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January 20, 2014

Top 10 offensive line recruits of the past 20 years

TheWolverine.com/The Wolverine is beginning its 26th year covering Michigan athletics, and in that time, we've collected profiles of hundreds of U-M's recruits. Today, we begin a look at the best of the best, starting with the 10 best offensive linemen.

Editor's Note: Though The Wolverine began in 1989, position rankings and Top 100s only became prevalent in the mid-90s, thus we are looking at the best over the past 20 years.

  • 6.1 - Jeff Backus - 1996 Classmate Steve Hutchinson was also a hyped prospect, but along the defensive line. Backus was named to the Prep Football Report All-American first team and was regarded as the nation's No. 4 offensive tackle prospect coming out of Norcross, Ga. The 6-6, 270-pounder would go on to start four seasons at left tackle for Michigan, including all 12 games on the Maize and Blue's 1997 national championship team. He was a two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection in his junior and senior years and would spend 12 seasons in the NFL with the Detroit Lions.

  • 6.1 - Jason Brooks - 1997: Though the recruiting services were still a few years away from the star system, Brooks would have been a five-star, having been named the No. 2 guard and the No. 13 overall prospect by the National Recruiting Advisor. The Cleveland native never lived up to that billing, however, running into off-field trouble. He was dismissed from the team in the spring of 1999 before he even took a meaningful snap for the Wolverines. Brooks resurfaced at West Virginia and was a backup guard in 2000. In 2001, he started seven games for a Mountaineers team that went 3-8.

  • 6.1 - Steve Schilling - 2006: Schilling was the first five-star offensive lineman for Michigan in the Rivals.com era as we know it today. Rated the No. 26 player nationally and the No. 2 guard in the country, the Bellevue, Wash., native actually began his U-M career at right tackle (opposite Jake Long) in 2007, though he would start one game at right guard. He remained at tackle in 2008 and then slid over to left guard for the final two seasons of his career. Schilling never earned all-conference honors but he was recognized three times as Michigan's top offensive lineman (Hugh Rader Award).

  • 6.1 - Kyle Kalis - 2012: Kalis displaced Schilling as the highest-ranked OL ever, at No. 22 nationally (though we're going in chronological order), and was ranked a five-star and the No. 4 offensive tackle in the country. After redshirting in 2012, the 6-5, 302-pounder started nine games at right guard for the Maize and Blue this past season. He was benched after six games but reclaimed his job in week 11 at Iowa. Kalis is expected to be one of the anchors for the Wolverines' offensive line in 2014.

  • 6.0 - Maurice Williams - 1997: There was no sure consensus on Williams, who was ranked both as an offensive lineman and a defensive lineman coming out of Detroit Pershing High School. Prep Football Report had Williams the No. 4 offensive tackle, the No. 2 player in the Midwest and the No. 21 player nationally. Williams spent one season on the defensive line as a true freshman in 1997, recording a single tackle, before switching sides of the ball. Punished for an off-field incident, Williams would not start a game in 1999, though he was the regular right tackle. He would make all 12 starts at that position in 2000, helping pave the way for a dominant rushing attack that averaged 215.1 yards per game.

  • 6.0 - Marques Slocum - 2005: He would see the field for Michigan on the defensive side of the ball, but there were plenty that felt his best position was offensive guard - Rivals.com ranked him the No. 1 OG in the country in 2005 and the No. 37 player nationally. Slocum, of course, was one of the most-talked about players to wear the winged helmet that, ironically, barely wore the winged helmet. He did not qualify in 2005, and spent the 2006 calendar year enrolled at U-M but without a scholarship. He finally saw the field in 2007 but was gone a year later.

  • 6.0 - Justin Boren - 2006: Forever branded a traitor for transferring to Ohio State before the 2008 season, Boren was once a celebrated recruit, regarded as the nation's No. 1 center prospect and the No. 64 player nationally by Rivals.com. In 2006, he became the first true freshman to start a game along the offensive line since Dean Dingman did it in 1987. A year later, he was a full-time starter split between left guard and center. He left in the spring of 2008, criticizing Rich Rodriguez on the way out, and would start two seasons for the Buckeyes, beating Michigan both in 2009 and 2010.

  • 6.0 -- Dann O'Neill - 2008: In the Rivals.com era, only six Michigan offensive linemen have earned the 6.0 mark (including 6.1 prospects Kalis and Schilling), and O'Neill was one of them. The Grand Haven, Mich., native was the No. 49 recruit in the country and the No. 10 tackle in 2008. He never played a down at Michigan, but transferred to Western Michigan and enjoyed a solid career with the Broncos, starting 35 games over three seasons. He was named first-team All-Mid-American Conference as a senior.

  • 6.0 - Patrick Kugler - 2013: In Michigan's six-man offensive line haul in 2013, it's easy for any one of them to get lost in the shuffle, but excitement is growing for Kugler. Ranked the No. 6 guard and No. 82 player nationally, the 6-5, 287-pound redshirt freshman is expected to challenge at the center position next fall.

  • 5.9 - Tony Pape - 1999: There were numerous 5.9 recruits to include here (11 to be exact) but we went with Pape because he appeared first chronologically. The Darien, Ill., native was a Prep Football Report All-American, the No. 3 offensive tackle in the country and the No. 50 player nationally. Pape started at left tackle for the Wolverines in 2001, then moved to right tackle for his final two seasons, garnering first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2002 and 2003.

    The point system, 5.7-6.1 was calculated based on the available rankings from the recruiting services at the time, and from the Rivals.com standard that began in 2004.

    Here is a look at the top-ranked offensive lineman in each of the past 19 recruiting classes.

    Top Offensive Lineman
    Jeff Backus
    Jason Brooks
    Joe Denay
    Tony Pape
    David Baas
    Adam Stenavich
    Mike Kolodziej
    Adam Kraus
    Brett Gallimore
    Marques Slocum
    Steve Schilling
    David Molk
    Dann O'Neill
    Taylor Lewan
    Christian Pace
    Chris Bryant
    Kyle Kalis
    Patrick Kugler
    Mason Cole

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