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Posted on Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Loss of David Molk will hurt, but Michigan football team has options at center next year

By Kyle Meinke


The multiple awards that David Molk (50) has won over the past couple weeks is a reminder that Brady Hoke and the Michigan football team must replace a very good player next season.

David Molk still remembers pulling into a local gas station early in his Michigan football career, long before he had become the nation's top college center.

He was an unproven underclassmen, where every player has to start. The expectations for him were high, and the pressure great.

A news team was there, and asked him what he did.

"Oh, well, I play football here," Molk said. "I play center."

"Oh, great tradition of centers here -- I hope you can uphold it," the reporter responded.

“Yeah, me too!” Molk said, acknowledging what lay before him.


Possible replacements for David Molk, Michigan's four-year starting center:

Redshirt junior
6-3, 292
Lakeland, Fla.

Redshirt junior
6-4, 287
Traverse City

6-4, 263
Perrysburg, Ohio

After being named the Big Ten's Offensive Lineman of the Year, winning the Rimington Trophy and being selected an Associated Press first-team All-American, all in the past couple weeks, it's clear he has.

But there was a learning curve.

Now, that'll be someone else's burden.

Molk, a fifth-year senior captain, will lead No. 13 Michigan (10-2) onto the field one last time in a matchup against No. 11 Virginia Tech (11-2) in next month's Sugar Bowl (8:30 p.m. Jan. 3, ESPN).

But after that, the future at center becomes uncertain. Molk's backup on the depth chart is redshirt junior Rocko Khoury, although Molk never left the field with a game in question this year.

Freshman Jack Miller also has been mentioned as a candidate at center and is someone Molk said he took under his wing this year and groomed to be a center (when he wasn't head-butting him).

"Those guys will have a great opportunity," Molk said.

It's also possible that junior Ricky Barnum could slide to center. He technically was the starting left guard this season, although he didn't play in the opener due to a violation of team rules and didn't start in Big Ten play because of ankle injuries.

But Barnum is a talented player, when healthy, and sophomore Michael Schofield was strong in nine starts at left guard. That means sliding Barnum to center and keeping Schofield at left guard could be one way to get the best five linemen in the same lineup.

Molk, though, said that kind of transition can be difficult.

"When you go guard to tackle, they’re similar," Molk said. "But when you go guard or tackle to center, it’s an entirely different position.

"It’s a different footwork, a different stance, there’s a ball between your legs, you have to make calls. There’s an entire mental aspect that isn’t entailed at guard or tackle."

For as talented as Molk is as a player -- NFL scouts say he'll have a role at the next level -- Michigan also will miss his leadership. He's a four-year starter (although he lost most of 2009 to injury) and is an extremely intelligent football player.

He directs the offensive line, a position group that relies on consistency and cohesion more than most.

Molk also has been the only center with whom Denard Robinson has worked since he became the starting quarterback last year. There's a rhythm the two have established that will take time to replicate.

"We’re in the thousands and thousands of reps," Molk said. "That’s hard to make up for in a (short) period of time."

Michigan coach Brady Hoke said during a recent interview in Indianapolis that it would be "unfair" for him to name center candidates until spring ball. But, he did say criteria for the position will be based solely on performance, and "not how young you are, not how inexperienced you are."

"But, I think the plus side of the whole deal is whoever that’s going to be has been in a system, they’ve had Dave as an example of how to play the position and how to mentally prepare, and that’s all you can ask for," Hoke said.

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 11:59 p.m.

Facing facts: (1) Team 132 has needed patchwork and improvisation from the get-go. (2) Brady Hoke, Greg Mattison and Al Borges (along with stellar assistant coaches) have overcome all challenges. So it is that we can have hope that these same coaches will overcome this (common) problem with player turnover (aka, "rotation"). I think we can be excused from having some anxiety: we experienced 3 years where the only forward looks we got showed big problems looming ahead.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 10:28 p.m.

The last time UM was significantly effected by the graduation of one player, it was Charles Woodson. I don't expect the same drop off here, although it will be a significant change. I think we will have enough experience back to survive. I remember the 98' season. We had the best D in the country in 97', and most of our D back. We were ranked in the top5 to start the season, then prompley lost to ND, then literally got it handed to us by Donovan McNabb and Syracuse...pretty much ended our year right there, and it was clear that the D did not know what to do with CW's vacated position.

Lorain Steelmen

Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 9:43 p.m.

Just think.....Molk's replacement gets the challenge of playing his first game against Alabama, in Dallas. Ouccch!


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 1:14 a.m.

True, but my guess is that Alabama, also being a University of some sort, also loses a player or two to graduation from their DL. At least I hope.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 7:07 p.m.

