ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Chuck Filiaga believes he’ll be in the Michigan offensive line rotation this season. Whether that means he’ll be starting or coming off the bench, Filiaga isn’t saying. Whether that means he’ll be playing tackle, guard or even center, Filiaga isn’t saying.
The redshirt freshman adeptly kept reporters at bay Saturday when the question of his place on the Wolverines offensive line came up following a camp for high school prospects. Filiaga and other players worked the camp, helping coach position drills and skill competitions.
If Filiaga can block as well as he deflected questions, he should start.
“The offseason’s been great. A lot of improvement for me. Coming off a redshirt, I picked up a lot from grinding,” Filiaga said. “It was a bummer redshirting but if you look at the bright side of it, redshirting helped me improve on the skills I needed improving on — good footwork, pad level for a big dawg like me.”
Filiaga was a U.S. Army All-American as a tackle his senior year at Aledo (Texas) High School. He was one of six U.S. Army All-Americans in Michigan’s 2017 recruiting class. After learning on the practice field last season, Filiaga has a legitimate shot at winning one of the two starting tackle positions.
He’s just not saying so.
Where do you fit into the offensive line?
“Whatever best helps the team.”
Do you think you’ll be in the rotation?
“Oh yeah, definitely.”
Will you be at tackle or guard?
“We’ll have to see. I’ll do my best. Wherever the coach needs me, that’s where I’ll help out.”
After a change of subject, another attempt came his way.
Guard or tackle?
How about center?
Michigan’s offensive line was heavily criticized for its performance last season. Junior left guard Ben Bredeson said during spring practice that the criticism is a driving motivator.
“We weren’t the strongest point on the team last year and we’re definitely very sick of hearing that,” Bredeson said. “We’re done with that.”
Left tackle Mason Cole was drafted in the third round by the Arizona Cardinals. Center Patrick Kugler is now a grad assistant on coach Jim Harbaugh’s staff. The interior lineup of sophomore Cesar Ruiz at center and Bredeson and junior right guard Michael Onwenu is stable but the tackle spots are not. Filiaga, fellow redshirt freshman Andrew Stueber, redshirt junior Jon Runyan and fifth-year senior Juwann Bushell-Beatty rotated at both right and left tackle during spring practice. Freshman Jalen Mayfield will get an opportunity to compete for a job in preseason camp.
Filiaga said the motivation to perform well goes beyond any criticism.
“Every year we’re motivated,” Filiaga said. “Obviously, the national championship is where we want to go and big games like Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State, we all want to win those. So we’re motivated every year to come out, kick ass, take names.”