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Michigan opens spring practices on Friday in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Putting Michigan’s starting 5 offensive linemen in place for 2018

Rachel Lenzi

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Who are your picks for the starting five on Michigan’s offensive line? — Drew Powell, via Facebook

Here are my pre-spring practices predictions for the five starters on Michigan’s offensive line:

  • Left tackle: Grant Newsome
  • Left guard: Ben Bredeson
  • Center: Cesar Ruiz
  • Right guard: Mike Onwenu
  • Right tackle: Chuck Filiaga

Calvin Anderson announced March 10 that he will transfer to Texas, and I wrote that Michigan has to put its stock in its youth when it comes to its offensive line. That will include Ruiz, who started five games for Michigan at right guard, and Filiaga, a redshirt freshman.

Ruiz has the smarts, the size and the athleticism to start at center, one of the more cerebral positions on the field. At 6-foot-7, 300 pounds, Filiaga has the size, but he is green. He will have to do some on-the-job training if he earns the starting tackle spot.

The tackle positions — how offensive line coach Ed Warinner grooms them, how the starters play and how the younger players such as Ruiz and Onwenu utilize the experience they gained — will be the biggest question mark within Michigan’s lineup.

I expect Newsome to gain medical clearance to resume playing and to return to Michigan’s offensive line as a starter this fall. After undergoing multiple surgeries for a dislocated knee suffered in 2016, he spent last season as a student assistant, and during the offseason he has participated in winter conditioning drills.

On “The Player and the Fan” podcast with Chris Howard and Glenn Higgins last week, Newsome said that while he felt good and while his lengthy rehabilitation process was strenuous, he hasn’t been cleared by doctors yet to resume playing football. That’s simply a matter of time. (The podcast, by the way, is worth a listen.)

If Newsome isn’t available, expect Filiaga to take that spot at left tackle. Either Juwann Bushell-Beatty or Nolan Ulizio would start at right tackle. But both have to make vast improvements between the start of spring practices and the start of fall camp to seriously contend for that spot. Otherwise, Michigan will have a problem on the far right side of the line, one that needs to be rectified before the start of the 2018 season — not during the season.

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