Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz 'not surprised' by shift to guard this season

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Cesar Ruiz

Clearwater Beach, Fla. — Michigan freshman offensive lineman Cesar Ruiz always figured he would work his way into the starting lineup.

He will make his fifth start of the season at right guard in the Outback Bowl on Monday against South Carolina.

“I’m not really surprised,” Ruiz said Saturday at Michigan’s “Beach Day.” “It happened. Kind of was expecting it sooner or later.”

Ruiz was the No. 1 center coming out of high school but has practiced at guard since the start of the season. He said he knows all his assignments and has learned proper technique. Ruiz took over for sophomore Michael Onwenu, who was the starter at right guard before suffering an injury and opening the door for Ruiz.

“Once I got moved to guard, I figured if I started this year it would be at guard,” he said. “I wasn’t really surprised.”

It is unclear where Ruiz will play next season. Michigan loses two starting offensive linemen, left tackle Mason Cole and center Patrick Kugler.

“I played center my whole life,” Ruiz said. “I would like to play center again. Wherever coach wants me to be, that’s where I’m going to be at. No problem. We’ve been focusing on what I’ve got going on this year. We’ll see what happens in spring practice.”

New strength coach?

Michigan has hired Ben Herbert, who had been strength coach at Wisconsin and Arkansas under coach Bret Bielema, as its director of strength and conditioning, according to a sourced report by FootballScoop.com.

Herbert replaces Kevin Tolbert, who has been with the team at the Outback Bowl. The Sporting News this month reported Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, who has worked with Tolbert since 2011, was not retaining Tolbert in that role after this season.

Hall to CMU

Former Michigan freshman offensive lineman JaRaymond Hall has transferred to Central Michigan University.

Hall, who attended Oak Park High School, is expected to enroll in January but will have to sit out the upcoming season. He will have three years of eligibility.

“We got to know Ja’Raymond well when we recruited him as a high school student,” CMU coach John Bonamego said in a statement. “When he reached out, we were interested because he will fit in well in our locker room and as a student-athlete on the CMU campus.”

Project? This is no project

When Michigan signed 20-year-old German defensive end Julius Welschof, they believed they could immediately mold him. Brandon Collier, who has been working with Welschof in Germany, played for Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown at UMass, so Brown had solid intel on the type of player he can become.

Brown cautioned not to refer to Welschof as a “project.”

More: UM recruit Julius Welschof is German-born, factory-bred

“It’s not like we were taking a flyer and just taking this guy,” Brown said Friday after practice. “This guy is big, and he can run.”

Welschof was a skier and has dabbled in other sports, including tennis. He has played American football on a club level and this past summer came to the U.S. and attended a number of camps, including Michigan’s.

“We don’t think it’s a project,” Brown said. “We think we can get him ready at a pretty quick pace.”