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Posted on Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Michigan football over-under: Will Kyle Kalis be the Wolverines' 1st freshman OL to play since 2006?

By Kyle Meinke

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Kyle Kalis bulldozed defenders during a spectacular high school career, but is he ready to do the same as a freshman at Michigan next year? It's a rare for offensive linemen to play as true freshman, but Kalis could be the exception as the Wolverines search for depth.

Cleveland Plain Dealer

Michigan football coach Brady Hoke often lamented last year his tenuous depth on the offensive line. He once said his eight scholarship players at that position represented the "worst depth I've ever seen at a university."

Now, the Wolverines are replacing two starters and add only one redshirt freshman to the mix in Chris Bryant.

So the question becomes, will Michigan have to burn the redshirt of a true freshman next season to bolster the depth up front? And if so, who will it be?

Kyle Kalis is the most highly regarded player of the incoming class. The five-star prospect from Lakewood, Ohio, already has the size -- he's 6-foot-5, 302 pounds -- and his technique is considered by analysts to be the most "college ready."

Yet, college coaches typically try to redshirt offensive lineman if at all possible, since they typically are outclassed in both physique and technique against veteran defensive lineman. It also is difficult to pick up schemes and assignments.

Michigan Football Over-Under

This is part of a 14-day series featuring 2012 Michigan football-related debate from sports writers Kyle Meinke and Nick Baumgardner.

July 11: Can the Michigan offense maintain its production?

July 12: Can the Michigan defense be as stout in 2012?

July 13: How many wins will Michigan collect away from home?

July 14: Can Denard Robinson reduce his interceptions into single digits?

July 15: How many sacks will Michigan's defensive line muster?

Monday: Will Devin Gardner become a full-time receiver?

Tuesday: How many true freshmen will see the field next season?

Wednesday: Uniforms: How many will Michigan wear in 2012?

Thursday: Will Fitz Toussaint reach his goal of 1,600 rushing yards?

Friday: How many underclassmen will declare early for the NFL Draft?

Saturday: Will Thomas Rawls log more than 50 carries?

Sunday: Will Roy Roundtree pick up where Junior Hemingway left off?

Monday:How many games will freshman OL Kyle Kalis play ?

Tuesday:What will be Brendan Gibbons' longest field goal?

So, will Kalis play?

We'll drop the bar at five games and discuss:

Over-under: Freshman Kyle Kalis plays five games on Michigan's offensive line

Kyle Meinke: Michigan has started only four true freshmen offensive linemen in its modern era, and hasn't played one at all since Justin Boren saw the field in 2006.

And we're talking about not whether Kalis will play, but how much?

Exactly -- and that probably speaks more to the Wolverines' woeful depth than what Kalis could potentially do as a freshman. But that depth could necessitate he plays anyway.

Offensive coordinator Al Borges said earlier this summer he expected to call upon a couple freshmen next season, and said Kalis was one of the leading contenders to see time. From what offensive line coach Darrell Funk told me in the spring, it seems the staff already has found a place for him.

Kalis projects long-term as a tackle, and could still end up there, but Funk said the freshman will begin his career as a guard. Left guard seems to be the natural fit for him, considering the job battle that is currently being waged there is between a fifth-year senior who has played only sparingly -- Elliott Mealer -- and a sophomore walk-on -- Joey Burzynski.

Prediction: Michigan's perilous depth almost certainly will require it to burn a redshirt. Factor in the possibility of injuries, and the fact the Wolverines have walk-ons as backups or starters at both tackles and left guard, and it's not difficult to envision a scenario in which Kalis is called upon for duty.

And if you do burn that redshirt on a player with so much potential, there's no sense in playing him in just a couple games. So, take the over on five.

Nick Baumgardner: This has been the toughest incoming freshman spot for me to peg this offseason. Normally, offensive linemen fresh out of high school aren't ready to take on elite-level college football physically or mentally.

On paper, it looks like Kalis could have both. He's got the size (6-foot-5, 302 pounds) and the pedigree with his father, ex-NFL lineman Todd Kalis.

He may have all the tools, he might not. Either way, if Michigan has to play Kalis more than five games this season, it might not be because he's the best player on the field -- just that he's better than the alternative.

And that might not be an overwhelming positive.

Realistically, the only position he could see action at is guard. Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield have the tackle spots locked up, Ricky Barnum will be the center and Patrick Omameh will anchor one guard spot.

The other? That was a battle in spring ball between Burzynski and Mealer. Massive redshirt freshman Chris Bryant (6-foot-4, 341 pounds) is also expected to compete for time at guard, and it would be foolish to rule out redshirt freshman Graham Glasgow -- two players who both have one year on Kalis.

The true freshman will have to beat out all four of those players, in my opinion, to play more than five games. I don't see Michigan burning his redshirt for a spot-duty role. If he plays, he'll be a starter.

It's big or nothing, in my opinion.

Prediction: We won't really know how ready Kalis is for this until we're into the throws of fall camp. If Hoke and Borges start mentioning him day after day as a surprise player, then my opinion changes. But for now, he wasn't an early enrollee, he's never played a down of college football before and he's playing one of the toughest spots on the field.

I think Michigan tries everything in its power to hang onto his redshirt year and let him develop, with the hopes he'll become an all-conference performer by the time he's through in Ann Arbor. I'll go under.



Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 12:56 a.m.

I think that he plays and moves to 0-1 vs. MSU. "Where's the treat?" - Jaba the Hoke

Terry Star21

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 4:23 p.m.

Bulldozer, Beast and Genius. Who are Kyle Kalis, Ondre Pipkins, Kyle Meinke and will be starting for he Michigan Wolverine football team this year ? Watching video on Kalis, Pipkins and Meinke, reading about them and listening to them is all we have right now. But that's more than enough. Expect Kalis the B10's best freshman OL and most likely the nations best, Pipkin's the B10's best freshman DT and most likely the nations best and Meinke the nations best investigator and reporter to excel on the nations best college football team. 'Over' Kyle, waaaaaay over ! MgoBlueForTiM....Kyle M. needs to have a good talk with Nick and get him on board.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 7:27 p.m.

Kyle and Denard. Two guys who know how to pull a rabbit out of a hat.

Terry Star21

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 4:28 p.m.

Whoops ! How about....starting for 'the' Michigan.....


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 3:10 p.m.

Sure, why not? Put him against Will Gholston. That will teach him a lesson.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 3:01 p.m.

Burn Kalis' red shirt and get him on the field. A couple of guys will likely get injured and Kalis will be needed. Lewan and Schofield will be gone next year so they have to give new guys playing time. They should burn Bars' and Braden's red shirts as well if they need them, and it looks like they can play at all- For 2013 if not for 2012. The situation will begin to right itself by 2014 with Fox, Dawson, Bosh, Kugler and Tillman coming in 2013. With more great recruits following this amazing class of 2013- we'll probably see the reverse by 2015. Guys leaving the program because they can't crack the lineup. Illogical to red shirt any freshman with potential and then have a glut of talented O lineman in 2016.

Terry Star21

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 4:25 p.m.

Yes. Kalis and Pipkins - can't wait ! And hopefully under Hoke's leadership, anyone that may leave the program, do so with dignity !


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 3:31 p.m.

Agreed. Good post.

Paul R Lamse

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 11:56 a.m.

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