Combine Day 2: Talking O-line, running backs and punters The Detroit News
Indianapolis — Steve Hutchinson, a consensus All-American in 2000 at Michigan, is now scouting for the Seattle Seahawks evaluating offensive line talent, but in a few days he will be in Canton, Ohio, getting a rundown on the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction itinerary later this summer.
Hutchinson, a stalwart left guard at Michigan and then in the NFL for 12 seasons, mostly with the Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings, was a seven-time Pro Bowler and member of the NFL’s 2000 All-Decade Team. He earned his way into the Hall of Fame on his third ballot earlier this month.
“When the phone call comes, it’s not too many times where all the air gets let out of your soul,” Hutchinson told The Detroit News on Thursday. “It’s a humbling thing when you get that call, and then you get the knock (on the hotel door for the official confirmation).
“Not that I wouldn’t have wanted to be a first-ballot guy, but I think now, and if I heard me saying this to my three-year-ago-self I would look at myself weird, but I think I appreciate it more having missed it twice because you realize how hard it is to get in, and how special it is. It is a special deal. I don’t think it’s fully sunk in.”
Michigan has four offensive linemen at the NFL Combine — guards Ben Bredeson and Michael Onwenu, center Cesar Ruiz and left tackle Jon Runyan. Hutchinson has had a chance to speak with them and has observed their play. Some analysts peg Ruiz as a first-round selection. The last Michigan offensive lineman to go in the first round was Taylor Lewan to Tennessee in 2014.
“You look at the four guys and regardless of their ability, I like talking to them, I like their mentality,” Hutchinson said. “They seem like Michigan kids, guys that you would expect to have the mentality, the way they talk about ball, how they want to play it the right way. The things they say are the things we remember ourselves saying 20 years ago like physical, tough, being accountable, so you like to hear that. They’re not the flashiest names in the draft, but I have a feeling these are the type of guys that are going to be the dependable guys that can do it and get it done for a while.”
Michigan was known for its offensive lines and running backs, but that hasn’t been the case for the last decade-plus. With the addition of Ed Warinner as position coach before the 2018 season, the offensive line has made marked improvement.
“To be able to say you’ve got four draftable guys in one draft, that’s a testament to the way they’re kinda getting it back on track, because it’s been a while — with the exception of Taylor (Lewan) — there’s been some buzz about Michigan linemen at this level,” Hutchinson said.
With four linemen here, though, that means Warinner will have to find four new starters. Jalen Mayfield at right tackle is the only returning starter.
“They had to do that when Jeff (Backus), Maurice (Williams), David Brandt and I were gone, but they’ll do it,” Hutchinson said. “If these four guys have the qualities I think they did, I’m sure they did a good job showing the ropes to the younger guys.”