Jon Runyan and Ben Bredeson sit next to each other in every meeting. They practice together and have started 13 games next to each other on the offensive line as the left tackle and left guard. At 7:30 on Wednesday morning, they were together with offensive line coach Ed Warinner, watching film.
But for the Michigan football team’s first two games this season, Bredeson took his normal spot on the line while Runyan sat and watched, out with an undisclosed injury. Instead, Bredeson played next to redshirt freshman tackle Ryan Hayes, who is talented but inexperienced and hadn’t developed the same level of trust with Bredeson. But Runyan is expected to be back this week, just in time for a marquee matchup with No. 13 Wisconsin.
“Jon and I played with each other now going on year two and he and I just know everything that the other’s gonna do, a telepathic sense of it just from being next to the guy for so long,” Bredeson said. “He’s got that experience level for a Big Ten road game that we're about to go into, so it’ll be nice getting Jon back. I’m excited for that.”
In games, offensive linemen — who are just feet away from opponents waiting to maul them — opt not to use full sentences to communicate. So instead, Bredeson and Runyan have a type of code, little words and non-verbal signs they use to talk to each other in-game.
This weekend, that will be especially important. Camp Randall Stadium is the kind of place where the noise can suck the life out of you. Communication is vital — especially since Warinner noted that communication wasn’t always there when Bredeson and junior center Cesar Ruiz committed multiple false start penalties against Middle Tennessee and Army. And that’s an area where Runyan can make a big difference.
“They know they have to rely on each other for everything on that side, it’s like a pilot and a co-pilot,” Warinner said. “Their whole life is intertwined four hours a day or whatever. They hang out off the field, and so I think that just trust and confidence. And they had a good run together last year, and I think they’re excited about getting that rolling again.”
On Wednesday, Warinner detailed what it takes to win the line of scrimmage against a team like the Badgers. It starts with preparation, watching the film and knowing the schemes. The Wolverines will have to make sure they’re in top shape physically to match Wisconsin’s intensity and play a full four quarters instead of starting slow, as they have a tendency to do. And they already know they’ll have to be able communicate in front of tens of thousands of rowdy fan who decidedly aren’t on their side.
Warinner has faith in the offensive line to do just that.
“We had our best practice yesterday since we started in August, without question,” Warinner said. “And so that’s encouraging because with the bye week, we had a little extra time to work on those guys and so I think our guys are very confident in what they’re doing and they’re doing it with a great demeanor.”
And Runyan’s return brings more than just his chemistry with Bredeson. Runyan earned All-Big Ten honors last year, and he brings talent, experience and veteran presence that could be a boon to the offensive line. When asked about how Ryan Hayes could factor into the rotation in the future, Warinner gave an answer that spoke volumes.
“We’ll work through that,” he said, “after the Jon Runyan era.”