If the season started today, freshman Mason Cole would be Michigan's left tackle Brady Hoke said Thursday while unveiling what the rest of the offensive line would like, including redshirt sophomore Ben Braden at right tackle.
"Ben Braden has really come along this fall," Hoke said. "It's all clicked for him, and that's really exciting.
"[Redshirt junior] Jack Miller has had a really productive fall camp at center. I think the guard position is [redshirt sophomore ] Erik Magnuson has played a lot, and I think he is a guy that we are working more at left, and Mason Cole at left tackle, to be honest with you right now. They'll flip once in awhile.
"[Redshirt freshman] David Dawson will come in, [sophomore] Kyle Bosch. [Redshirt junior] Graham Glasgow will miss for the first game, but he's had a good fall so far."
Hoke further elaborated that Miller would be his starting center today - Glasgow is suspended for the first game stemming from a DUI arrest in the spring - while redshirt sophomore Kyle Kalis would be a factor at right guard when he's healthy. He's suffering from a bad back presently.
"Shouldn't be [long term]," Hoke said of Kalis. "The last two days we've just taken it easy with him. He was having a pretty good camp when we started, and we look to get him back.
"From the point where we were before he got hurt, no question [he'd be in the lineup]."
Bosch started three games a year ago as a true freshman, becoming only the fifth true freshman to start along the offensive line in program history and the first since Justin Boren in 2006. If Cole starts Aug. 30 against Appalachian State, he would be the first true freshman to start a season opener along the line since true freshman eligibility began in 1972.
The 6-5, 292-pounder is a rare breed, no doubt.
"As much as anything, it's the person inside," Hoke said, when asked what made Cole special. "He's smart. He works really hard. He doesn't back down from anything. Or anybody.
"Who knows what will happen. You ask me today? Yeah, he would start. We're not at Aug. 30 yet.
"But he's more ready than most freshmen are."
With an offensive line coming together, Hoke was pleased with the running game in Wednesday's scrimmage.
"Pretty good at times. Really pretty good at times," he said. "Overall we started slow offensively but then I thought they started putting things together.
"I was pleased with the protection because [defensive coordinator] Greg Mattison gave the offensive line some five- and six-man looks.
"I was excited about some of the running game. [Redshirt sophomore] Drake Johnson showed what he's made of, which is a real positive. [Sophomore] Derrick Green had a good day when you look at his numbers. [Sophomore] De'Veon Smith started slower than we'd like but he's such a prideful guy, and a tough guy, it bothered him, so he went out to prove something."
Michigan's first-team and second-team each earned about 55 reps in the midweek scrimmage while the third team received 35. On Saturday, in a scrimmage at The Big House open to the public and media, Hoke said the first two units will likely receive 30-40 reps and the third team will receive 20-25.
"I want us to play well. I want us to handle the environment because for some of those guys, let's revert back to Mason Cole, this will be a different environment," Hoke said, of scrimmaging under the lights in front of a crowd. "We're going to put as much stress on them as we can. The execution, the communication, the physicalness that we play with, that's what we'll be looking for."
In addition to Kalis, junior wide receiver Devin Funchess (unknown injury), sophomore safety Delano Hill (broken jaw), sophomore tight end Jake Butt (recovering from a torn ACL) and freshman wide receiver Drake Harris (hamstring) were held out of the scrimmage.
Harris has not practiced in a week due to his hamstring issues.
"We'd like to have him back obviously," Hoke said. "It's taking probably longer than he wants or we want. He's getting closer to getting back on the field but we have to keep working through it with him. Rehabbing through it."
Hill suffered his broken jaw in summer workouts, and may not be back in time for the opener.
"How much longer? It could be three weeks. It could be two weeks. I can't tell you," Hoke said. "We're happy with where he is right now as far as the recovery and how the surgery went, but we'll see."
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