Phew. I saw people mentioning the 2007 Appalachian State game on Twitter. However, I couldn’t stop thinking about the 2013 game against Akron. As the game went along, I felt like Michigan was going to pull it out with a goal line stand or just an outstanding play by the defense. Not because they’re great, but because they’re better than Army. In that 2013 Akron game, Jarrod Wilson ended the game with an interception. In the 2019 Army version, it was Kwity Paye with a sack and a fumble.
Name: Cesar Ruiz Height: 6’4″ Weight: 319 lbs. High school: Bradenton (FL) IMG Academy Position: Center Class: Junior Jersey number: #51 Last year: I ranked Ruiz #5 and said he would be the starting center (LINK). He started all thirteen games. TTB Rating: 99
Ruiz has had a solid career so far. Sometimes expectations for highly regarded recruits can get out of hand, especially for linemen. For whatever reason, I don’t think that has been the case with Ruiz – for good reason. Many centers start off their careers as redshirts, backups, or contributors at offensive guard – check. (Ruiz started five games at guard as a freshman.) Then in their next year, they play but don’t necessarily stand out – check. (Ruiz had a decent year in 2018, but he was Third Team All-Big Ten). He was Offensive Line Player of the Week against Nebraska, a pretty bad squad.
This year is when Ruiz should hit his stride. He’s no longer adjusting to play center in college – he’s already done it. Despite a new offense, the schemes up front won’t be any more difficult; if anything, they should be a little simpler. Ruiz is quick and powerful, and he has great size. There has been a little discussion about his potential to leave for the NFL after this season, and we’ll see whether that comes to fruition or not. He might not be First Team all-conference in 2019 (Tyler Biadasz from Wisconsin already won that honor, so I expect him to win it again), but I think Ruiz will be just as good. As the commander of the offensive line, he’s a very important piece, but he does have a solid backup in redshirt junior Stephen Spanellis and a freshman who has turned some heads in Zach Carpenter.
Name: Cesar Ruiz Height: 6’4″ Weight: 319 lbs. High school: Bradenton (FL) IMG Academy Position: Center Class: Sophomore Jersey number: #51 Last year: I ranked Ruiz #24 and said he would be a backup center/guard (LINK). He played in ten games with six starts at right guard. TTB Rating: 99
Ruiz came in as the country’s #1 center recruit in the 2017 class, which sounds like a guy who should be able to be an immediate starter. But I did an analysis of #1 centers from previous classes (LINK), and it didn’t suggest greatness for year one at the center position. A lot of freshman centers end up playing guard or just being backups in year one. Michigan started fifth year senior Patrick Kugler at center, and the guard positions were manned by Ben Bredeson on the left side and Michael Onwenu on the right. Ruiz ended up passing Onwenu at right guard by the end of the season.
Now that Kugler has graduated, Ruiz has taken over the center position. Reports out of practice this spring were that he has really taken to the role, which was expected. The offensive line has reportedly taken significant strides forward, although I can’t remember an off-season where that hasn’t been the scuttlebutt – whether it turned out to be true or false. Ruiz was quarterback Shea Patterson’s center at IMG Academy, so they should have a good rapport already. Ruiz appears to be well on his way to a successful college career, and offensive line coach Ed Warinner has done a good job of developing linemen over the years. There are concerns about the tackle spots, but Ruiz and the guard positions should be pretty good.
Hi Thunder, Could you address the offensive line situation and how likely you think it is to take a step forward next year? I find it hard to be confident unless one of the redshirts turns out to be a special player or Grant Newsome comes back 100%.
Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . Karan Higdon. Higdon had 7 carries for 20 yards on Saturday, and he played second fiddle to Chris Evans while nursing an ankle injury. If Michigan has any chance to beat Ohio State, it has to have a healthy Higdon. Higdon is the team’s leading rusher this season (136 carries, 874 yards, 6.43 yards/carry, 10 TDs).