For those looking for a bit more of an in-depth preview and breakdown of the OL and DL, look no further than this article here, as we take a deep dive into the trenches as Michigan football is days away from kicking off its season against the East Carolina Pirates.
The quarterbacks and wide receivers get all the buzz these days. Take, for example, 247Sports’ Josh Pate predicting Ohio State to win the Big Ten this fall, simply because their wide receivers seem too good to handle (despite Michigan football doing exactly that last fall already).
However, as many around the Michigan program have come to understand, college football games are won and lost in the trenches, and this is often the area that most fans tend to know the least about.
Well, have no fear, because this will be your go-to preview for everything you will want to know about how Michigan matches up with the opposing team up front each week. We will spend a bit of time breaking down any previous Michigan performance (in this case, a slight preview), and then previewing Michigan’s opposition at the OL and DL positions each week.
Michigan football OL Preview
Right now, it is actually a bit uncertain who will take the field in the opener along Michigan’s offensive line. The battles at the offensive tackle position have been quite contested over fall training camp, with some potential surprise players emerging. Right now, it does look like veteran swing tackle Karsen Barnhart is set to get the first crack at the left tackle position. A fifth-year graduate player, Barnhart earned honorable mention status last year in his role stepping into the right tackle spot after Trente Jones went down with an injury. Now bulked up and weighing in at approximately 6-5, 315 pounds, Barnhart seems to have a slight lead over Arizona State transfer LaDarius Henderson for this spot. However, expect to see both get a starting opportunity within the non-conference schedule.
The interior seems more set at the moment, with left guard Trevor Keegan returning for his third season as a starter. The Illinois native has been terrific for the Wolverines the last couple of seasons, with really only some injuries holding him back at times. Keegan is a mauler in the run game, and quite capable as well in pass protection. Look for the First-Team All-Big Ten guard to build off of his terrific 2022 season with another here this fall.
Next to Keegan is center Drake Nugent, a 6-2, 301-pound transfer from Stanford where he earned All-PAC-12 honors last year, despite the overall struggles of the Cardinal program. Nugent has earned some rave reviews for his leadership, work ethic, and athleticism this fall, and looks ready to give Michigan football a very high-caliber replacement for Olu Oluwatimi at center.
Nugent was pushed by Greg Crippen throughout camp, and while Crippen did lose this battle in the end, expect him to see some snaps early on in September, as the Wolverines will likely get plenty of opportunities to rotate some guys in and out, getting experience for younger players later into games.
And of course, returning at right guard is preseason All-American Zak Zinter, arguably the best guard in the nation. Zinter, like Keegan, is an absolute menace for opposing defenses in the run game, demonstrating elite strength and power to uproot defenders and create space for Michigan’s backs to run. Behind Zinter and Keegan, this fall will be Gio El-Hadi and Andrew Gentry, who both project to be the heir apparent at their respective guard spot.
Then at right tackle, another contest is left unsettled, as Trente Jones and Myles Hinton have been going back and forth all fall. Jones won the starting gig out of training camp last fall and was playing some quality football prior to an injury that knocked him out for most of the remaining season. He has been the presumed starter for a while, but there’s some growing buzz around Hinton, and it would not be a surprise if he does end up getting significant chances in the non-conference section of the season for Michigan football.
Hinton is a massive freak of an athlete, coming in at 6-7, 340 pounds, but still quite light on his feet. While Jones has the continuity and experience in Michigan’s offense already, Hinton has more experience overall, starting 16 games at Stanford to Jones’ 8 at Michigan.
The other lingering question for this matchup with ECU is who will take over as Michigan’s interim OL coach for this game, as Sherrone Moore is serving an internally-imposed one-game suspension as a result of CheeseburgerGate. Likely one of Michigan’s two OL analysts, Bret Ingalls or Nick Gilbert, will step into the role for this one game.