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August 17, 2004Jon Jansen, Maurice Williams and Tony Pape made names for themselves as Michigan's starting right tackle. They set the standard for all future Wolverines to meet. Now the coveted starting right tackle slot is up for grabs with redshirt sophomore Rueben Riley and redshirt freshman Jake Long next in line.
"There has been a lot of progress from both Jake and I, but as far as I know there has not been a starting assignment handed out yet," said Riley, who many believe has the inside track. "Jake is a monster and I know the coaches like what they see, but they've given both of us a lot of positive feedback."
Riley is considered a more adept run blocker, while many give the edge to Long is pass blocking. The right tackle is traditionally stronger in the running game, but if Long can harness his massive size (6-7, 335 pounds) he has the potential to be a devastatingly forceful run blocker.
"So far the coaches have talked to both of us about our consistency," Riley said. "There's been plays where both of us drive our defenders back - Jake a couple times buries his guy so far into the ground you almost expect a crater - but it's the one of us who shows we can be that dependable guy, not one series, or two series, but every series and every play that is going to get the nod."
Riley describes the competition between the two players as friendly. It wasn't always that way - both tackles desperately want to play - but a summer fire that ravaged Long's house, leaving him in the hospital changed everything.
Riley didn't care about the competition. He didn't care who was going to start and who was going to be the back up. He only cared about his teammate and his friend.
"I think everybody on the team was devastated when we first heard about the fire -- we couldn't believe it was a household full of us," Riley said. "To hear that Jake was in critical condition -- if he wasn't the big guy, the big lungs, the big-winded kind of guy that he is he might not have made it.
"The fire made put the things going on with football -- the competition going on between us -- in a different perspective because my friend was fighting for his life.
"The fact that he's competing with me is wonderful. I want to play, but if Jake starts ahead of me, I can honestly say that I'll be really happy for him. I'll still try to take his job in practice each week, but I'll be rooting for him from the sidelines when he's in the game."