Brady Hoke hopes to have Michigan's offensive line settled next week; freshmen working at backup OT
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
And by the end of its third week, head coach Brady Hoke hopes to have that hole plugged.
Hoke says he'd like to have all his starting offensive line spots settled 10 days before the Wolverines' season-opener against Alabama. Meaning, by next Wednesday, Michigan hopes to have a unified front five.
"Probably 10 days before the first game," Hoke said. "I think (having) some continuity that we try to build consistently is part of (the reason why)."
Michigan does have four returning starters on the offensive line, but will feature familiar faces in new places.
Left tackle Taylor Lewan and right guard Patrick Omameh are expected to resume their 2011 starting positions. From there, former guard Michael Schofield is expected to move out to right tackle to replace the graduated Mark Huyge while ex-guard Ricky Barnum will take David Molk's spot at center.
The lone remaining position battle is at left guard, where fifth-year senior Elliott Mealer, sophomore walk-on Joey Burzynski and true freshman Kyle Kalis are competing for time.
With Michigan set to take part in a full-scale scrimmage on Saturday, Hoke says he expects to have a few answers from the left guard spot soon.
"What we'll do is take a big part of a scrimmage practice situation and keep one guy there," Hoke said. "So that there's a comfort level between the left tackle and the center. (Although) Taylor can basically play with anybody because of his experience, and he knows what to do."
While Michigan still needs to figure out which five offensive linemen will take the field first against Alabama, it also needs to lock in the rest of its depth chart up front.
Last season, Schofield served as Michigan's main utility man up front -- possessing the ability to play both guard and tackle. With him now moving into a starting role, the need for competent No. 2 players amps up considerably -- especially at tackle.
Presently, Hoke said true freshmen Ben Braden and Erik Magnuson have joined junior Erik Gunderson as three players who have taken snaps at tackle.
Asked how many freshmen he expects to have inside his two-deep on the offensive line, Hoke said three, maybe four.
But, again, he maintains that he's not afraid to play the youngsters -- so long as they're ready.
"All those guys (have taken snaps)," Hoke said. "But I don't know if I'd identify who (has locked down a reserve spot) yet, to be honest with you.
"That's always (a concern), but those guys have to grow up fast. All of them are smart guys and they're coachable. So they'll be Ok."