This is a typical normal transition. I've been watching our team since the 50's and we've had a lot of great players since I first started watching them. I remember through the years thinking each time we lost a great player to graduation or the NFL that, oh no, how on earth are we going to replace that great player and still be a good team next year but we always do, it's the nature of college sports. Mich. will be fine and in fact new and great additions to the team will come on board next year, It's the nature of things. Go Blue!

Lorain Steelmen

Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 3:39 p.m.

I've alwasy felt offensive linemen were the 'heart' of any team, and that the center is the 'QB" of that group. Having an All American and Rimington Award winner there, will be 'big shoes' to fill. No matter who takes over. Good luck to David as he moves on with his life, and thank you, for being a true Michigan Man. Now, one more task lies ahead,.............beat Va Tech.

David Vande Bunte

Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 3:01 p.m.

Michigan will be fine. Molk is hardly the first great offensive lineman to play for Michigan, someone will step into his shoes and Michigan will carry on. College teams lose good players to graduation all the time. By it's very nature, College football is transitory. Players come and go. In a few years, we will no doubt have an article detailing the pain involved in replacing whoever replaces Molk, then a few years after that it will be about replacing the guy that replaced the guy that replaced Molk, etc. This is Michigan. Since when has finding Offensive Linemen really been a huge issue?


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 12:01 a.m.

"This is Michigan. Since when has finding Offensive Linemen really been a huge issue?" Have you seen our depth chart at offensive line? It's not pretty. There's a reason Hoke is planning on taking six offensive linemen in this recruiting class. Center, IMO, is like the QB of the offensive line. It's more than just going out there and blocking, it's their job to read the defense, call out assignments for the line, coordinate with the QB and all the little things like that. It's an extremely important role. As previously mentioned, we all saw what happened when Molk got injured against Penn State and was out the rest of the season. When Rocko took over in the middle, it just wasn't the same. The offense couldn't move, he had a lot of problems with bad snaps, and so forth. Jack Miller was recruited by RichRod specifically to play center and after reading about Molk taking him under his wing, it sounds like he'll be the odds on favorite to take over.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 11:35 p.m.

Since when has finding offensive linemen for Michigan been a huge issue? - Well, finding a head coach for Michigan sure turned out to be a monumental task - something none of us would have dreamed possible 4 years ago. ;-) But you're right too: player turnover is a constant phenomenon in college football. So far, it looks like Hoke is up to that challenge as well as all the others he's faced.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

Michigan had another top-tier center named David not too long ago. David Baas switched from guard to center and he did it well. All it takes is some athleticism and some intelligence. As long as Hoke selects the correct player, this transition shouldn't be too difficult. We don't need an all-American at the position next season.. just someone solid and reliable.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 2:50 p.m.

David Molk, a true Michigan Man if there ever was one befitting that somewhat enigmatic title! UM will certainly miss Molk as a player. Maybe Khoury, with his experience, can take over without too much drop-off there. The bigger loss may be Molk as a leader. Hopefully, Taylor Lewan will step up and take over the verbal leadership roll for the O-line even though he won't be a senior next year. He certainly has the attitude and swagger.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 1:41 p.m.

If Molk hadn't been injured in RR's 2nd year, UM could have easily won a couple of more games and with a little momentum, who knows, RR may still be here. The one game (Penn St) I watched from a very good vantage point, Molk was back from an injury and we moved the ball on them like a hot knife through butter on the initial series. The O line was just dominating Penn State's line. He was injured the next series and we never moved the ball well again and lost. Molk was lost for the season. Don't get me wrong, Hoke is the right man for this job, just saying ...

Nice in A2

Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 9:35 p.m.

I agree discgolfgeek .

Blu n Tpa

Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 6:16 p.m.

Wrong, or you would have named whom Michigan would have beaten. DM doesn't play defense and the WCiMFH didn't coach defense, or special teams and everything you hang on one injury shows who unprepared the WCiMFH was to change. He was clueless.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 2:12 p.m.

No doubt that Molk is an important, if not the most important person on our O-Line, but coaches have to deal with injury, transition, and replacements all the time. I don't think Molk's loss hurt as much as the lack of adjustments made in games or during halftimes. You mention that PSU game--at that game, Michigan made absolutely no adjustments while the PSU staff changed up the way they attacked our defense (lack thereof) and the way they lined up against our offense. That's why PSU won. They were better coached and better prepared for 60 minutes. Story repeated multiple times.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 1:20 p.m.

I think having a guy named "Rocko" on your line can only bode well for the future.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 12:27 p.m.

Molk will be missed as a player and a leader. However, in college ball players are constantly coming and going and good teams set themselves apart with the ability to reload. Im confident that whomever Hoke gives the nod to will be able to come in and get the job done. There's a great class of linemen coming in for 2012 and the while depth was a concern this year, it will soon be an area of strength for this team. For now Im hoping to see the seniors sent off with a BCS bowl victory. They have endured a lot over the past few years and deserve to go out on a high note. GO BLUE!