Michigan Football: 5 Most Important Spring Practice Position Battles
Every year, a new top recruiting class brings more and more depth to the Michigan football roster, and the added depth guarantees a higher level of competition at each position.
With the graduation of 11 senior starters and the influx of several talented youngsters, battles will begin on several fronts when spring practice begins on Saturday, March 16.
The most intriguing positional battle will be at running back, but the starter for the 2013 season won't be decided upon until the fall when incoming freshmen Derrick Green, Deveon Smith and Wyatt Shallman join the fray.
There will be other interesting scraps to watch out for this spring as well, some of which may be decided before the team's annual Spring Game on April 13.
Let's take a look at some of them.
Settling on the center position last spring was no easy task. Michigan was about to replace All-American David Molk who had started 41 games for the Wolverines.
Redshirt freshman Jack Miller was at first thought to have the upper hand, but the coaches saw greater strength in redshirt senior Ricky Barnum. But a few bad snaps in the spring game saw the competition reopened in the fall.
Another redshirt senior Elliott Mealer ended up with the job while Barnum slid over to left guard.
With the center position being of utmost importance, it would be nice to choose a starter this spring.
Miller (6'4, 288 lbs), who has added more than 20 pounds since his arrival at Michigan, should began spring practice the favorite to win the job. His chief competition will come from 6'6", 305-pound walkon Graham Glasgow. The redshirt sophomore impressed the coaches during the practice sessions before the Outback Bowl.
The longshots are redshirt freshman Blake Bars and incoming freshman Patrick Kugler.
Bars probably has a better shot at the wide-open right guard position while Kugler will most likely redshirt, partly because of a shoulder injury suffered late in the 2012.
Projected Starter: Jack Miller
Kyle Kalis became a "Michigan Man" long before he wore the maize and blue for the first time.
The 6'5", 294-pound redshirt freshman was originally an Ohio State commit before flipping over to Michigan as part of the 2012 class. The 5-star offensive lineman made headlines by informing the nation that he wasn't the only Ohioan who would become a Wolverine. "I think you're going to see eight or nine guys from the state of Ohio going over to Michigan this year." he told ESPN.
The recruiting flip stemmed from Ohio State's problems with the "tattoo-gate" incident, which saw the Buckeyes lose nine scholarships over three years in addition to being banned from postseason play in 2012.
After last year's redshirt season, it's now only about playing football for Kalis. The Parade Magazine High School All-American was first projected as a collegiate tackle, but he made the switch over to guard at the 2012 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Kalis will be challenged this spring by redshirt junior Joey Burzynski and redshirt freshman Blake Bars.
Projected Starter: Kyle Kalis
The graduation of 2012 All-Big Ten First Team selection Patrick Omameh leaves an opening at right guard.
Chris Bryant was being groomed as Omameh's replacement, but a fractured tibia forced Bryant to miss all of 2012. A 4-star prospect from Chicago Simeon, Bryant boasts a rare combination of quickness and strength, and he should be able to come back and win the starting position this season.
His competition, however, is just as talented.
Erik Magnuson, Ben Braden, Blake Bars and early enrollee Kyle Bosch all have the ability to jump right into the competition.
Despite being a year younger, Bosch may have the best credentials. Ranked as the nation's No. 3 offensive tackle in the 2013 class by Scout.com, Bosch received offers from 20 different schools, including Alabama, Notre Dame and Stanford.
Projected Starter: Chris Bryant
Weakside Defensive End
Michigan spent all of last season searching for a weakside defensive end. Sophomores Brennen Beyer and Frank Clark, along with freshman Mario Ojemudia, shared the position last year, although each missed time with injuries.
Clark, who had the best stats despite starting only four games, missed the opener because of a home invasion charge which resulted in a one-year probation sentence. Clark finished the season with nine TFLs and two sacks.
Beyer finished the year with 19 tackles, while Ojemudia made 11 stops in a reserve role.
The longshot is is early enrollee Taco Charlton, a 4-star recruit from Pickerington (Ohio) Central.
ESPN's Michael Rothstein claims that Charlton has the best attributes of all three:
"Ojemudia had the speed. Clark had pass rush skills and Beyer was the run stopper," Rothstein reported. "Charlton has the potential to be able to do all three, which would make him a valuable cog in the rotation."
Projected Starter: Frank Clark
The battle between Desmond Morgan and James Ross III can only help both players improve. Morgan is a solid run stopper, who finished the 2012 season third on the team in tackles with 81, including 5.5 TFLs.
Ross III has more range, is more effective in pass coverage and has enough speed from the edge to rush the passer.
Also, don't be surprised if you see redshirt senior Cam Gordon spending more time at the position, or as the fourth linebacker in the 3-4 set.
Projected Starter: Desmond Morgan