July 17, 2009

Position Preview: Offensive Line

Almost unanimously, Michigan's position coaches agree - the offensive line is the most-improved unit on the team. This fall, U-M returns seven linemen with at least one start in 2008 while a crop of redshirt freshmen are ready to compete for important roles …







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style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(228, 231, 235); text-align: center; font-weight: bold;">LT

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style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(228, 231, 235); text-align: center; font-weight: bold;">C

style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(228, 231, 235); text-align: center; font-weight: bold;">RG

style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(228, 231, 235); text-align: center;">style="font-weight: bold;">RT

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style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(246, 246, 248); text-align: center;">style="font-weight: bold;">Mark Ortmann

5th Sr. • 6-7, 284

style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(246, 246, 248); text-align: center;">style="font-weight: bold;">Steve Schilling

Jr.-R • 6-5, 304

style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(246, 246, 248); text-align: center;">style="font-weight: bold;">David Molk

Soph.-R • 6-2, 283

style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(246, 246, 248); text-align: center;">style="font-weight: bold;">David Moosman

5th Sr. • 6-5, 292

style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(246, 246, 248); text-align: center;">style="font-weight: bold;">Mark Huyge

Soph.-R • 6-6, 291


style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(246, 246, 248); text-align: center;">Perry
Dorrestein

  Jr.-R • 6-7, 310

style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(246, 246, 248); text-align: center;">Ricky
Barnum

Fr.-R • 6-2, 280

style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(246, 246, 248); text-align: center;">Tim
McAvoy

5th Sr. • 6-6, 297

style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(246, 246, 248); text-align: center;">John
Ferrara

Jr.-R • 6-4, 280

style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(246, 246, 248); text-align: center;">Patrick
Omameh

Fr.-R • 6-4, 276



style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(0, 40, 79); text-align: left;">style="color: rgb(255, 204, 0); font-weight: bold;">Post-Spring Depth
Chart: Offensive Line









Overall: So why all the optimism for a unit that at times was downright dreadful in 2008? First, if you review film from week to week and especially from week one to week 12, the line was markedly better in pass protection and in its responsibilities of quickly moving from its first assignment (blocking the defensive linemen) to its second (blocking linebackers and defensive backs).



"You could definitely see we were getting better," redshirt sophomore center David Molk said. "You'd watch the combo-blocks and they were setting up the way they were supposed to by midseason. The way guys were taking angles were crisper, and you could see us improving everything every single week.



"Our steps were more precise, we were quicker off the ball and were breaking away from our first contact and to our second faster."



Molk is one of three Wolverine linemen that started all 12 games last season, along with fifth-year senior right guard David Moosman and redshirt junior left guard Steve Schilling; Schilling started all 12 at right tackle. Fifth-year senior left tackle Mark Ortmann also started 11 games, including nine at his current position while redshirt juniors John Ferrara and Perry Dorrestein, and fifth-year senior Tim McAvoy also started some games last year.



"Regardless of who ends up starting, it's going to be people that have been down that road," line coach Greg Frey said.



Though the seven starters return, there will be plenty of competition from younger players also. Redshirt sophomore Mark Huyge won the starting job at right tackle coming out of the spring while three redshirt freshmen - tackle Patrick Omameh, center Rocko Khoury and guard Ricky Barnum - are rising talents intent on pushing their way to the top of the two-deep this fall.



With so many bodies, so much talent, and now some experience, the line should build on the momentum it started last fall and could develop into one of the Big Ten's upper-tiered units in 2009.



The Playmaker: Stephen Schilling



Though only a junior, Schilling is the ranking senior on the offensive line with 24 career starts. He's never been quite as good as his five-star designation, however, but many feel that will change this fall if he remains at left guard. Schilling made the move from right tackle to the interior position in the spring and proved a more natural fit, dominating especially in his run-block tasks.



Though he practiced at guard and ended the spring atop the depth chart there, Schilling is no guarantee to remain inside, according to his coaches. If Barnum proves too talented to keep off the field, Schilling could move back outside to tackle to put Michigan's five best on the field. That would be a shame because he can fully realize his potential on the interior, but he's willing to play any role asked of him.



"If you told Steve to go play fullback, he'd go play fullback and do it as hard as he could," Frey said. "Those are the kind of kids you want on the team."



The Breakout Performer: David Molk



There are two types of breakout performers: one that have not played before and are ready for their starting gig and the second that have started but have not earned recognition for their efforts yet (largely because they haven't deserved them yet). Put Molk in the latter category.



A short, compact player with arms that put him at a disadvantage, Molk overcomes his physical limitations with a work ethic, perhaps, better than any teammate. He routinely bench presses, power cleans and squats the most weight on the team and leads the linemen in conditioning drills.



It's not Molk's physical determination that has put him in this position, but his mental preparation. The Lemont, Ill., native admits he was overwhelmed by the intricacies of his position a year ago, consistently barking out the wrong adjustments before the snap as he then watched a defensive lineman or blitzing linebacker speed through the gap that shouldn't have been there. By midseason, however, Molk was seeing the field better and the chaotic mess enveloping the line of scrimmage actually calmed down for him.



"By the end of the year, it felt like the defense was moving in slow motion and I could react in the second or two you have," he said.



With his mental approach catching up to his physicality, and with experience flanking him on both sides, Molk expects to take that next step and join the long list of Michigan centers that have earned all-conference honors.



The Understudy: Patrick Omameh



There hasn't been this much hype about a lineman beginning his redshirt freshman campaign since a kid named Jake Long entered the 2004 season. Omameh is one of those rare breeds with so much raw ability and the strengths - a killer work ethic and intelligence - to mold those skills quickly.



However, for all the talk about 2009, Omameh found himself locked in a battle in the spring, another promising young prospect - Huyge - also improving his technique, conditioning and understanding of the position dramatically. That competition, one to watch in the fall, will leave Omameh or Huyge second on the depth chart.



Regardless of how it turns out, though, Omameh has a bright future. The Columbus, Ohio, native will start at some point and will be a standout tackle according to his coaches.



The Impact Freshman: Quinton Washington



We don't expect Washington to do anything but redshirt in 2009 - same goes for classmates Michael Schofield and Taylor Lewan - but he's a talented young man with a determined attitude to improve quickly. Look for him and his freshman brethren to emerge next spring as they compete for vacating starting jobs in 2010.



Brewing Battle: Ortmann vs. Perry Dorrestein



Who will start at left tackle in 2009? Who will start at right tackle or at left guard? Despite the appearance of so many settled positions, there is still much to be determined in the fall. One of the biggies will be at left tackle where Ortmann emerged in the spring the starter but will see competition from Dorrestein, maybe Omameh, Schilling, Barnum and more as the Wolverines look to put their five best on the field.










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