition at that spot. And that's a position where you're definitely going to see more than one guy play against Miami and maybe San Diego State. But you're not going to see three guys rotate in there. So unfortunately one of the three will get boxed out. It's too bad one of them can't redshirt this year."

"As far as my depth chart at tackle. All three, Long, Riley and Kolodziej, are fighting for one position, right tackle ... but in practice they are not all playing on that side. ONE will be backing up Stenavich at left tackle and taking snaps there. So if Long wins the right tackle spot they would quite possibly have Riley practice at left tackle, which is considered the harder position to learn. Or maybe they'd out Kolodziej there since he's the quicker player ... but one of them will move over to back up Stenavich on the left side."

"And by the way, whether Stenavich ends up at LT or RT depends. If Kolodziej were to win the other spot, they might put Kolo at left tackle because is the quickest of the three guys."

As far as whether Michigan would 'flip flop' the weak and strong side tackle/tight end when Clayton Richard is at quarterback.

"The idea there is that with a right-handed quarterback the 'strongside', the tight end side, would be the right side, which is the direction a right-handed quarterback would naturally roll out to. So the right tackle practices with a tight end next to him, which is quite different than the left tackle who is blocking with no one on his outside, he's 'on an island' so to speak. Under that notion then, it would seem to make sense that if a left handed quarterback were in there (Clayton Richard for example), that the 'right tackle'/tight end would switch over to the left side, making the left side the 'strongside'. Some programs do 'flip-flop' for a left handed QB, some don't. U-M hasn't in the past, and it is not that likely that they would spend the time to practice flip-flopping when the left-hander is a backup, and when one of the tackles is brand new with a lot of other things to learn. However, it the lefty would become the starter that'd be a different story -- then you might want to keep a young right tackle on the strong side no matter what. So I'd say that as long as Clayton Richard is the back-up then they might practice flip-flopping a little in practice but not bother with it in a game. If Richard becomes the starter due to injury ... then that is a different matter."

"And by the way, Michigan will play Clayton Richard a quarter or so in the Miami Ohio game, you can bet on that ... unless it's close. They have to get Clayton some repetitions in the games prior to the Iowa game. But will we see a flip-flop of the strongside and weakside when he comes in -- I doubt it."

"And one more thing. The 2004 season is setting up a lot like the '97 season. And not just on defense because of an AA at the cornerback spot. We are also likely to see a lot of the '97 offense once again this fall. In '04, like '97, Michigan will have a new quarterback (Griese wasn't THAT new, but he hadn't started in a year and wasn't considered 'proven') who hasn't got a rocket for an arm but who has pretty good mobility. And, like in '97, Michigan has two very good tight ends that they'd like to get on the field as much as possible ('97: Jerame Tuman and Mark Campbell; '04: Tyler Ecker and Tim Massaquoi). So, like in '97 I think we'll see a lot of two tight end sets to help protect a new quarterback (you know teams are going to be coming after the Michigan QB this year). And, like in '97, I also think you'll see quite a few plays with bootlegs and roll outs."

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