Michigan football began its season without the player offensive coordinator Josh Gattis described as possibly the team's best on that side of the ball.
Offensive lineman Zak Zinter, who had been penciled into the right guard spot, took the field for warmups for Saturday's opener vs. Western Michigan with a cast on his right hand. He was in uniform and participated in drills but did not take his usual place with the starting offensive line. Instead, Chuck Filiaga filled the hole at right guard.
From left to right, the starting offensive line during warmups was Ryan Hayes, Trevor Keegan, Andrew Vastardis, Filiaga and Andrew Steuber. That held true on Michigan's opening drive.
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The sophomore Zinter had drawn rave reviews from Gattis and his teammates along the offensive line. While Vastardis assumed the role of vocal leader, Zinter stepped forward as the unit's most exemplary player, according to Keegan. The younger offensive linemen followed Zinter's example because he'd earned a reputation as a tactician.
"Zak we absolutely love," Gattis said in early August. "In fact, I’ll tell you, Zak could potentially be our best offensive player. And it’s oftentimes people don’t talk about who’s your best offensive player as a lineman. Everyone thinks it’s always gotta be a skill guy. But that’s how highly we think of Zak Zinter in this building. In fact, I think our players would think the same of him.
“He’s a tremendous talent. Obviously last year, he started two games before he ended up getting hurt as a true freshman. But physically he gives us something we don’t have. He’s smart, he’s strong, he’s tough, he’s athletic. He’s a special player. He’s a very, very special player.”
Filiaga, a graduate student, started all six games last season at left guard.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan football OL Zak Zinter does not start opener