Time has flown by for Adam Kraus. The 6-6, 295-pounder came to Ann Arbor in 2003 as a heralded tight end out New Orleans Brother Martin. Four years and two positions later the personable youngster is embarking upon his final campaign donning the Maize & Blue.
“It’s weird… it seems like just yesterday I was a freshman being an idiot,” Kraus quipped. “When I first moved to O-line I was clueless. I didn’t know anything from the defenses, to the offensive plays, to the calls. I was just back there wide eyed and in awe. It’s a long process. I can’t believe I’m a fifth year senior about to be done.”
Kraus joins fellow fifth-year man Jake Long as the elder statesman on an offensive line that will feature three new faces. The changeover has many observers pointing to the unit as one of the major question marks on this year’s team. Kraus, however, doesn’t share that concern.
"I think we're going to be just fine,” he said confidently. “With offense it usually takes a few games to get going. That was true last year, and I think it's going to be true this year. I think we're going to be just fine."
The oldest of the fresh new faces is right guard Jeremy Ciulla. The fourth-year junior will play in place of the injured Alex Mitchell. Prior to Mitchell’s injury, Ciulla drew praise from Michigan headman Lloyd Carr for his strong showing during the spring and fall. He appeared to be running neck and neck with his more experienced counterpart. Though not as seasoned as Mitchell, Kraus believes Ciulla’s tenure in the program has him prepared to step in and do the job.
"He's a veteran guy,” Kraus said of Ciulla. “He's a senior, so he's got some experience. It shouldn't be that big of a step up for him since he's been here for so long. I am pretty confident that he will do just fine."
At the center at left tackle spots, Justin Boren and Steve Schilling have excited coaches and teammates alike with their immense talent and potential. That said, Kraus indicated that there is still a learning curve ahead for both.
“I think it’s always tough when you’re coming in and stepping in right away,” said Kraus. “It’s Michigan, and the Big House, and 110,000 people. There’s so much and it comes so fast when you get your first start. It’s a lot thrown at you. You just have to take everything as it comes and learn from every mistake that you make. I think they are going got handle that well. So far they’ve done great.”
The talent that both youngsters possess may make their learning curves a little less steep. Kraus has already witnessed flashes of greatness from each of them.
“Steve's a great player,” Kraus said of the Wolverines’ new right tackle. “He's a young player, but he has tremendous potential. He shows some great things in there. He's really quick and he's got quick feet. I've been really impressed with the way he has played in this fall camp. He’s definitely an athlete. He’ll only get better. I’m really excited to see how he’ll be four years from now.”
Kraus is equally excited by the youngster he lines up next to on every play. Justin Boren made the move from guard to center in the spring… a transition that Kraus is extremely familiar with after have done the very same thing two years ago. Thus far he has been extremely impressed with the progress his young teammate has made in a very short period of time.
"I think that Justin is one of the most mature sophomores that I have ever been around, as far as physically and mentally,” Kraus said. “He's picked up the game pretty quickly. That's evident. And what he did last year, starting two games as a true freshman… I think he's going to be just fine as center. Initially, I think that was a position that people were worried about with the departure of Mark Bihl, but I think he has stepped up and is ready to go. It’s tough, but he has picked it up. I help him out with a lot of the calls inside just because I’ve been around the offense for three years now. He grasped it pretty quickly. I don’t see any problems there. I am ready to play next to him.”
And if the Wolverines should need the old grizzled vet to make the move to center one more time, he is more than ready to do so.
“They’ve never asked me to play, but I know I have to be ready to play if something happens to Justin,” he said. “Henne and I take snaps everyday just in case.”