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Posted on Sun, Mar 11, 2012 : 9:26 a.m.

Spring preview: Michigan trying to patch up O-line after loss of David Molk, Mark Huyge

By Kyle Meinke


Michigan offensive linemen David Molk, left, and Mark Huyge, right, celebrate a touchdown with tight end Kevin Koger. The Wolverines will be seeking a replacement for all three players during spring practice.

Melanie Maxwell I

The Michigan football team had lost two of three games as it prepared to face Illinois last year, then was slated to close with a difficult two-game homestretch.

It was the Wolverines' easiest remaining matchup, and a must-win if they were to chase whispers of another collapse. Yet, they came out flat for pregame warmups. They got Molk'd.

"We got in the locker room, and I took the entire offense over to the side and ripped them a new one," center David Molk said in December. "It just needed to happen."

The Wolverines won that game.


This is the third of an eight-part series previewing each of the Michigan football team's position groups heading into the opening of spring camp on March 17.

Day 1: Receivers/tight ends
Day 2: Quarterbacks
Day 3: Offensive line
Day 4: Tailbacks/fullbacks
Day 5: Linebackers
Day 6: Defensive backs
Day 7: Defensive line
Day 8: Specialists

Molk ripped them again before each of the final two regular-season games, and they won those, too, pulling the team out of a funk it couldn't avoid the previous two years.

See, for as much as the Wolverines are going to miss their Rimington Award-winning center for his four years of starting experience and unrivaled play, they are going to miss his presence just as much.

What they lose

It starts with Molk, both because of his stature and his position. He anchored an offensive line that paved the way for two 1,000-yard rushers and the Big Ten's No. 2 ground attack last year. He rarely missed assignments, and had tremendous anticipation. He also was the emotional and vocal leader of the offense.

Michigan also loses right tackle Mark Huyge. He was not a star, but became a solid presence who made few mistakes. He joined Molk as the line's most intelligent players.

What they have back

Junior left tackle Taylor Lewan is the leader of the group, and a possible first-day pick in the NFL Draft before it's all over. He has the size (6-foot-8, 302 pounds) and the tenacity to become one of the country's best tackles and, entering his third year as a starter, could be primed for a breakout season. His only weakness is his discipline, but showed marked improvement there last year.

From there, there is a drop-off in talent. Senior right guard Patrick Omameh, who will be a senior, is entering his third year as a starter but has yet to put it all together. He improved down the stretch last year, but must work on his pulling.

Michael Schofield played admirably in place of oft-injured left guard Ricky Barnum last year, but likely will slide to right tackle next season to replace Huyge. Barnum is back, although his position is uncertain. He might be inserted back at left guard, although it's possible he will to center.

The top reserves will be redshirt freshman Chris Bryant and redshirt senior Elliott Mealer, while true freshman Kyle Kalis could enter the mix, as well.

Spring mission

Identify a center and figure out a way to get the best five guys on the field at once.

The center candidates appear to be senior Rocko Khoury, who struggled in the Sugar Bowl when Molk couldn't start due to injury, but has a good grasp of the playbook; redshirt freshman Jack Miller, who might have the most talent of the bunch but needs to add strength to become the regular; and Barnum, who has never played the position but has ideal size at 6-foot-3, 292 pounds.

Lots of options, and none of them will fill the void left by Molk. Along with repairing the defensive line, this will be of top priority to Michigan brass.

Elsewhere, coach Brady Hoke, offensive coordinator Al Borges and offensive line coach Darrell Funk must find a way to get the best five players on the field. That could mean playing Barnum, who will be a fifth-year senior, at left guard and Schofield at right tackle. Or, it could mean Barnum plays center, if Miller and Khoury are not serviceable there, and a freshman such as Kalis plays guard.

Those appear to be the two most-likely scenarios at this point, but don't expect much more to be known for a while. Those competitions likely will remain open well into fall camp.

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


Luis Esparza

Fri, Mar 16, 2012 : 12:08 a.m.

It is going to be hard to replace Molk and the odd are Michigan will not get the same production from the center position in 2012 like they have the pass couple of seasons from Molk. However, Barnum has the right size, speed and ability to be a very productive starting center for the Wolverines. I also like Jake Miller, but I think he is a year away before being the man at center. The OT's are going to be one of the best in the B1G. Taylor Lewan has the ability to become an All American this season and Michael Schofield should be better or just as good as Mark Huyge was this past season. The only concern is that Michigan cannot afford injury at either tackle position, especially at LT, Lewan's position. Wolverines do not have any experience to replace either tackle. Patrick Omameh is entering his third year as a starter at RG, and as a senior he should develop as the leader of this unit. The LG position is going to be an interesting battle. Michigan has 4 star redshirt senior Elliott Mealer who has been a primary back up his entire Michigan career; 4 star redshirt freshmen Chris Bryant who has the size to be a valuable asset in the power running game Michigan wants to employ. The wild card is 5 star freshmen Kyle Kalis who I project to be a guard once he arrives at Michigan in the fall. If Kalis does not win the LG starting job he will be the back up at both guard positions and both tackle positions. Rocko Khoury is the wild card of all the returning O-linemen, if Khoury wins the starting job at center this allows Barnum to return to LG where he won the starting job last season, and also allows Kalis to possible redshirt if the line does not suffer and key injuries.

