- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The regular season ended with a thud for Michigan last Saturday, as the Wolverines flat-lined offensively in the second half against Ohio State in a 26-21 loss that left many wondering exactly what happened.
Offensive coordinator Al Borges has not yet spoken to the media after the loss and while Michigan head coach Brady Hoke didn’t give many answers, this week’s Mailbag tries to explain some of what went on.
Remember, the Mailbag is only as good as the questions you ask, so send those to firstname.lastname@example.org or @chanteljennings for next week.
SlickElvis13 from The Den: Now that the season is over, I'm wondering this: What offensive changes are coming? More specifically, what will the staff do to address the offensive line issues in blocking for the running game? I don't think it was an issue of personnel this year, but more of scheme. What do you think?
One offensive change is certain. Michigan will go toward a pro-style offense and away from the hybrid spread the Wolverines had been running whenever Denard Robinson was playing quarterback. That has been a long-stated plan for these coaches and considering the play of Devin Gardner, unlikely to change. As far as the offensive line, you’ll see almost an entire new one next fall. Three starters -- guards Ricky Barnum and Patrick Omameh along with center Elliott Mealer -- are graduating, and left tackle Taylor Lewan could easily depart for the NFL. So you’ll have one returning starter, tackle Michael Schofield, and then four new starters. So it could be rough early as they find chemistry, but considering the talent in redshirt freshmen Kyle Kalis, Ben Braden and Erik Magnuson as well as the potential of Jack Miller at center and either Joey Burzynski or Chris Bryant at guard, there is potential for a much stronger line by midway through next season.
Andrew (@aopalewski) from Detroit: Why didn’t they use Denard as a decoy more in the game? It was always one or the other with no misdirection whatsoever.
That’s the million-dollar question around Michigan this week. Borges won’t be available to the media this week, and Brady Hoke referenced timing when it came to not playing them both at the same time. Not sure I buy that, especially since you could line up Robinson out wide, have him run a streak and even if you don’t throw it to him, you’re distracting the defenders somewhat. It was a confounding game plan, especially in the second half, for Michigan. Still don’t get it.
@ErniePyle2 on Twitter: With all it takes in terms of effort to build a good team, how can such miserable play-calling at crunch time be justified? We want players who will come through in the clutch. How about coaches having great calls when the team needs it the most?
Have a tough time with this argument. Did Borges call a poor game -- especially in the second half? Despite what Hoke says, yes, he did. It was unimaginative and whether it is executed or not, when an opponent knows what is coming, that is the sign of a predictable game plan. But Borges has had his fair share of strong game plans, including the three weeks before Iowa and the past two seasons against Notre Dame. Really believe it was just one horrifically called game.
lavalamp003 from The Den: In regard to Borges’ play-calling in the the second half of "The Game," why do you think he changed things up so much? Do you think Borges felt, and honestly outside of two huge plays (Roundtree catch and run, and Denard run) and a short field that led to a TD for us, our offense was unproductive in the first half? I am still scratching my head on this one,
I’m not exactly sure what he was thinking -- Hoke hasn’t given much up on the subject – and I would agree that the overall plan wasn’t too strong. What seems lost in a lot of this, and Robinson’s skills can cause this, is Michigan was on its way to a potential clock mismanagement at the end of the first half before Robinson’s big run. With under two minutes left, Michigan actually huddled on its side of the field and then ran the ball despite being in a clear two-minute situation. It worked out, but if Robinson had been stopped, it could have been real interesting.
18hMitch Sherman and Dan Murphy
2dMitch Sherman and Dan Murphy
3dDan Murphy and Mitch Sherman