Starting freshmen along the offensive line has been frowned upon in recent years. The practice was still rare a year ago, but LSU started a pair of freshmen in a victory over Florida, while Maryland started a true freshman against Florida State.
"I would venture to say that you don't want to make a living out of starting a bunch of true freshmen on the offensive line," Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley told The Baltimore Sun. "That's the one position where maturity, strength—those things come as you develop within the system.
When Michigan's season opens against Central Michigan, two redshirt freshmen—Ben Braden and Kyle Kalis—may start at guard for the Wolverines.
Braden, a 6'6”, 314-pounder from Rockford (Mich.) HS, is taking the left guard slot vacated by Ricky Barnum and Kalis, a 6'5”, 297-pounder from Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward, takes over right guard from Patrick Omameh.
Both Braden and Kalis came to Michigan as tackles, but the need this season is at guard.
"(Braden’s) a big guy.” Michigan right tackle Michael Schofield told mlive.com. “It’s a new position for him, so there’s some learning problems, but of course that happens. That’s what happened to me when I moved to left guard my sophomore year. He’ll pick it up because he's already becoming a great option."
Kalis, a Scout.com 5-star recruit, decommitted from Ohio State to join the Wolverines as a member of the 2012 recruiting class,
"He just wants to tear your head off," offensive line coach Darrell Funk told annarbor.com. "He plays like that all the time and practices like that all the time, and we need that. You can Xs and Os all you want, and that’s important, but at the end of the day, it starts up front."
Michigan's senior defensive tackle Jibreel Black has seen the youngsters' contributions this spring.
“Braden and Kalis are stepping up pretty well from last year to this year," Black told mlive.com. "They’re pretty athletic for as big as they are, so you’ve got to bring it every time.”