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November 25, 2013
Wolverines switch up offensive line again
It was far from perfect, but the Wolverines had seemingly settled on a starting five along the offensive line before Saturday's 24-21 loss at Iowa.
After redshirt freshman tackle transplant Erik Magnuson earned his first-career start in Michigan's offensive explosion vs. Indiana - and true freshman left guard Kyle Bosch checked into the same game when redshirt junior Joey Burzynski left with an ACL injury - the Wolverines played the same lineup for three games.
Against Michigan State, Nebraska and Northwestern, a stretch during which the Michigan offense surrendered a total of 36 tackles for loss and 19 sacks, the Wolverines started fifth-year senior Taylor Lewan at left tackle, Bosch at left guard, redshirt sophomore at Graham Glasgow at center, Magnuson at right tackle and fifth-year senior Michael Schofield at right tackle.
Against the Hawkeyes, however, the line shuffled things up once again, with redshirt freshman Kyle Kalis stepping back into the starting lineup at right guard and Magnuson flipping to left guard.
It was the fifth different starting five Michigan has used in 11 games this season.
"It's different. It's a little tough to get that chemistry going," Lewan said of switching up the line. "The last couple of weeks, we have played more consistent as an offensive line, making holes, pushing the line of scrimmage, doing those things. These guys are getting so much experience, it's going to work out in the end."
"Well, [Kalis] had earned it," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "It's really no bigger decision than that. He had earned it. He had done a good job in the week. They evaluated him. Thought it would be good for Bosch to take a step back and watch a little bit and keep learning. And I think that's what Kalis did."
With their new-look offensive line, the Wolverines protected redshirt junior quarterback much better, allowing just one sack. But on 57 offensive snaps, Michigan surrendered 11 tackles for loss, the fourth straight game and the fifth game of the season with double-digit tackles for loss.
"It was probably a little better overall," Hoke said. "For Magnuson, playing left tackle, that stance wasn't that big a deal. He has been early in the process and has played almost every position but center at some point. I think it was flawless to be honest with you.
"Mags came in here as a left tackle, and he's been on the left side more. More comfortable for Kalis on the right side? Yes. Magnuson is pretty adaptable and can do both, but he has been a left tackle, so it worked out well."
Last season, the Wolverines started the same offensive line for all 13 games: Lewan at left tackle, Ricky Barnum at left guard, Elliott Mealer at center, Patrick Omameh at right guard, and Schofield at right tackle.
In 2011, Michigan changed things up a little more - but still came nowhere near five lineup changes. In the regular season, the Wolverines used the same offensive line for 10 games and switched in Barnum instead of Schofield at left guard for the Notre Dame and Eastern Michigan games before flipping back. In the Sugar Bowl, Rocko Khoury started at center in place of an injured David Molk, who checked back into the game after the first offensive series.
In 2010, Michigan started three different offensive lines. Essentially, in the last three year, the Wolverines made as many midseason changeups along the line as the Wolverines have in the 2013 season.
"I knew the young guys were going to struggle," Lewan said. "It's just what happens when you're a freshmen or a sophomore and you're starting for the first time. I struggled when I was a freshman. I don't think there was a specific time when I was like, 'Oh my god.' I believe in these guys and I hope they believe in me. They need to know that win or lose, I'm going to believe in these guys no matter what.
"Guys are just getting more experience now. You're going to see it next year. Guys who are getting one, two starts this season, that is so unbelievably helpful, and they don't even understand it yet. They are learning so much, and they have a whole nother spring ball to go through. We're going to be more consistent this week, but in the next few years, this offensive line is going to be more and more consistent, and eventually, we'll have a Big Ten Championship-caliber offensive line."