Somebody last night noticed amidst the long list of Nittany Lions in the transfer portal the name of Michigan redshirt junior OL Nolan Ulizio. A onetime starter for Michigan, Ulizio lost his job as quickly as he won it in 2017, and virtually disappeared last year behind the two-deep freshmen.
— Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) January 14, 2019
Lorenz's article points out that the transfer portal does not mean a player is certainly leaving. As per the new rule, athletes who ask to be placed in the portal can be contacted by other coaches to discuss a transfer, but that's no guarantee of any bites, or that the player will prefer his transfer options to sticking around. In this case I'm guessing he's gone.
Ulizio was a flier recruit taken in late January 2015 when Harbaugh arrived to find just Grant Newsome and legacy Jon Runyan in the class, and the guys on campus already nearing the end of their eligibility. Until that point Ulizio had been committed to Connecticut with not a lot of other choices. While offensive linemen are the toughest to predict, that's often an effect of having to gain or lose a lot of weight. Ulizio was more of a late riser and big drive blocker who projected to guard down the line. In the context of the 2015 class and the need for OL down the road it was a worthy swing. The bar was set at Reuben Riley. Intelligence was the reason to hope he'd be more.
That hope grew when Ulizio was mentioned after 2016 spring practice as a potential contributor, and momentarily exploded when he was announced as the starting right tackle shortly before the 2017 opener against Florida. Unfortunately that was the peak of his Michigan career. Ulizio's performances over five starts put him in that category of guys who grade out so badly in UFR that talking about it feels harsh, with blame doled out to coaches and universes more so than the player. It turned out that both Juwann Bushell-Beatty and Runyan were superior options, and when Ulizio appeared again it was as a guard in mop-up hour. Just a redshirt sophomore at that point, the early playing time suggested there might be a player in practice who'd translate that to the field eventually. Or maybe Drevno and Frey weren't happy with the other tackles and flung Ulizio out there in late desperation or something. Following that dysfunctional season Drevno was forced out, Frey jumped to his alma mater, and Ulizio had to prove himself to a third OL coach.
By Spring 2018 that seemed increasingly unlikely, as the tackle battle dominated offseason chatter without so much of a breath spent on Nolan. Ulizio was not just behind Runyan and JBB but two redshirt freshmen and true freshman Jaylen Mayfield. A late move inside, though probably a better fit, would also come with more competition. Ulizio's chances of earning a fifth year offer in spring, let alone playing again, were iffy at best with all the youngsters passing him. His chances of finding a good school that would take a tackle who started five games for Michigan and can play right away seem much higher.
Ulizio's exit would mean the Wolverines are down to just Runyan and Reuben Jones (if he's extended a fifth year in spring) from the Hoke-Harbaugh transition class. Michigan is now, by my reckoning, down to 88 scholarships for 2019, with a lot of offseason to go before they're expected to be at 85. With normal attrition still expected that's well ahead of the curve, meaning they have some room to offer a few more guys. The new assistants might have some players in mind, and it wouldn't be surprising if Michigan is currently searching the portal for defensive tackles.