Over the next few weeks, WolverineNation will look at every position on the Michigan roster and give a depth chart analysis of each heading into the offseason.
Two seasons ago, Michigan had the best center in the country, a guy with one heck of a mean streak and an edge that never really went away. Last season, the Wolverines had the opposite, a guy who might have been one of the more friendly players on the team and someone who was good in stretches and struggled in others.
For the third straight season, Michigan will have a new starting center and no matter who it is the player will have minimal to no experience.
The starter: Redshirt sophomore Jack Miller. This is almost by default. As the only true center on the roster, this is Miller’s position to lose and after being tutored by David Molk for a year and Elliott Mealer for another, he should have the knowledge and the time spent to take over the position. His frame is pretty good for a center but the big key -- and we’ll touch on this later -- is how ready is he to handle the responsibilities with playing the position.
The depth: Junior Joey Burzynski, freshman Patrick Kugler. Burzynski and Miller both lost out to the Ricky Barnum/Mealer combination before the season, but both figure to be in play here in a real competition. While Kugler is a potential center of the future, he’ll likely redshirt this year and also be in play at the guard spots. Burzynski’s size makes him a good candidate here as the center -- see Molk -- can be smaller than other linemen and still make a difference.
The question mark: Can Miller handle it? Offensive coordinator Al Borges has often said how critical the center is to how much the offense can really do. If Miller struggles with line calls and making decisions, that could severely hamper the first year of the Borges-style pro style Michigan offense. Unlike last season where Taylor Lewan could make some calls if need be, there won’t be a definitive player like that this season, meaning Miller will have to use the spring to really be able to pick it up as well as learn to work in tandem with the guards he’ll be lined up next to. Miller vs. Burzynski could end up being the most underrated position battle in camp.
The bottom line: No matter who wins this position, it is going to be an early struggle. While Michigan won’t run nearly as much shotgun as it has the past two seasons -- somewhat eliminating potential bad snap difficulties -- the line calls and getting off the ball are going to be the two biggest things here. This is also the spot where switching the starter could be the most detrimental to the growth of the rest of the line, so Michigan will have to be careful with selecting who starts at center for them.