Newsome, Bredeson battling it out for left tackle job

Monday, August 22, 2016 - 2:18pm

The Michigan football team’s offensive line is one of its most experienced position groups, but arguably the most important spot up front — left tackle — might be filled by an 18-year-old.

When the Wolverines’ incumbent left tackle, junior Mason Cole, shifted to center in the spring to account for the loss of third-round NFL Draft pick Graham Glasgow, the job of protecting the quarterback’s blind side went up for grabs. Sophomore Grant Newsome (who played in four games last season and made one start) was the presumed front-runner, but after two full weeks of fall camp, plans might be changing.

According to Michigan offensive coordinator Tim Drevno, Ben Bredeson, a 6-foot-5, 310-pound freshman from Hartland, Wis., has firmly thrown himself in the mix after moving from guard to tackle for this season.

“He has all the skill set, the mental capacity, the physicality — all the characteristics you look for to be a starter,” Drevno said. “He’s a special young player, and he’s got a chance to have a really good future here.”

Like Cole, Bredeson has the versatility and physical tools to play multiple positions on the line, giving him an advantage to counteract his inexperience. Even though Bredeson would be the youngest starter on the line by two years, Drevno said he would be completely comfortable giving a freshman a starting role if he earned it.

Newsome hasn’t necessarily been struggling, though — the influx of top recruits into the program has raised the level of competition at nearly every position group, age and experience aside. According to Drevno, the left tackle spot is wide open, but Bredeson’s pure instincts have helped push him into contention.

“You look for the balance, you look for the cleats in the ground, you look for the initial quickness,” Drevno said. “You look for the quick twitch as you punch, and (being) able to feel something and naturally come off something. It’s a God-given ability that a young man has, and he has that.”

Drevno said both Newsome and Bredeson are “very sharp and understand the game,” so the decision will be made based purely on individual performance and technique. With such a small margin of error playing on the line, the player who masters the finer points will have the best chance to win the job.

If the Wolverines played a game tomorrow, Drevno said, the Wolverines would have four starters locked in (fifth-year senior Erik Magnuson at right tackle, fifth-year senior Kyle Kalis at right guard, Cole at center and fifth-year senior Ben Braden at left guard) with the winner of the Newsome/Bredeson battle claiming the left tackle spot. But having young players holding their own against older competition — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said last week that freshman offensive lineman Michael Onwenu has also impressed — means that the coaching staff is hesitant to set anything in stone at this stage.

“It’s a pleasure to have that,” Drevno said. “To come out and see a guy going and competing against senior defensive linemen, blocking them — you’re going, ‘Hey, that’s pretty good!’ That’s a big strong guy across from him that he’s blocking, so that’s exciting.”