The dog days of the Michigan offensive line were not that long ago.
Fast forward a few years later, and during the NFL Draft completed Saturday, Michigan had four offensive linemen taken – center Cesar Ruiz was a first-round selection by New Orleans – tying a record for the most at that position to be drafted. Oklahoma had four offensive linemen drafted in 2019.
Michigan’s previous high was two offensive linemen taken, most recently in 2014 (Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield). The Wolverines had 10 players selected in the three-day draft, tying the second-highest total for the program. There were 11 taken in 2017.
Ben Bredeson, who made 46 starts at left guard and was a two-time captain, was taken in the fourth round by the Ravens, right guard Michael Onwenu was a New England pick in the sixth round, and left tackle Jon Runyan was taken in the sixth by Green Bay.
“We’re always being put in good positions to succeed on the field and off the field, and we’re pro-ready,” Onwenu told reporters after his selection.
In 2016, Michigan ranked 98th of 128 teams in tackles for loss allowed and 40th in sacks allowed. The following year, Michigan was 91st in tackles for loss allowed and 110th in sacks allowed. This isn’t the only way to evaluate an offensive line, of course, because other players factor into protection, but it’s a big part.
Enter offensive line coach Ed Warinner, who saw all five of his offensive line starters on the 2013 Ohio State Big Ten championship team become rookie starters in the NFL. He has been an asset for Michigan since his arrival in early 2018, immediately simplifying the scheme and instilling a level of confidence that had been absent.
Michigan saw improvement in those two categories in 2018, Warinner’s first season coaching. The Wolverines were 15th in tackles for loss allowed and 39th in sacks allowed, and last season they were 22nd in tackles for loss allowed and 58th in sacks allowed.
Warinner, since 2007, has had 19 of his offensive linemen drafted, including the four Michigan players in the recent NFL Draft, with seven becoming rookie starters.
During an interview with Saints reporters after Ruiz, who had a year of eligibility remaining, was selected, Warinner said he told a friend two years after spring football that Ruiz would be a first-round pick. That friend texted him Thursday after the first round to remind him of that prophecy.
“He just has all the attributes you’re looking for,” Warinner told reporters. “There’s really nothing he can’t do that they’re going to be looking for him to do in terms of the job descriptions of an interior offensive lineman, center or guard, and he’s played both positions at the highest level.
“His football IQ is as high as I’ve been around in a college football player, so I don’t think he’ll have any trouble being ready to go. I feel good about that.”
Michigan draft picks
►Cesar Ruiz, C, first round, 24th pick, New Orleans Saints
►Josh Uche, LB, second round, 60th pick, New England Patriots
►Ben Bredeson, OL, fourth round, 143rd pick, Baltimore Ravens
►Khaleke Hudson, LB, fifth round, 162nd pick, Washington Redskins
►Michael Danna, DL, fifth round, 177th pick, Kansas City Chiefs
►Michael Onwenu, OL, sixth round, 182nd pick, New England Patriots
►Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, sixth round, 187th pick, Cleveland Browns
►Jon Runyan, OL, sixth round, 192nd pick, Green Bay Packers
►Josh Metellus, S, sixth round, 205th pick, Minnesota Vikings
►Jordan Glasgow, LB, sixth round, 213th pick, Indianapolis Colts