August 16, 2004
It's all on the line
JASON COOPER /Daily
Michigan has two holes on offensive line and three on the defensive line that need to be filled before the September 4th season opener against Miami (Ohio) at the Big House.
Plugging holes in the trenches key to season's success
By Seth Gordon lines has been overlooked. Despite the
Daily Sports Editor lack of hype, these vacancies present
head coach Lloyd Carr with unique
With much of the attention being obstacles to overcome on both the
paid to newcomers in high-profile offensive and defensive lines. The
positions - most notably junior quar- extent to which Michigan can reload
terback Matt Gutierrez and senior run- in the trenches will help to determine
ning back David Underwood - how whether the Wolverines defend their
the Wolverines will fill holes on the Big Ten championship and contend for
a national title.
Michigan has experience on the
offensive line with three returning
starters but must find a new center and
right tackle, as All-Big Ten performer
Dave Pearson and second team All-
American Tony Pape have moved on
to the NFL.
Last season, the offensive line was
crucial to the success of an offense
which scored 460 points in 13 games
- second most in school history
behind Fielding Yost's "point-a-min-
ute" squad which racked up 644 points
in 1901. The line opened holes for Doak
Walker Award-winner Chris Perry and
gave John Navarre plenty of time to
distribute the ball to his receivers.
This year's line will feature three
seniors, led by returning All-American
guard David Bass, guard Matt Lentz
and left tackle Adam Stenavich. Their
job this season may be more impor-
tant than last year because the offense
will feature new starters Gutierrez and
Underwood. In order to succeed, the
trio must incorporate new starters and
develop backups - all of whom have
little game experience - into a cohe-
The good news is that there are sev-
eral capable candidates to step in and
perform at both positions.
The battle for the starting center
position has come down to senior Leo
Henige and junior Mark Bihl.
Carr spoke highly of Henige after
spring practices and lauded his efforts
over the summer.
"We worked him with the No. 1
group, and he's a very, very powerful
guy," Carr said. "You know, I think
he's training as hard as he can, and I
don't know how it's going to turn out
but I wouldn't bet against him."
Unlike at center, the competition for
the left tackle spot is wide open, with
several players vying for playing time.
Among the players with the most
buzz is 6-foot-7, 331-pound sophomore
Jake Long, who impressed coaches
this spring by playing through a turf-
"Jake Long is young, but he's huge
and strong," defensive tackle Gabe
Watson said. "As soon as he gets his
hands on you it's hard to get away from
him and hard to get past him. He's
going to be real good."
Senior Dave Schoonover and juniors
Mike Kolodzieg, Ruben Riley and
Mike Barishai all have some experi-
ence on the line, but none of them have
emerged from the pack to take the
starting spot. With so many bodies in I
competition for one starting spot, depth
at tackle will actually be a strength for
"We've got great competition at
the tackle position," Lentz said. "Jake
Long's health is very good. He's going
to be something special. But, we've
got Stenavich, Kolodziej, Riley and
Long, and we've got four guys that are
very competitive. They all have good
mobility, so that's another position in
terms of starting. They will all play a
role, but it is a position at this point that
we've got good depth."
The situation for the front four
is almost opposite of their practice
partners across the line of scrim-
mage. There are clear-cut and talented
replacements for defensive end Larry
Stevens and tackles Grant Bowman
and Norman Heuer, but the glaring
weakness will be depth.
Stepping in for Stevens will be
sophomore LaMarr Woodley, who saw
significant action at the end of last year
after being one of the top recruits in the
nation in 2002. Senior Pat Massey, the
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