One of the trouble spots for Michigan coming into the 2012 season was depth at offensive line. Sure, Taylor Lewan is one of the best blockers (if not the best) in the Big Ten, and overall Michigan has three returning starters in the unit, which is about what any coach would hope for in any given year.
But past the starting five? There lies trouble, and Michigan doesn't need any bad news on that front. What's that? Bad news doesn't care what Michigan needs? Indeed it does not, and with that, Michigan's OL depth has taken a critical hit with an injury on its offensive line.
Michigan freshman linebacker Kaleb Ringer and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Chris Bryant have sustained season-ending injuries, the school announced in a statement.
Ringer underwent season-ending knee surgery and will redshirt the season. Bryant, who redshirted last season, fractured a tibia and is also lost for the year.
Bryant was expected to be a primary backup at guard on the offensive line, a position of tenuous depth for the Wolverines.
If anything, Meinke undersells the depth issue. Patrick Omameh has the right guard position locked down, though he's not exactly an all-Big Ten caliber player. Meanwhile, at left guard, Elliot Mealer is probably going to hold off former walk-on Joey Burzynski for the starting role, though Burzynski earned the spot for the spring game in April.
Michigan also has the crown jewel of its 2012 recruiting class, offensive lineman Kyle Kalis, in the mix at left guard.
But after that...that's about it. Or at least now that's it with Bryant going down with the fractured tibia. Michigan's got enough depth that it's not going to miss Ringer at linebacker, but Bryant's leg injury means the two guys who lose the battle for the starting left guard role are going to have to be ready to go as the primary backups at left and right guard.
And in case you're keeping score at home, that means Kalis is almost certainly burning his redshirt this season, whether Michigan likes it or not. Kalis is one of the best, most game-ready true freshmen to hit the Michigan offensive line in a long time, but there isn't a single position outside of quarterback that's less conducive to immediate playing time than offensive line. So if you have a true freshman getting significant playing time, that means something has gone dreadfully wrong.
But still, we're talking about depth, which is to say we're talking about backups. And it's not out of the realm of plausibility that Michigan keeps its starting five on the line healthy all year.
So it's really not a problem until Michigan has another problem, which is losing Omameh or whoever steps up at LG for any significant amount of time. And even then, it's more of a "taking away the safety net" situation than "falling off the trapeze." But still: You really, really want that safety net.