Robert Granville

Mon, Mar 12, 2012 : 3:31 p.m.

I simply don't understand all of the concern over the o-line. Yes, Molk was the best center in the NCAA and cannot be adequately replaced next year... so what? Barnum, Khoury or Miller will step up and at least be competent. The slack will be picked up by the best returning tackle in the conference, Taylor Lewan, and Schofield will come into his own as well. Essentially the o-line has one hole and I'm confident that our coaching staff can come up with a worthy solution. The real worry, which more readily lends itself to a panicked ann article, should be the returning d-line. There are no proven starters returning. Craig Roh and Jibreel Black are learning new positions. Its gonna be a bumpy ride unless Pipkins arrives on campus ready to be Mike Martin 2.0.

Matt Patercsak

Mon, Mar 12, 2012 : 3:38 a.m.

<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> I want Chris Bryant to start at left guard, schofield at right tackle. we need more size. Bama outweighs us badly on both sides of the ball


Sun, Mar 11, 2012 : 9:41 p.m.

The Molk legacy should live with Taylor Lewan in terms of leadship. The losses in graduation on the O-Line will be the biggest obsticle. I believe Hoke and staff will work hard to maintain a good O-line. The biggest question is who will take over at center? That position will need all of spring anf fall camps to work that out. In Hoke, I trust.


Sun, Mar 11, 2012 : 7:32 p.m.

When Molk was not under center the last three years, this team struggled, plain and simple. He will be missed, and other guys need to step in and fill that void. The departure of our two best TE's is going to hurt too. However, I agree with Hailmary that the coaching upgrade is going to make up for a lot of these losses. Guys will step up, and we will be a good OLine, although, I still feel a 1-2 start coming with Alabama and @ ND. Hope not, but those are going to be tough games early on.


Sun, Mar 11, 2012 : 7:24 p.m.

I've been a fan of our Wolverines since the early fifties and the one constant I most always found to be true was, if we have solid coaching and recruiting outgoing players are usually effectively replaced. I remember when I first kindled a love for the Wolverines, as QB's and players like Anthoney Carter and Rob Lytle went on to play professional ball I would think, how in gods name are we going to replace those guys but we always did in one fasion or another.......And the beat goes on.

Wally the Wolverine

Sun, Mar 11, 2012 : 5:06 p.m.

heartbreakM, you called it. Our O-line will improve - it better, msu has a lot of experience/talent returning along its D-line. At least we have the benefit of the entire season to improve before going down to columbus. The game that really concerns me is notre dame. We're on the road at an early point in the schedule.

Terry Star21

Sun, Mar 11, 2012 : 4:47 p.m.

I think heartbreakM has some valid points, but this is Michigan (yeah I know) and this is a Brady Hoke led coaching staff. Give credit to Molk, but do you think the great influence that Hoke possess had nothing to do with Molk's inspiration ! Rest assured, the O-line will come on to it's own at some part of this season, and you know a new leader will emerge as it always has, through the Carr era and again continuing with the Hoke-a-mania champions era. MgoBlueForTiM....what's big, maiaze/blue and moves a 'D' like a bulldozer...


Sun, Mar 11, 2012 : 3:16 p.m.

After losses to Iowa and MSU Mr. Borges started letting Denard be Denard. That's why Michigan won all their games after that. It was the addition of Denard running- to the offense- not Mr. Molk 'ripping them a new one&quot; that turned things around.


Sun, Mar 11, 2012 : 6:19 p.m.

I'd say the defense stepping up in the trenches played a HUGE role as well. Though I agree with your assessment of Denard.


Sun, Mar 11, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

This is the part of the team that I am most worried about, in terms of the leadership that Molk and huge Huyge provided. they both blocked well but Molk really got that team to go, as referenced above. It is college football so Michigan will adapt, just as MSU and Ohio will.

Terry Star21

Sun, Mar 11, 2012 : 4:53 p.m.

Michigan succeeds, where msu and ohio fail....E. pluribus unum