Michigan football players discuss Olu Oluwatimi at Big Ten Media Days
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.- The Michigan offensive line won the Joe Moore Award for best offensive line unit in all of college football in 2021. The Wolverines are bringing back three of the five starters, but they lost Andrew Vastardis and Andrew Steuber from that prolific offensive line.
At the right tackle position, replacing Steuber won’t be easy, but Michigan has two viable candidates who can get the job done. Trente Jones seems to have the inside track to get the starting nod, but Karsen Barnhart will fight to get the job during fall camp.
Jim Harbaugh went on a transfer portal hunt to find a replacement for Andrew Vastardis at center and found an excellent one. The Wolverines landed Olu Oluwatimi from Virginia. The former Cavalier was a 2021 Rimington Award finalist, an honor bestowed on the nation’s top center. Oluwatimi was also an All-American and he snapped 910 for the most shots of any center in the ACC last year.
Oluwatimi has the experience and courage to start as a starter for Michigan on day one. Of course, he has three years of Virginia launch experience and 32 consecutive launches.
On Tuesday, during the Big Ten media days in Indianapolis, we overheard some players talking about the new launch center in Ann Arbor. Mazi Smith was one of the players Michigan took and he shared his excitement at facing Oluwatimi in practice. Smith said it’s nice to compete against someone who doesn’t lie down.
“He’s a monster man like me, so iron sharpens iron is fun and we took the definition of that when he came here,” Smith said during the Big Ten media days. “We talked about it and I haven’t had a center to play like he has since Cesar Ruiz. I’m just like I love competing against guys who won’t lay down like Olu. He’s athletic, he’s tall, he’s strong, he’s competitive, he’s everything you want in a center. He’s going to make that O-line so much better, you know, and he’s going to make me so much better.
Also, importantly, the acting starting quarterback has good camaraderie with the starting center. On Tuesday, Cade McNamara was questioned about his relationship with Oluwatimi. He shared that Olu was McNamara’s roommate on the Michigan trip the team took and Olu taught him a few things.
“I think our relationship didn’t accomplish anything, it just kept growing,” McNamara said Tuesday. “He was my roommate on the trip and I’m glad we were able to do that, that we could live together. He’s already teaching me some new things. And some things that he talked to me about, you know, some of his experiences. I’m just really looking forward to getting to know him better. I’m not worried about Olu if he’s working hard or if he’s ready for the season. I don’t think about that at all. I just want to make sure he’s comfortable and enjoying his time here in Michigan.”
A popular question Tuesday was to ask each player to name a surprise player or a breakout player for the fall. McNamara didn’t want to name a surprise player, but he did mention his new center. McNamara stated that Oluwatimi will have a big impact on the team in 2022.
“I think we have, I mean, we just have a lot of talent on our team,” McNamara said. “We have a lot of people who are going to play big roles. There are also many guys with a lot of experience. I think these guys will be counted on when we face adversity. But I mean for whoever you might see a little bit more playing time this year, freshman or freshman, we are all quite aware that Olu is going to be an extremely big impact on our team. I am very confident that he will play well this season. But we’ll see what the surprise will be.”
As good as Michigan’s offensive line was in 2021, adding a Rimington Award finalist to an already strong line can only instill fear in an opponent’s defense. The Wolverines can certainly have an even better offensive line with the addition of Oluwatimi in 2022.
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