Position Preview: Interior Offensive Line

Redshirt sophomore Patrick Omameh is poised for a breakout year at right guard.

The position previews continue today with a look at one of the team’s best position groups, the interior line:

Returning Contributors: David Molk (RS Jr.), Stephen Schilling (RS Sr.), Patrick Omameh (RS So.), Ricky Barnum (RS So.), Rocko Khoury (RS So.), Elliott Mealer (RS So.), John Ferrara (RS Sr.)
Ready to Contribute: Quinton Washington (RS Fr.)
Incoming Freshmen: Christian Pace
Key Departures: David Moosman

The Projected Starters: Michigan fans will be happy to see center David Molk healthy and back in the starting lineup after missing most of the 2009 season with foot and knee injuries. Molk has arguably been the team’s best offensive lineman when healthy the past two seasons, and he is the perfect fit at center in Rich Rodriguez’s offense — a strong, agile lineman who excels in zone blocking and getting to the second level.

Left guard Stephen Schilling is a former five-star prospect who earned All-Big Ten honorable mention last year from both the coaches and the media. With 36 career starts, Schilling is the most experienced lineman on the team, and he is a very strong player who is at his best in the run game. Schilling should once again vie for postseason honors in his final year as a Wolverine.

Redshirt sophomore Patrick Omameh has surprised many by going from a two-star defensive end prospect to starting the final three games of 2009 at right guard, where he projects to start full-time this season. Omameh has been very impressive in spring and fall practices, and like Molk he is a very agile athlete for his size (6-4, 299 pounds). Many, including myself, expect big things out of Omameh in his first full year as a starter, and when combined with Molk and Schilling he rounds out what should be a stellar interior line for the Wolverines.

The Competition: Although the starting lineup appears set, Michigan has several solid backups in the interior line should the team need to replace one of the above players. A trio of redshirt sophomores — Ricky Barnum, Elliott Mealer, and Rocko Khoury — should be the primary backups. Barnum is a former four-star and an extremely versatile player who can line up at any position along the line — he saw snaps at both center and guard during Saturday’s scrimmage, and will likely be the top backup at guard this season. At 6-5, 313 pounds, Mealer is a huge guard and a solid athlete who saw action in 11 games last season. Khoury has worked at center since arriving in Ann Arbor, and with Moosman gone he will be pressed into action should Molk go down to injury again this year. He is reportedly much-improved at the quarterback-center exchange after struggling with it in practice last year.

Others: Redshirt senior John Ferrara has been passed on the depth chart by the trio of sophomores, but he has six career starts at guard and would be a capable and experienced replacement if called upon. Redshirt freshman guard Quinton Washington is a former four-star recruit, but he’s likely a year away from sniffing the two-deep at one of the most stacked positions on the roster. True freshman Christian Pace is a promising center prospect very much in the Molk mold, but he is a lock to redshirt as he continues to add weight after enrolling early in the spring.

Outlook: The interior line boasts three players with all-conference potential, and should be one of the strongest position groups on the team in 2010. Having Molk healthy alongside Schilling and Omameh should be a huge boost to the offense and give the Wolverines one of the top lines in the Big Ten. On top of having a great starting trio, the team has a great deal of depth in the interior of the line — it’s hard to see this group being anything but a strength this fall.

Previous Position Previews: Quarterback, Running Back, Outside Receiver, Slot Receiver, Tight End, Offensive Tackle

For every position preview, click here or hit the “2010 Position Previews” tag at the bottom of the post.

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