The offensive line from Michigan performed admirably in 2023, despite not being as strong as usual.
One thing stood out on the screen if you had watched Michigan football in 2021 or 2022: control of the line of scrimmage. Both sides of the ball have seen their fair share of Wolverines controlling the line of scrimmage, but in recent years, the offensive line has performed like a clinic.
Amidst a flurry of coaching staff shuffles prior to the 2021 season, Sherrone Moore was transferred from tight end to offensive line coach. Although this move was well-reasoned—I was an offensive lineman at Oklahoma once—it went unnoticed at the time. Fans had no idea that this would be the beginning of some of the best offensive line plays in recent memory in college football.
Michigan’s offensive line has dominated college football the past two seasons, taking home the Joe Moore Award in both 2021 and 2022. The group included Trevor Keegan and Zak Zinter, two players from this year’s squad, Olu Oluwatimi, Ryan Hayes, and Andrew Stueber.
We anticipated that Michigan’s offensive line would be exceptionally talented going into the season. Trente Jones and Karsen Barnhart would also be back, along with the previously mentioned Zinter and Keegan. Not to add, Michigan added three transfers: Myles Hinton, LaDarius Henderson, and Drake Nugent.
Since there were more than five deserving candidates, there was some disagreement over who should be the starting five. Michigan’s lineup for the majority of the season included Barnhart, Henderson, Zinter, Nugent, and Keegan, with Jones receiving playing time as an extra tackle in certain packages.
However, things appeared to be a little different than they had been in previous years right away. The unit’s ability to pass protect was clearly superior to its ability to block in the run game.
Early in the season and into the middle parts, it appeared as though the group was having trouble finding consistent openings for Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards to run. Due to this, it looked as though Michigan wouldn’t be able to force its will on the ground as much as it would have liked. However, as the season went on and the line appeared to be clicking more, Michigan was able to win games by relying on the run.
However, J.J. McCarthy, the quarterback, did have an excellent first two-thirds of the season. That was largely due to the offensive line, who constantly kept his pocket clear and enabled him to make spectacular throws. However, once the team faced formidable defensive fronts like Iowa’s and Penn State’s, we did witness the team struggle more with pass protection.
However, Zak Zinter’s injury during the team’s victory over Ohio State was a major setback for the team. Thankfully, Michigan had a solid succession plan in place, moving Trente Jones to right tackle and Karsen Barnhart to right guard. The play that followed proved that the move was effective immediately, and it helped pave the way for Michigan’s successful postseason run.
Even though the offensive line’s 2023 campaign may not have been without its challenges, the group was nevertheless able to compete and played a significant role in the offense’s overall success. Although it’s reasonable to argue that Michigan fans may have become a little spoiled by the team’s recent outstanding offensive line play, even a small divergence from that is still extremely impressive.
After all, this team did win the national championship, and no team can do that without having a strong foundation from the start. Throughout the season, the team demonstrated its talent and depth, and even though Michigan won’t have any starting players in the front in 2024, the future should still be bright with a number of young players who show promise.