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With former center Andrew Vastardis gone, there’s a tremendous hole right in the middle of last year’s Joe Moore award-winning offensive line. To fill that, the Michigan football team looked outside of the program.

That’s where it found Olusegun Oluwatimi.

The graduate-transfer center started nearly every game for the last three seasons at his former school, Virginia. And last season, he was one of three finalists for the Rimington Trophy — the award given to the nation’s top center — and was selected to the All-ACC second team.

While Oluwatimi hasn’t been in Ann Arbor that long, he’s already getting settled in. 

“Honestly the guys are good here,” Oluwatimi said. “Football is football. I enjoy being at Michigan. So the acclimation didn’t take long.”

The Wolverines play a specific brand of football that requires strong play on the offensive line. Last year’s group was special; it was a huge reason that Michigan reached the heights that it did. It’ll certainly be tough to replicate, but with talented players like Oluwatimi coming in, this year’s unit has a high ceiling too.

Part of the reason that Oluwatimi chose to come to Michigan in the first place was because of last year’s line.

“Well, Michigan as a university, it stands alone and it stood above the rest of the options that I had when I entered the transfer portal,” Oluwatimi said. “Then obviously the brand of football, the O-line is coming off of a Joe Moore award, the team is coming off making the College Football Playoffs. I just loved the momentum of the program and I just felt like I could add to it, so it was a no brainer.”

The work that Oluwatimi has done was on display to those outside of the Michigan football program for the first time on Saturday. He’s developing relationships with the rest of his offensive linemen and with his quarterbacks, which is not an easy thing to do when you’ve been with a team for only a handful of months. Not everything is quite there yet, but senior quarterback Cade McNamara said that the two are “getting closer,” and had nothing but praise for Oluwatimi.

“(Oluwatimi)’s an extremely smart player,” McNamara said. “I think him being able to come through to a new school and already change what he’s changing, as far as points, as far as what he’s doing on the line of scrimmage this early is very, very impressive. Let alone his talent of blocking and just, he’s strong.”

What Oluwatimi can bring to Michigan shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise. As McNamara said, everyone in the program has seen the work he’s put in already. He already learned all of the calls in the few short months he’s been in Ann Arbor. 

“He’s gonna elevate this O-line,” graduate offensive lineman Ryan Hayes said. “I think we can be even better than we were last year.”

The excitement within the Wolverines’ program goes all the way back to one of the first days that Michigan practiced with pads on for Spring Ball. Junior running back Blake Corum told a story of when he first heard of Oluwatimi’s talents. One of the linebackers told Corum that Oluwatimi’s grip on him was so strong that he couldn’t get out of it. That’s when Corum knew he was going to be good.

Hayes said something similar.

“I think one of the first days we put on pads, we saw (Oluwatimi) lock up some of our better D linemen,” Hayes said. “(That’s when we knew), this guy is gonna be pretty good for us.”