A big reason Michigan football had its best campaign since 1997 last year was the Wolverines controlled the line of scrimmage game-in-and-game-out. The Michigan offensive line won the Joe Moore Award for being the nation’s best unit in 2021.
The maize and blue lost two starters off that line, center Andrew Vastardis and tackle Andrew Steuber. While the Wolverines are confident in Trente Jones’ ability to fill the void at right tackle, Jim Harbaugh brought in Rimington Award finalist Olu Oluwatimi to handle the center duties this year.
All-Big Ten right guard Zak Zinter met with the media on Monday, and he said Michigan has a chance to be even better on the offensive line this season. He credits some of that to Oluwatimi coming on board.
“We have high expectations in our room,” said Zinter. “We had a great O-line last year, but we have a chance to be even better this year. We got Olu coming in. Physically, he’s a beast. He’s there too mentally; he’s played a lot of ball, so I’m excited at what we can do this season.”
Oluwatimi came from Virginia, where he started 32-straight games at center. The graduate transfer was an All-American in 2021 and had more snaps than any other center in the ACC (910). Something Zinter noted on Monday was the experience Oluwatimi brings to the table. While Zinter loved playing with Vastardis, he said Oluwatimi is a step up at center — especially from a physicality standpoint.
“Olu’s just got a lot of experience that he’s brought,” said Zinter. “He’s been a great player to have and I love playing next to him. We mesh well together, so I’m excited to see what the season brings. Trente’s doing a great job stepping in for Stueber’s spot, so I’m just really excited.”
“No disrespect to V (Andrew Vastardis), I love V; he’s a great leader,” said Zinter. “But physically, Olu is just a step up. He’s got all the attributes you want in a center, and I’m really excited to be able to play next to him this year.”
Now that former offensive coordinator Josh Gattis has left and Matt Weiss and Sherrone Moore took the position over, the Wolverines’ offensive line has a new focus in 2022. Zinter said that with coach Moore helping to lead the charge, the offensive line has started to focus on the different types of blitzes coming their way. Zinter said they are even shifting focus onto the linebackers and safeties to better understand where blitzes may come from.
“We love to run the ball, but we like to pass it, too,” said Zinter. “So we’ve really focused on picking up twists and different blitzes. With coach Moore being the OC now, we’ve started picking out the whole secondary as well. The safety rotations, linebackers, all that stuff, so we can have a better understanding of where blitzes are coming from.”
If Michigan fans were happy with the offensive line unit in 2021, then 2022 may be just as fun. Zinter stated on Monday that Michigan would be the most physical offensive line in the entire country in 2022. He said running the ball is still the Wolverines’ identity, but with two capable quarterbacks, the maize and blue will be able to sling the rock as well.
“We’re just going to be the most physical offensive line in the country this year,” Zinter stated. “We’re going to run the ball when we want to run the ball. That’s our identity and that’s not going to change. But we also have the ability with two great quarterbacks to pass when we want to. We have great receivers and great running backs, so we just really want to be a physical offensive line this year and really just finish guys.”
Michigan will open with Colorado State on Saturday at noon EDT on ABC.