Position grades: Offensive line fails to deliver for Michigan
ANN ARBOR -- Taylor Lewan called Michigan's offensive line "embarrassing" after a season-opening loss to Alabama.
Things got only marginally better from there.
The Wolverines' offensive line struggled throughout the season, especially with its run blocking. Things weren't all bad, though, as Lewan emerged as an All-American at left tackle.
A look at how the unit grades out:
Starters: Left tackle Taylor Lewan, left tackle Ricky Barnum, center Elliott Mealer, right guard Patrick Omameh, right tackle Michael Schofield
Reserves: Joey Burzynski
The good: Lewan traded in his potential for stardom, rising from a solid Big Ten offensive tackle into an All-American. While the rest of the line struggled, Lewan dominated, providing consistent protection to the quarterbacks' blind side. He held South Carolina mega-defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to four tackles, the zenith of a spectacular season. Clowney, the nation's preeminent defensive end, called Lewan the best tackle he's ever faced.
The offensive line was decent in pass protection, yielding just 18 sacks all season. That was 31st in the country, and third in the Big Ten, although likely due in part to employing a pair of mobile quarterbacks.
The bad: Michigan lost center David Molk and right tackle Mark Huyge from 2011, and moved left guard Michael Schofield to right tackle. The interior, after Molk and Schofield left it, was never the same.
Michigan coaches lamented much of the season about the offensive line's inability to create holes for the tailbacks. While Denard Robinson was able to make plays for himself, the rest of the tailbacks combined for 72.8 yards per game, worst in the Big Ten.
The tailbacks share the blame for the stalled running game, but coaches and players always came back to the offensive line. They said the line didn't finish blocks well enough, and didn't always play with proper technique.
The overview: Lewan was a bright spot, but offensive line, as much as any position grouping, relies on cohesion and the unit working as one. For as great as Lewan was, the unit itself was Michigan's greatest weakness. That's a major problem, for an outfit that preferred to get its work done on the ground with returning 1,000-yard rushers in Robinson and Fitz Toussaint.
The grade: Players and coaches said the offensive line was bad, and that it was. While pass protection was OK and Lewan was great, the unit completely failed in all of its other responsibilities. D
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