Michigan's offensive line class ranks No. 1 in country
Turns out, it's No. 1.
The Wolverines' six-man haul was ranked No. 1 by Rivals last week, edging UCLA, Notre Dame, Texas and LSU.
Michigan placed a national-high four linemen among the top 25 in the country, per Rivals: No. 12 Patrick Kugler, No. 14 Kyle Bosch, No. 19 Chris Fox and No. 23 David Dawson. Only four other programs had as many as two.
The quality is good -- but so is the quantity. Michigan hasn't signed six recruits at the position since 2005. It has taken 10 linemen overall in the past two classes.
That should help replenish the position's depth, which had been depleted by small classes and large turnover over the past few years.
"The numbers weren't what you wanted (when we arrived in 2011), and the sheer size and strength weren't what were going to have one day," offensive line coach Darrell Funk said last week. "Obviously, we had two All-Americans in that group, with (David) Molk and Taylor (Lewan), and now Taylor coming back. So you had some real quality kids.
"But we just lack some competition -- some true competition, either because of sheer numbers or guys who were ready to play. There were a couple voided classes and we just had to catch up."
Michigan rarely went to its bench last season, sticking with the same five starters despite the unit's season-long struggles. Depth just wasn't good enough to provide relief.
Now, it has lost left guard Ricky Barnum, center Elliott Mealer and right guard Patrick Omameh to graduation. Funk said it remains unclear who will fill those spots, but he is encouraged by the return of tackles Lewan and Michael Schofield, which will shepherd the youthful interior.
"You have the two senior tackles with Lewan and Michael, and then you got a logjam inside," Funk said. "I honestly couldn't tell ya who are going to be the guys -- and that's a good thing.
"We're going to have a lot of fun, these guys have played a lot of football, and our numbers are going to be healthy in another couple years."
Do not expect to see any of the true freshmen next season, despite the numbers. Michigan hasn't played one since 2006, and none in this crop is expected to break that trend.
Kugler could be the closest to being ready, since he grew up around the game. His father, Sean, was the longtime offensive line coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers before taking the head coaching job at UTEP this offseason.
He's expected to play center at Michigan.
"He has great technique, he's tough, he's physical," Funk said. "When you're around a coach for a father, and there's some kind of coaching every single day, and he worked Steelers' camps, you can't help but pick up on some of those things.
"Patrick's feel for the game, and his maturity, yeah, that's going to help. But he's still going to have to learn our techniques and our system and adjust just like any kid. But yeah, he has a great chance."
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