Inexperience and youth are a few of the themes on Michigan's 2008 offensive line. With only one returning starter to a unit that featured the top overall pick in last year's NFL draft, pundits aren't expecting much from this years crew. The same cannot be said, however, of their teammates. The long standing mantra "the expectation is for the position" remains ingrained in the minds of all those donning the Maize and Blue. Because of that, the expectation is that those on this year's line will successfully carry the baton handed to them by their predecessors.
"Well if you look at the guys they were behind… some of them learned from Adam Stenavich, Matt Lentz, Mark Bihl, Jake Long and Adam Kraus," said Michigan sr. TE, Mike Massey. "Those guys were unbelievable. If they learned anything from them, which I think they did, they know what to do and they know what the great expectations are for the position. They've got great chemistry on the offensive line and I think they really bought into the coaching."
That "buying in" process has led to a physical metamorphosis up front that has helped the unit keep up with the frenetic pace set by their new position coach.
"Coach Frey is one of those high intensity and high demanding coaches," Massey said of Michigan's new offensive line guru. "A lot of them lost weight and are quick and leaner than they have ever been in their lives. They're taking their shirts off. Honestly, they are impressive. They all had great spring balls. I think they impressed the coaches a lot. The young guys have a lot of opportunity on the team, especially on offense. They all realize it. That was one of the first things that Coach Rod made sure that they knew. A lot of guys at a lot younger age and a lot earlier in their career are going to have the opportunity to step up this year and prove themselves. They all realize it and they have had great off-seasons."
For those charged with facing this as yet unproven position group, the progress seen amongst the "big uglies" is encouraging.
"A lot of people are counting the offensive line out, but they have trimmed up and they are faster," said senior defensive end Tim Jamison. "They have been pulling their own weight. Of course, you lose someone like Jake that plays a huge part in it. But I feel like our D-line… they were working on them hard every day in practice and it is not going to do anything but make them better. I think Steve Schilling is going to be the leader of the offensive line because he has the most experience starting wise.
According to Jamison Schilling is better now than he ever has been.
"I noticed a huge difference in him speed wise and his ability to use his hands more," Jamison explained. "He is faster now since the spring. I am anxious to see what he is going to do."
While it is clear that Schilling's success is one of the keys to the unit's overall success, so too is the ability of a few of the lesser known players to step up. For his part, Jamison has already identified a few prime candidates.
"Besides Schilling, I would have to say David Moosman," he said. "He is an apostle and he is taking great leadership out there. He was one of the guys that Coach Rodriguez singled out as stepping up. Looking at him last year compared to this year, I see a major improvement of skill and maturity. I expect him to do great things. He is like a hard nose, go after it, and never take a play off guy. (Tim) McAvoy, (Dave) Molk, and Mark Ortmann (too). I am (also) anxious to see what Ricky Barnum can do."
"Why Barnum," Jamison asked, "…because I like to see him run. He looks real athletic. I think he has a great shot of playing early."