|Veterans see strength in O-line competition|
|Written by Matt Pargoff|
One area where Michigan will be making a transition from last season to this fall is along the offensive line, where the Wolverines will be forced to replace two starters. That loss of personnel has prompted the Maize and Blue to shift junior Michael Schofield from guard to tackle and senior Ricky Barnum from guard to center.
At the end of last season, many felt that Rocko Khoury was the likely heir to take over the starting job from David Molk at center, but the Traverse City native decided during the winter months to forego his senior season. With Barnum now the frontrunner to hold down the position, he noted that it has not been a difficult move for him.
“It’s been a good transition. I’ve been having fun playing it. I really like. I enjoy playing there,” explained Barnum. “It’s not difficult making that change, because I’ve been in the offense for a year and it’s the same scheme. It really wasn’t tough at all.
“Spring practice helped me out a lot in terms of recognizing blitzes and the stuff that Coach [Greg] Mattison does. It really has prepared me for the games, and Coach [Darrell] Funk and Al Borges have both helped me a lot as well.”
Senior starting right guard Patrick Omameh reiterated that he has seen good things from Barnum at the new position and does not expect a difficult transition from the shift to center.
“Ricky’s been doing just fine,” said Omameh. “It’s not something that’s a drastic transition. He’s picking it up and everybody else along the line is helping him out with it.”
At the right tackle position, Schofield has taken the lead as the likely replacement for Mark Huyge. The veteran offensive linemen see little problem for him making that move as well.
“Schofield’s a utility guy – he plays every position but center that I’ve seen so far,” stated junior left tackle Taylor Lewan. “He was my guard last year, so I think he’s going to do a great job on the edge. He’s a tall guy and he’s probably a better fit for tackle in my opinion.”
“Mike’s a real versatile guy,” added Omameh. “He played tackle before, so it’s not something that was a huge difference for him as far as what he has to do and what he’s expected to do. He’s doing pretty well there.”
Schofield himself explained that the shift has only been a minor readjustment given his history at the position.
“I played tackle all my life, and I feel really comfortable on the right side especially,” he stated. “When the coaching staff got here, I was originally at tackle and then they moved me to guard. So I already had a clue on what to do at tackle. And then just moving back there this year, I just had to refresh myself.”
With Schofield and Barnum established as the expected starters for the season, only the left guard spot remains in some doubt, with Elliott Mealer, Joey Burzynski, Chris Bryant and others competing for the job. While none of the veterans would commit to predicting who would win the spot, all expressed a positive outlook on the position.
“We have a lot of competition going on at the one guard spot,” stated Barnum. “But we have a lot of competition going on even at my spot and across the whole offensive line. We don’t have any starters right now. We just have guys trying to get better and preparing for Alabama.”
Despite the shuffling along the offensive front, the group as a whole remains confident in their abilities and does not see a major impact caused by the transition of position switches or a new player taking a starting role.“I’d say the changes don’t have much effect,” explained Omameh. “I think most of us are aware of what every other position on the offensive line is doing on each play, which helps create a kind of cohesiveness as it is. So the moving of positions isn’t that huge of a factor for any of us, I would say.”