Michigan freshman Kyle Kalis competing at left guard, staff still not afraid to play rookies
Cleveland Plain Dealer
But the Michigan football offensive line coach knows he doesn't live in a perfect world, and neither do the Wolverines.
Hampered by low numbers up front again this season, Funk -- and Michigan coach Brady Hoke -- have been blunt when speaking about the possibility of freshmen playing right away.
If they can hack it, they'll be in there.
"There used to be a day where you could just love up your young kids, you could redshirt them, they'd be on the scout team for two years and then that third year they're guys you're talking about," Funk said Sunday. "With our low numbers or not, you just don't have that luxury. You've got to push them a little bit that first year and you kind of have to get them in place by their second year to be a viable (player)."
Funk confirmed that freshman offensive lineman Kyle Kalis is in the conversation at left guard early on in camp, but did explain that it's far too early to tell how deep into that discussion he's gotten.
Kalis, a 6-foot-5, 294-pound five-star prospect out of Lakewood, Ohio, is currently running No. 3 on the depth chart behind both Elliott Mealer and Joey Burzynski -- who are currently battling for the top left guard spot.
Funk made no definite promises or predictions for Kalis, but did maintain the company line.
"We're not afraid to play freshmen if they can play," he said. "We had one at San Diego State, coach (Hoke) had one at Ball State, (because) they were better than the other guys.
"But right now, we're just pushing to get those guys (reps) and work them."
Asked earlier this summer if he thought he had a few freshmen on his roster that could see the field Sept. 1 against Alabama, Hoke replied, "we might." He refused to get into further detail, but did caution that working your way into a starting offensive line gig as a rookie is far from simple.
"The toughest thing for any high school kid is protection," he said. "That's the hardest deal. What are the protections? Are you sliding? Are you sliding strong? What's a double-read? Now put the fundamentals in front of that. So, that's the hardest thing."
Physically, Funk says he's been more than pleased with Michigan's 2012 crop of rookie offensive linemen. The Wolverines played with just eight scholarship offensive linemen a year ago, crippling the team's depth up front throughout the campaign.
Michigan issued scholarships to four first-year offensive linemen in the class of 2012: Kalis, Ben Braden (6-foot-6, 308), Blake Bars (6-foot-5, 291) and Erik Magnuson (6-foot-6, 285). They may be young, but they're certainly not small.
"They're all at, or around, the weight (they need to be at)," Funk said. "None of them are 250 that need to get to 300 -- they're all 285, 290. Now, it's about who can control their body weight."
Up front, Michigan seems comfortable relying on penciled in starters Taylor Lewan (left tackle), Ricky Barnum (center), Patrick Omameh (right guard) and Michael Schofield (right tackle). The left guard position is still up for grabs, but so are all the backup roles.
And whether it's a rookie or veteran, Hoke says it's important the team fills those holes.
"Two fronts better play (offensively and defensively)," Hoke said. "I think they will, but we're not near where we need to be with it."