Monday, June 3, 2013

2013 Season Countdown: #87 Patrick Kugler

Patrick Kugler
Name: Patrick Kugler
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 270 lbs.
High school: Wexford (PA) North Allegheny
Position: Center
Class: Freshman
Jersey number: N/A
Last year: Kugler was a senior in high school. I gave him a TTB Rating of 86.

The son of an NFL offensive line coach (who has since been hired as UTEP's head coach), Kugler committed to Michigan in February 2012.  His high school team went on to an undefeated season and a Pennsylvania state championship, while Kugler himself was selected for the Under Armour All-America Game, where he won the starting center job.

Kugler is perhaps the most college ready center to come to Michigan in the last 20 years, partly due to good size and partly due to his bloodlines and technique.  However, I'm not sure that I've ever seen a true freshman center in major college football, since that position typically requires the experience and intelligence to call protections.  The Wolverines have a couple options who are older and a little bigger, though perhaps not as talented in the long run.  I expect Kugler to spend this season on the bench.

Prediction: Redshirt


  1. If he pans out to be a good center when do you think we can see him start? With Jack Miller being only a redshirted sophomore and might hold on to the job for 3 years. That means it wouldn't be until 2016 until the job is open will Kugler hold on that long? Or could he unseat Miller as early as next year?

    1. It's tough to say how quickly he can unseat Miller until we've really seen Miller play. Keep in mind, though, that both Lewan and Schofield will graduate after this season, and there's a good chance that one or both of Kyle Kalis and Ben Braden could bump out to play tackle in 2014. That could create room for both Kugler and Miller to play on the interior. There's going to be good competition at each spot, but we could potentially see a starting lineup of these guys in 2014:

      LT - Braden
      LG - Kugler
      C - Miller
      RG - Bryant
      RT - Kalis

      I'm not saying I expect that to happen, and there are obviously other guys who will compete (Tuley-Tillman, Bosch, Dawson, etc.). I just think it's too early to say when/if Kugler can surpass Miller.

    2. That (Kalis at RT) is interesting. Though he was a tackle in HS (IIRC), he has seemingly had "Guard" stamped on his forehead the whole time. Is it your opinion (apparently) that he could play there successfully?

    3. I think Kalis could probably play most positions on the offensive line successfully at some point, but I think guard is his best position in the long run.

  2. Alright good enough explanation for me. After seeing your hypothetical line-up do you really think Ben Braden has the capabilities to play Left Tackle? I been worrying about our left side after Taylor Lewan leaves..How do you think Michigan's recruiting efforts are treating us over there? Could you name some players you think that could fill the Left Tackle spot that is on the roster now. Or some we are looking at while recruiting the 2014 class.

    1. I haven't seen enough of Braden to be sure, but I do think he has some potential there; I wouldn't rule it out. Erik Magnuson is a left tackle, but he's not ready right now. Logan Tuley-Tillman and Juwann Bushell-Beatty are both potential left tackles. As far as 2014 recruits, I think Roderick Johnson and Casey Tucker are two guys who could play left tackle.

      I don't know that there's another "great" one in the pipeline right now who could be the next Jake Long or Taylor Lewan, but there are a few options.

  3. I've been skeptical of Miller but Hoke's recent comments indicate he's likely to start. Then again, he's competing against far. Either way, Miller is totally inexperienced and no one knows how he'll perform.

    Not saying it's likely but Kugler will have a decent shot at playing. A freshman starting at OC has never been done at Michigan before, but the same was true for another ready-to-play Pennsylvanian when Chad Henne started at QB.

    If Miller misses any time, Kugler could be thrown into the fire earlier (though Burzynski and Graham will have something to say about that - Kugler is on another level talent-wise.)

    I'd put him about 20 spots higher on this list, just because center is such a question. A kid like Magnuson may be a year ahead of Kugler, but he's also stuck behind Schofield and Lewan. The interior positions are open for the taking for a precocious freshman.

