ORLANDO, FL – JANUARY 01: Michigan Wolverines and Florida Gators players line up before a snap during the second half of the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl game at Orlando Citrus Bowl on January 1, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
There are many questions facing Michigan football this season, and one of the biggest is how the offensive line will replace three starters.
If you’re looking for a place to turn your attention to in these final weeks of the offseason, there are some really good candidates. The defensive backfield, for example, will be almost completely inexperienced. As will the wide receivers. But let’s not forget the position group that seems to perpetually give Michigan football fits.
The Wolverines were very average on the offensive line last season, despite having a lot of experience to work with. Now, three of the main starters from a year ago are gone, and Michigan has to somehow improve while reloading.
In 2016, Michigan’s offensive line had an adjusted line rate of 102.3, according to Football Outsiders, with 100 being average. (Adjusted line rate is basically a way to measure how good an offensive line is when you take out factors like having a good/bad running back.)
As another example of Michigan not quite having a good enough offensive line, when the Wolverines were facing a 3rd- or 4th-and-2-or-less last season, they converted 70.2 percent of the time, which ranked No. 50 in FBS. That stat should mean a lot more to people who think Michigan needs to be able to pride itself on enforcing its will in the trenches.
The loss of Grant Newsome at left tackle was devastating last season, and the Wolverines will be without him in 2017. His going down led to even more shuffling on an offensive line that was already experiencing shake-ups.
Michigan did use the same starting front in the final seven games, but poor performances against Iowa (2.8 yards per carry), Ohio State (2.1 yards per carry) and Florida State (2.5 yards per carry) told the story of a unit underperforming.
With a little bit of blind hope, here’s what 2017 is going to look like.