Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Taylor Lewan's return gives Michigan's offensive line a big boost, but will it be enough to cover up three other departures?
There is no position group more concerning than the offensive line heading as the Michigan Wolverines begin their preparations for the 2013 campaign.
As much as having a consistent performer at running back is important, most of Michigan's problems in the run game last season stemmed from its struggles along the offensive line, which struggled to replace All-American center David Molk and right tackle Mark Huyge.
The Wolverines did get a big boost last week when All-American left tackle Taylor Lewan announced he will be returning for a fifth season, but Michigan will still need to replace its starting guards and center.
Redshirt freshman and former 5-star prospect Kyle Kalis is the top candidate to fill the vacant left guard spots, while several other underclassmen will be in a drawn out battle for a place in the starting lineup.
Although redshirt sophomore Jack Miller appears to be the leader to take over at center, redshirt freshman Blake Bars has snapped for the Wolverines in practice before and could shift over from guard if he is unable to beat out the other linemen vying to become a starter.
Speaking of right guards, redshirt sophomore Chris Bryant, fourth-year junior Joey Burzynski and Bars will all be competing against one another for the final opening.
Bryant seems to have the edge, but the fractured his tibia last August so there are understandably some concerns about durability.
Burzynski and Bars were both backups last season and both will need to make some strides during the offseason if they hope to be one of the five starters for the 2013 season.
The lone wild card in the battle for spots along the offensive line is redshirt freshman Ben Braden, who sat behind Michael Schofield at right tackle last season. There is a possibility Braden could shift to guard if all of the other competitors fail to impress the coaches.
Overall, Michigan's offensive line will have much more upside than it has since the late '90s, though it may take a bit of time for the group to come together and develop consistency.