    1. Lolwut? Chad Henne was not the first true freshman quarterback to start at Michigan.

      I think it's pretty safe to say that Burzynski and Glasgow would come off the bench before Kugler. The coaches have demonstrated that they like Burzynski and they did put Glasgow in the starting lineup for the spring game.

    2. The coaches hid Kalis, Braden, and the other freshmen on the bench last year when the offensive line wasn't getting the job done. They seem to trust the veterans, at least on the offensive line. Furthermore, Kugler wasn't an early enrollee, so his first practice will be the second week of August (or whenever they officially start practice). It's going to be very difficult for him to get on the field. Not impossible, but difficult.

    3. @Thunder

      Your comment goes along with an argument I've seen a lot this off-season: "it can't be worse than last year". I strongly disagree with that logic. Barnum, Mealer, and Omameh weren't great players, but they were solid at worst. This year -- things can be MUCH worse on the interior.

      The fact that Kalis and Braden were "hidden" indicates they were not as good as the starters. I don't know that 12 months of conditioning has changed that and I sort of doubt it. I mean, Miller was "hidden" too. Now maybe the coaching ("fit") is better, and the OTs are better, and the OL plays better overall - but I predict the interior OL won't be as good as it was last year. Just the fact that walk-ons are still pushing these guys is a bad sign.

      The way I see it - the coaches are one sprained ankle away from seeing walk-on starters at OC. We're not talking about Kovacs here - we're talking about potentially '08 level play from the interior OL (albeit with much better talent at QB and OT, thankfully).

      I'm about 5% as worried as I was about the OL ever since Lewan announced his return, but the 3 interior OL positions remain enormous question marks. Even if you 'hit' on 2 of the 3 inexperienced kids who are presumed starters (Kalis, Braden, Miller) you still need to find another player and then be able to play through injuries - this is where a guy like Bosch or Kugler could see time. I think Burzynski and Glasgow are fine as maybe in-game fill-in's but if a starter goes out for 4 or 5 weeks or longer, the coaches will burn a red-shirt if that's the best player.

      I think recent history has spoiled us a little bit in regard to OL injuries. It wasn't that long ago when a Molk injury completely derailed the Michigan offense.


      Henne's the only one I can think of who won the job as a true freshman to start the season. Who were the other true freshman who started?

    4. Thanks, for some reason I thought Leach had to red-shirt a year. Regardless, it was rare for QBs to do it and that's an even more cerebral/experience-oriented position than OC.

    5. Agreed. The interior of our offensive line is our biggest problem (oops, sorry...challenge) and is the factor most likely to put a ceiling on how well the team does this year. As you mentioned, we lost three fifth year seniors (none of whom were world-beaters, granted), and now in the two deep for those positions, we have Jack Miller, two walks-on, and three guys who have never played a down of college football. Our tackles are good, but both seniors, so we're not likely to see a huge spike in production there. With all that, it's petty hard to project our O-line doing better than last year. The cold, hard fact is that we are still at least a year away (probably two, given that Lewan and Schofield are gone after this year) from having a really good offensive line again.

  4. Didn't Mike Brewster start at Center for Ohio State as a true freshman?

    1. Yeah, it looks like he did. He was a four-year starter from 2008-2011.

    2. FWIW, he was an early enrollee, so he went through spring practice with the Buckeyes before his freshman year.

    3. EE certainly helps (which is why I think Bosch could play as well) - but given his situation, Kugler's been getting pretty good coaching for years don't you think?

      The main hurdles are obviously the playbook, experience, and physical readiness - far from easy. But the biggest reason Kugler could play is the lack experience and proven talent at OC.

    4. I 100% believe that Ben Braden will be the blindside protector for either Gardner or Morris (should Gardner leave for NFL) and Kalis will man the other tackle spot. Kalis has repeatedly stated that he was recruited to play right tackle. Right now he is needed on the interior, but next year he will move outside. Braden has been getting far more love from the coaches and his peers than any of the other potential candidates for the LT job in 2014. He clearly has the size to do the job, but the unknowns are can he move well enough. It sounds like the coaches like him there. I think Thunder was right in Braden and Kalis at the tackle spots next year. I see Bosch at a guard position instead of Bryant though.