Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Poll Results: Who will be Michigan's starting center in 2012?

Rocko Khoury (#63) has a chance to win the starting center job in his final season
Last week I posed the question, "Who will be Michigan's starting center against Alabama?"  Here are the results of the poll:

Rocko Khoury: 44%
Fifth year senior Khoury has played sparingly in his four years on campus.  He has, however, made two prominent forays into the lineup.  He subbed in for David Molk against Iowa in 2010, when Molk suffered an injury on the first offensive snap of the game; then Khoury filled in for one series in the 2012 Sugar Bowl before the again-injured Molk returned in hobbled form.  Khoury played admirably in the first and questionably in the second.  Khoury has been second on the center depth chart for the last couple seasons, so it makes sense that he would be the heir apparent to Rimgton Award winner Molk.

Ricky Barnum: 28%
Also a fifth year senior, Barnum started a few games at left guard in 2011.  Unfortunately, Barnum has suffered numerous injuries throughout his career.  Whether in spring practice or the regular season, he's suffered a significant injury ever since he was a redshirt freshman.  Barnum played some center in high school and has taken snaps throughout his college career, although he has yet to snap the ball in a regular season college game.  Early reports are that Barnum will get the first shot to win the starting center job this spring, but that doesn't necessarily mean much.  Michael Schofield, Barnum's replacement at guard last season, played well and could slide in as the starter at left guard (or right tackle) if Barnum wins the starting snapper's job.

Jack Miller: 26%
Miller will be a redshirt freshman in 2012.  Reports from practice have been positive, but the general consensus is that he needs to add weight and strength before playing.  Beating out a couple older and bigger players seems like an insurmountable task to me . . . unless an injury occurs.  And with Barnum ahead of Miller on the depth chart, that seems like a strong possibility.

Other: 0% (1 vote)
I would be interested to know whom this voter had in mind.  No other current player has snapped the ball in a game (in fact, Khoury is the only player with that distinction), and the only other current roster options seem to be redshirt freshman guard Chris Bryant and fifth year senior tackle/guard Elliott Mealer, who has also snapped the ball a bit in practice.  Anyone else would be a true freshman.


  1. Are there any walk-ons of notice on the offensive line? I haven't seen any mentioned when people go through the depth chart, but I remember a few guys coming on with Mealer in garbage time during the season. There was a huge guy playing tackle and a dude with a Polish-sounding name in at guard, I think. Center is generally a position where a 6-2 underrecruited player can grow into the role if he's got the intangibles.

    Hopefully Barnum or Khoury are talented enough to outperform walk-ons I've never heard of, but after 3 years of Kovacs, I'm definitely warming up to preferred walk-ons doing a job on the field.

    1. Joey Burzynski is probably the Polish-sounding guy you were talking about. He's the only walk-on interior guy who's really had a shot at playing. Erik Gunderson was probably the huge tackle you were thinking about, and Graham Glasgow is another "highly regarded" walk-on tackle.

  2. At what point might the coaches play a freshman or sophomore who is not quite as good as a junior or senior in order to get him game experience? I understand that a guy like Jack Miller can get plenty of reps in practice, but it would seem to make sense, from a developmental standpoint, to get him into games.

    Let's assume the depth chart goes Khoury-Barnum-Miller. I think if I were coaching, I would have Barnum and Miller as backups in different scenarios. For example, against Alabama, if Khoury goes down with an injury, I would want Barnum to bring his experience into the game against a strong D-line. However, if we're blowing a team out and we're making switches in the 4th quarter to get young guys in (like how we did for almost the whole 4th quarter against Minnesota this past season), I'd want Miller in there to develop him a bit.

    I guess then my question would be, how do you develop these players in practice? Is it realistic to have three players rotating at center with the 1s? It would seem that the QB-C exchange would get thrown off a bit, thus throwing off the whole offense. So how do you handle a situation like this were there are two seniors and a RS Freshman? It would seem to be foolish to not develop the Freshman who will likely be at the helm next season, right?

    1. I think you're exactly right about situation substitutions. Barnum against Alabama, Miller in a blowout.

      In practice you can generally get two guys ready to play, but with a unique situation like Khoury/Barnum/Miller, you could feasibly have three ready. If Barnum doesn't start at center, he'll likely start at left guard, which means he'll be working in combination with Khoury to make protection calls and such. So while he won't physically get reps snapping the ball, he'll at least get "mental reps" in a way by thinking about protections and blocking schemes. He could also get some reps snapping the ball, and then you could work Jack Miller in with the 2's. There are only so many snaps to go around, so all three guys aren't going to be starter material...but you can still get all three ready.

    2. Good point about the "mental reps." I hadn't considered that.

      Thanks again for your insight.

    3. Also depends on who you are playing in practice. Facing off against Mike Martin everyday in practice is probably making you a better player far more than x number of snaps on Saturday. But if you're working against a hodge-podge of Freshman and semi-busts, seeing a dominant Alabama DT might be a valuable learning experience.

    4. Clearly, Barnum is the best talent from this group and the coaches seem to like his potential at center. Rodriguez staff, too, was high on Barnum all along. Everyone's been talking up his versatility forever. It's his time to shine.

      The question is - does he fit better at center or guard? I think that depends less on Barnum and Khoury and Miller and more on which young player proves starter-ready, if any. If it's Chris Bryant, Barnum can slide to center. If it's Kyle Kalis, Schofield can stick at guard, and Barnum can move to center too.

      If neither of those guys are ready, it'll probably be Khoury by default.

      On the other hand, Miller has almost no competition next year, so the coaches may want him to 'develop'. However, I can't imagine they'll make any significant sacrifices in 2012 for that cause. Pretty hard to sit a 5th year kid for a freshman unless they've really earned it.