New Michigan O-lineman has grip a LB ‘couldn’t get out of’

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – He’s big, he’s strong and he knows his stuff di lui, setting the stage for what could be another strong season up front along Michigan’s offensive line.

That’s the early word from Wolverines players on graduate transfer center Olusegun “Olu” Oluwatimi, a Rimington Trophy winner and All-American last year at Virginia. He entered the transfer portal after Bronco Mendenhall stepped aside, and Michigan immediately jumped to the top of his interest list.

“Obviously the brand of football (stood out),” Oluwatimi told reporters Saturday after Michigan’s spring game. “The O-line is coming off a Joe Moore Award. The team is coming off making the College Football Playoff. I just loved the momentum of the program, and I felt like I could add to it. It was a no-brainer. “

The 6-foot-3, 310-pound linemen is currently locked in a competition with sophomore Greg Crippen, but Oluwatimi is considered the more experienced, more polished option at the center position – traits his teammates quickly noticed upon enrolling in January.

“One of the first days we put on pads in one-on-one pass rush, we saw him lock up some of our better d-linemen,” starting tackle Ryan Hayes said. “We said, ‘This guy is going to be pretty good for us.’ I think we knew early that he’s going to bring a lot experience, a lot of maturity to our group. “

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The toughest part of the transition (and it applies to most first-year players at Michigan) has been getting acclimated to the playbook. The Wolverines’ offense is a bit different than Virginia, which featured one of the nation’s most prolific passing offenses in the country. Michigan will look to run the football more, and getting push up front to open holes for the running backs will be vital.

So far, at least, it sounds like Oluwatimi has that down, too.

“One of the linebackers told me that Olu got ahold of him one practice and the grip he had on him, he couldn’t out of it,” running back Blake Corum said. “He’s a strong guy.”

Added defensive tackle Kris Jenkins: “You can definitely tell he’s about his business. You could definitely see that play out on the field. Dude is very talented, very humble – always looking for new aspects of helping his game, helping tweak the little stuff. He’s been pushing us a lot, too. “

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of his job is the center-quarterback exchange. It sometimes takes a bit for both sides to get comfortable with one another, and Michigan starter Cade McNamara developed a good rapport with Andrew Vastardis.

Now he looks to start anew with Oluwatimi, who McNamara called “an extremely smart player.”

“I think him being able to come to a new school and already change what he’s changing, as far as what he’s doing on the line of scrimmage this early is very, very impressive,” McNamara said. “Let alone his talent of him for blocking. He’s strong. I think as me and him continue working, continue talking, I think we’re going to have a great relationship. “

Oluwatimi is one of three returning Michigan offensive linemen who started last season (albeit at a different school), while the two others, Trevor Keegan (left guard) and Trente Jones (right tackle), have played their share of snaps. The guys up front are positioned for another big season, and Oluwatimi will be a focal point in how things shake out.

More Michigan football coverage from MLive:

Ex-Michigan TE inks deal with NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals

Aidan Hutchinson visits Jaguars; still projected to go No. 1 in NFL draft

Has UM found a freshman receiver (or two) ready to play right away?

Stan Parrish, Tom Brady’s QBs coach at Michigan, has died

QB JJ McCarthy (still) limited in Michigan’s spring game

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