- Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Michigan football team needs to thank the football gods for sending the Wolverines a bye week this week, just before its conference schedule begins. The past two weekends the Wolverines have been on the decline, with an offense that seems to be making more and more mistakes and a defense that bends (a lot) but manages not to break. Or at least not yet. So, in the meantime, here’s a to-do list for the Wolverines this week:
1. Get Devin Gardner’s groove back. The junior just had two of his worst career performances in back-to-back games against mediocre competition. Clearly he’s not feeling great about his game right now, nor should he be. Gardner is a very confident kid, but he just hasn’t appeared that way on the field the last two weeks. Time away from the spotlight and cameras might be exactly what he needs to refocus on the game. But he needs to get back in the film room with Al Borges and back out on the field with his receivers. With two weeks to prepare for the Big Ten season, Gardner should be able to find some semblance of a groove before taking the field against Minnesota.
2. Figure out the offensive line. Michigan’s tackles have done well, and generally speaking, so has right guard Kyle Kalis. However, left guard Graham Glasgow and center Jack Miller have looked in over their heads way too often for Michigan to feel confident about it’s O-line going forward. If the interior line can get its act together that will only help Gardner. It will also help the Wolverines' run game, so really, this might be the biggest issue Michigan needs to fix this week. Fans can’t expect Gardner to work miracles when there’s no consistent run game and no protection in front of him. It was hinted at that a few guys were banged up and since we really haven’t seen much rotation on the offensive line, we can likely assume that a few of those guys are offensive linemen. Maybe with two weeks to get better, they can compete better for spots in the interior line.
3. Shore up its secondary. Senior captain Courtney Avery returned to the starting lineup in Michigan’s game against UConn, but he really didn’t add that much to an already struggling secondary. The defensive backs' motto is to keep everything “inside and in front,” but they haven’t done that so far. The Wolverines have played pretty soft coverage so far this season and Michigan doesn’t really seem to have a very good reason for that. It has allowed big-play potential for opponents. Through four games, Michigan has allowed 15 plays of 20 or more yards, including three of 40 or more yards. And all 15 of those plays were passing plays. Michigan defensive backs need to defend those receivers better, but also, the defensive line needs to get a better pass rush to help out its defensive backs.