Michigan Wolverines: Graham Glasgow

Video: B1G missing piece -- Michigan

June, 5, 2014
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Despite losing its starting tackles to the NFL draft, Michigan needs more stability at the center spot to solidify a shaky offensive line entering the 2014 season.

Michigan spring wrap

April, 28, 2014
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The spring workouts are in the books and the long offseason has arrived. But before diving into summer and the painful wait for football to return, we're taking a look back at the developments from March and April and sneaking a peek at what to expect in the fall for Michigan.

Three things we learned in the spring

  • Front seven, front and center: The Wolverines didn't stand pat on defense this offseason. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is now coaching the linebackers, while Mark Smith moved down to take over the defensive line. They also shuffled their linebackers, switching Jake Ryan to the middle and emerging star James Ross III to the strong side. The moves seemed to work out well this spring, with Ryan looking like his old playmaking self a year removed from ACL surgery. The defensive line could be one of the team's strengths, led by senior defensive ends Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer and improving youngsters Taco Charlton, Chris Wormley and Willie Henry. Mattison wants to blitz more this season and hopes the defensive line can get more pressure on its own.
  • Early enrollees, immediate impact: When players skip the final half of their high school senior years to enroll in college in January, the hope is that they will be more advanced than most freshmen. Wide receiver Freddy Canteen and offensive lineman Mason Cole exceeded those expectations. Both impressed the coaching staff right away, with Canteen drawing raves and Cole getting a lot of first-team reps at left tackle. Both were with the starting unit during the spring game and figure to have roles on the team this fall.
  • More QB clarity: Brady Hoke talked of a quarterback competition this spring, and Devin Gardner wasn't originally expected to do a whole lot while recovering from a broken foot. But Gardner surprised the coaches by fulling participating in all 15 spring practices and asserting his hold on the position. Hoke said Shane Morris closed the gap a bit on Gardner and that the competition would continue. But even though Gardner didn't play well in the spring game, it's pretty clear that this remains his team.
Three questions for the fall

  • Can O-line be less offensive?: New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has brought a simplified blocking scheme and a focus on running downhill. Players said there were times this spring when that was effective. But concerns about the youth and chemistry on the line remain, and not just because of another shaky performance in the spring game. When a mid-year enrollee (Cole) is starting at left tackle, that raises serious red flags. The return of Erik Magnuson and Joey Burzynski from injury and Graham Glasgow from his one-game suspension will help the experience and talent level. But for now, the line is full of young, unproven players who must find a way to raise their games between now and late August.
  • Skill position suspense: With Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo graduated, Devin Funchess is the only returning receiver with more than 15 career catches. Canteen's emergence provided another option at the position, but a lot of question marks remain at wideout. Michigan is hoping Jehu Chesson, Csont'e York, Da'Mario Jones and Dennis Norfleet step forward, Amara Darboh successfully returns from injury and freshman Drake Harris can contribute. But there are few sure things. At running back, the team is hopeful that Derrick Green breaks out as a sophomore and De'Veon Smith joins him for a powerful duo. Again, though, it's mostly optimism and little track record at this point.
  • Enough leadership? Hoke has suggested that he wasn't thrilled with the leadership during last season's 7-5 team. He and the players have said that the chemistry and accountability have been good this spring. The fact remains, however, that this team has only 12 seniors, and only seven of them are position players who see the field a lot. Leadership will also have to come from the junior class and elsewhere if Michigan wants to get over the hump of mediocrity.
One way-too-early prediction

Jabrill Peppers immediately becomes the team's best defensive back. That's a bold call, as Peppers isn't even on campus yet. But he was the No. 2 player in the 2014 ESPN 300 for a reason, and he should be the kind of physical, cover corner that Michigan has lacked. The Wolverines could try him in several different positions, but if he's the real deal, he can start quickly at cornerback. Program insiders believe his ceiling could be in the Charles Woodson neighborhood. No pressure, kid.

Big Ten lunch links

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
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I want to share something with you: The three little sentences that will get you through life. Number 1: "Cover for me." Number 2: "Oh, good idea, Boss!" Number 3: "It was like that when I got here."
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan players are taught to tune out what the outside world is saying about them. But they're still kids, and criticism still finds its way through.

And so the offensive linemen couldn't escape all the negativity floating around about them in 2013. After all, it was virtually everywhere.

[+] EnlargeKyle Bosch
Lon Horwedel/Icon SMIThe redshirt of Kyle Bosch, who was ranked No. 157 in the 2013 ESPN 300, was pulled in October last season as the Wolverines' offensive line struggled.
"It was tough last year, and I'm sure we probably didn't hear as much as there was because we're so busy," sophomore Erik Magnuson said. "Any time you're not labeled as a great offensive line when you're at Michigan or even a traditional Michigan offensive line, it definitely hurts."

The Wolverines didn't need outsiders to tell them what was obvious: they struggled up front, particularly in the three inside spots as coaches mixed and matched inexperienced players without much success. Michigan finished 11th in the Big Ten in rushing and tied for the second-most sacks allowed in the league.

This spring, the two most reliable players on last season's line -- tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield -- are training for future NFL careers. It's up to many of the same guys who struggled in their first major exposure to step forward and change the outlook.

"We know we don't have the option to not get better," guard Kyle Kalis said. "It's getting to that point where we can't really say we’re young anymore, because next year, no one is going to want to hear that. So we have to all come together."

Whether you see it as an excuse or simply reality, the Wolverines are awfully young on the O-line. They have one senior -- Joey Burzynski -- and two juniors in Graham Glasgow and Jack Miller. The rest are sophomores or freshman, and with Burzynski out with an injury and Glasgow serving a suspension, youth is dominating spring practice reps.

Consider the left tackle position. Magnuson, currently out with a shoulder injury, will likely start out atop the depth chart there when he's healthy. But right now, the three players battling to fill Lewan's shows are redshirt freshmen David Dawson and Logan Tuley-Tillman and Mason Cole, a freshman early enrollee. Cole has impressed his coaches and has an excellent chance of at least making the rotation. But the fact that a guy who should be a high school senior right now is getting so many reps at the most important offensive line position speaks volumes.

"I can't all of a sudden make them older, so we have to make sure we do what we can do," offensive line coach Darrell Funk said. "We’re so young that if every day we can get better at something, we’ll have what we want."

The good news is that players like Magnuson, Kalis, Kyle Bosch and Ben Braden all gained valuable experience as freshmen and should naturally improve with more seasoning. New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has simplified many of the blocking schemes and is emphasizing quick, decisive moves in a more north-south running game than predecessor Al Borges.

"You get the the chance to open these huge holes and then let the running backs take one or two steps right or left, find the hill and start running," Kalis said. "That’s a big difference from last year."

Last season's group also had a different dynamic with two established senior starters and a whole bunch of young players. Now, many of the players are close together in class and have gone through similar experiences.

"It was Taylor and Scho’s offensive line last year, which was fine because we needed that leadership," