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UM’s Drevno values versatility on offensive line

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

The season is several weeks away, and Michigan offensive coordinator Tim Drevno is in no hurry to reveal the starting five on the offensive line.

Drevno also coaches the line and for the first time in three seasons at Michigan, he will share the duties with Greg Frey. Frey, who coached the offensive line at Michigan under Rich Rodriguez, was hired in the offseason and is coaching tackles and tight ends. Drevno is coaching the interior.

“You never want to rush into making the decision,” Drevno said last week during the first media availability of camp, referring to all starting jobs. “We’re not going to rush into it and feel we have to make it now. We’re still putting in concepts, we’re evolving and creating an identity about ourselves. It’s something as we go we’ll figure it out.”

He would not reveal where veteran Mason Cole will play. Cole, who started at left tackle his first two seasons, moved to center last fall. He is expected to move back to left tackle while Patrick Kugler takes over at center.

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What Cole offers — and has proven — is versatility. And that’s the way Drevno coaches the offensive line, because he wants players to plug in at different spots if needed.

“Mason is a very talented athlete, great offensive lineman,” Drevno said. “We’re moving the deck around inside, and we’ll see how that all shakes out. He’s a guy that can play all five positions. That’s how talented he is. Did a great job this summer leading these guys. Great mindset. Just got an eye of a tiger, man. He wants to be the best, which is awesome.”

As important as determining the starting five is figuring out which players will be available to rotate in if needed. Depth is an issue at every spot in football, but for Michigan’s offensive line, that’s been a focal point the last few years as the staff has added personnel through recruiting to the position group.

“You want to find the best sixth, seventh, and eighth lineman to help out,” Drevno said. “You want to have a guy to be able to swing tackle, a guy inside who can play center, guard, and another guard or possibly tackle. It’s six, seven, eight deep.

Sophomore Ben Bredeson, who started a good portion of last season at left guard, likely will resume that role this fall. Michael Onwenu, who played on both lines last season as a freshman and has shed some weight from about 380 pounds where he was a year ago, and Drevno has been impressed by his work ethic. At right tackle, Jon Runyan Jr. and Juwann Bushell-Beatty are competing.

The positive for Michigan is there is considerable competition on the offensive line with players like Stephen Spanellis and Andrew Vastardis, freshman Cesar Ruiz enrolled early and has excelled learning the playbook, and fellow freshmen Chuck Filiaga, Andrew Stueber and Joel Honigford are also competing.

“As we progress through, we’ll see how they understand the offense and if they can think quickly on their feet and their physicality,” Drevno said. “We feel very good about the guys we have. We feel very good about their athleticism and what they did over the summer. They understand what we’re trying to do. We’re excited about it.”

achengelis@detroitnews.com

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