ANN ARBOR—Michigan redshirt freshman offensive guard Kyle Kalis looks and talks like he’s sewn up the starting job at right guard for the Wolverines heading into their opener against Central Michigan on Aug. 31.
Though no formal announcement or verification has been made by Michigan coach Brady Hoke about the starting job, Kalis believes it could happen, and it’s something that’s been motivating him long before he even stepped foot on campus in Ann Arbor.
“If I am the guy, that would mean a lot,” Kalis said. “That’s what I’ve been training for since literally the last game of my high school career (against) St. Ignatius. My goal was to train and become a starter at Michigan. So, if that happens, I’ll be really happy about that.
“I feel good about the way camp is going and I feel confident that I’ll be able to finish out camp the way I want to.”
Coming in as a true freshman in 2012 with a five-star ranking and the No. 6 overall offensive tackle prospect in the country, Kalis was a contender to see the field right away thanks in part to his ability but also to the Wolverines limited depth and experience on the interior of the line.
Ultimately left out of the two deep and tagged with a redshirt, Kalis still thinks about standing on the sideline in 2012.
“It’s definitely a motivating factor because last year there was so much hype with me coming in and possibly being a starter and all that hoopla,” he said. “But the fact that I didn’t play last year, that was definitely something that kept me going the whole entire off-season.
“From this year to last year, my strength has gone up but from last year to this year my body fat has gone down, my speed has gone up. But I don’t think it’s so dramatic where it would’ve effected me, where, if I knew what I was doing, I definitely could’ve, might’ve, maybe played.”
Now 6-foot-5, 302-pounds, Kalis downplayed the physical gains made in the off-season noting his added time in the film room and overall understanding of what he’s seeing out of the defense at the line of scrimmage.
“Last year my main thing was I had to come in and get the basics of the plays just so I could go fast cause when you don’t know the play you start going slow and you play tentative so you got to get to know the play to play fast,” Kalis said. “Once I got that, I started playing fast.
“Then, I had to get the scheme, and once I got the scheme then I could start actually position blocking, not position blocking, but ending up turning my body to where the ball was getting run behind me so I could get that part of my game going.”
Lewan lending a helping hand
A propensity for collecting personal foul penalties early and often in his career at Michigan, left tackle Taylor Lewan has been through his own stages of development on and off the field.
Now a senior, Lewan is left with the task of passing on knowledge and advice to the young offensive linemen, something Kalis has taken full advantage of over the last calendar year.
“He definitely saw when I started playing with him that I was the same kind of guy that he was,” Kalis said. “So right off the bat, starting last year, cause, it was a long process, and all last season I was playing like an idiot during practice.
“A lot of that I would say is just not getting dumb, stupid penalties,” he added. “A lot of times, in high school, I know I would get called a lot for technical and knocking guys helmets off, punching, not punching, but like just being aggressive and stuff. A lot of that you can get away with in practice but in a game the referees, especially this year, are cracking down.”
With the help of Lewan, Kalis believes he’s found the right method for keeping his emotions in check.
“There was one day early on where it wasn’t a very good practice for me,” he said. “I got flustered and so I went to Taylor and I was like, ‘Taylor, what do you do to relax and calm yourself down?’ He said all you have to do is before the snap, take a few deep breaths and say, all it is, is just football, it’s a game. You’ve got to relax.
“So I do that and now when I come up to the line, I get in my stance, I see the end coming, I see the backers dropping, safeties blitzing or whatever and the picture has become a lot clearer, I would say.”
Asked who on Michigan’s defensive line has given him the greatest challenge so far in camp, Kalis pointed right to Michigan junior defensive end Frank Clark who is spending some time sliding inside in practice.
“I would say lately, Coach Mattison has been messing around with having Frank Clark coming down inside and playing a little three,” Kalis said. “And Frank’s one of those guys, for guys like me, not as finesse as Taylor (Lewan), but as strong as Taylor in a bunch of aspects, but Frank’s one of those guys who has so many things in his tool box that he could throw at you at one time and he’s the kind of guy who makes you shake and nervous and freak out. So he’s probably the guy who’s given me the most trouble.”
To watch video of Kalis from Tuesday’s media session, press play below.