Interior Offensive Line vs Rashan Gary (DT)
This matchup will easily be the one of the most exciting to watch Saturday night. This offensive line will be the strength of the Irish offense — and the interior offensive line is where the bulk of the experience lies. Left guard Alex Bars and center Sam Mustipher are both seniors with a combined 50 starts. Right guard Tommy Kraemer started all 12 games last season. These three will be tasked with handling All-American freak Rashan Gary. How this matchup plays out will be one of the biggest factors in determining who starts the season 1-0.
Gary is one of the best defensive players in the nation, and is a top-3 prospect for next year’s draft. Last season, he had 11.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. He can play on the outside or in the interior. His size and athleticism allows him to fit well anywhere on the defensive line and be a problem in the run and pass game.
When Gary lines up inside as a 1 or 3 technique, that will be the real battle of the night. Talk about an old-school, trench warfare type of matchup. Mustipher, Bars, and Kraemer will be relied on heavily to kick-start the Irish rushing attack early and often. If these three can handle Gary and open running lanes between the tackles, it will be huge for the Irish offense. Forcing Michigan’s linebackers and talented secondary to respect the run game opens up the playbook for Wimbush and the rest of the offense.
Outside of the general run game, a very important aspect of this matchup will be handling Gary on short yardage situations and passing downs. Keeping him away from Wimbush and not allowing drives to stall on 3rd or 4th and short will be huge.
I believe the experience and talent of the interior of this offensive line will get the job done. Regardless, I can’t wait to watch large individuals trying to impose their will on other large individuals.