Dave Reginek/Getty Images
Michigan aims to improve its offensive line in preparation for the 2018 season.

Michigan football mailbag: Making the offensive line a priority

Rachel Lenzi

Have Michigan football questions? We’ve got answers. Join us every Thursday for the Land of 10 Michigan mailbag to talk all things Wolverines. This week, we discuss the potential for the offensive line, where the wide receivers stand entering 2018 and Shea Patterson’s eligibility waiver. 

Do you think we will ever get better offensive line play? — Ryan Waldo, via Facebook

The offensive line has to be a high priority, if not the top priority, for Michigan as it prepares for 2018.

Yes, and that hinges upon two things: One, if Tim Drevno makes it a stronger priority to focus on coaching and grooming the offensive line. Two, if Ed Warinner, who is listed in Michigan’s directory as an offensive analyst, will have the task of giving input on how Michigan develops its offensive line. That could be anything from working with the unit or better preparing it to face opposing defensive lines.

Pass protection and a lack of experience simply hurt the Wolverines — and their quarterbacks. It’s imperative that Michigan’s coaches build upon the experience that younger players such as Stephen Spanellis, Cesar Ruiz, Nolan Ulizio and Michael Onwenu gained in 2017.

The growth of Michigan’s line ultimately hinges upon the development of its players, particularly its interior line. Mason Cole and Patrick Kugler graduate. Left tackle is a question mark with Cole’s departure, and it’s likely the most vital hole Michigan has to fill on its line.

Will Michigan have the best wide receivers group next year? — Gary Anderson, via Facebook

Let’s focus on 2018, and Michigan’s returning wide receivers have the most potential of any position group. Potential means possibilities.

Strictly looking at the wide receivers, Michigan had six freshmen, redshirt freshmen or sophomores catch passes this season: Tarik Black, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nate Schoenle, Nico Collins, Eddie McDoom and Kekoa Crawford. Their statistics certainly weren’t gaudy (818 yards, 2 touchdowns on 68 catches), and there were quite a few drops and near-catches. Oliver Martin didn’t play last year, but he should factor into the fold in his second season at Michigan.

Michigan’s receivers also were bitten by injuries. Black made a seamless transition to the college game, but he broke his left foot three weeks into the season and missed the remainder of the year. He could have made an even stronger impact on the receiving game.

I wouldn’t put them in the category of “best wide receivers group in college football” just yet. I would reserve that for 2019, if we want to look that far ahead on the calendar. Consider that players such as Peoples-Jones and Black would be back for a third season. They are in position to be the foundation of Michigan’s receivers. By that time, Peoples-Jones would have two full seasons of playing time under his belt, and Black a full season, provided both remain healthy.

Will Pep Hamilton be on the staff for spring camp? — Terry Klee, via Facebook

As of now, he’s on staff with the Wolverines, and he’s out recruiting as Michigan makes its final push before National Signing Day on Feb. 7.

Michigan’s lack of production in the passing game and merry-go-round of quarterbacks has made Hamilton a lightning rod of sorts. Hamilton just began his second year with the Wolverines but was the point person in recruiting and landing commitments from quarterbacks Joe Milton and Kevin Doyle, as well as wide receiver Ronnie Bell in the 2018 class.

Hamilton has spent the bulk of his coaching career at the NFL level, and his name was linked earlier this month to a possible opening on Jon Gruden’s staff with the Oakland Raiders.

If there’s a possibility an NFL team scoops up Hamilton, it won’t come before the weekend. NFL teams won’t make any more coaching staff announcements until after the Super Bowl.

How soon will we find out about Shea Patterson? — Daren White, via Twitter (@darenwhite4)

The lawyer for transfer quarterback Shea Patterson said last month a decision on Patterson’s eligibility could be made by mid- to late-February, but CBSSports.com reported this week that an NCAA committee is working on a proposal that would remove a requirement for players to sit out a season after transferring, if they leave a program following a coaching change.

From CBSSports.com:

“An ongoing Division I Transfer Working Group is expected to push forward one or two proposals for legislation by June. The question then would be the effective date — in time for either the 2018 or 2019 football seasons.”

Have a question about Michigan football? Tweet us @Landof10Mich and we’ll try to answer your question in a future mailbag. Check to see if your question already was answered by reading previous Michigan football mailbags here.