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Saturday, March 24, 2012
Wolverines shuffle O-line

By Chantel Jennings
WolverineNation

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- While much of the focus for the Michigan football team this spring has been placed on the defensive line, where Michigan lost three starters, the offensive line is in just as much of a rebuilding phase.

"You always would like more numbers, offensive line-wise, particularly where we're not that deep at the position," offensive coordinator Al Borges said. "But we've got a couple of kids."

Michigan's Denard Robinson
Left tackle Taylor Lewan returns to lift the Michigan offensive line.
Highlighting the changes on the offensive line is senior Ricky Barnum, who is shifting from left guard to center, taking over for 2011 Rimington Award winner David Molk.

Senior quarterback Denard Robinson said he has been very comfortable with Barnum because the two have been taking snaps together since Robinson's freshman year under former coach Rich Rodriguez.

However, head coach Brady Hoke mentioned a few other names in line for the competition at center, including redshirt freshman Jack Miller, who was considered Molk's backup last season, and redshirt sophomore Joey Burzynski, also a former left guard.

"Because we are under center some and because our center basically quarterbacks the offensive line, he basically puts [the linemen] on the same page," Borges said. "You need a smart guy that's athletic and knows how to use his help. We don't ask our center to single block a nose guard, but he has to know how to make the calls that allow some help for him. ... It's endless what that kid has to do. It's not an easy position to play."

Junior Taylor Lewan, who started all 13 games at left tackle last season and was voted second-team All-Big Ten by the coaches, is expected to continue to protect Robinson's blind slide. The only other returning player on the line who earned significant minutes is senior Patrick Omameh at right guard.

Competing at the left guard spot is senior Elliott Mealer, who has played some there, but has seen most of his time on field goal/PAT protection units.

With the talented offensive line signees in the 2012 class, including four-star recruits Kyle Kalis and Erik Magnuson, the competition will last through the spring and summer. The coaches know one thing: The offensive line, no matter who's on it, will play and practice physically.

"We're always going to err on the side of getting after it a little bit and if we have to pull off, we'll pull off," Borges said. "But Brady and our whole offensive staff, we just believe the game is played with a physical demeanor and we're not going to ever stop that."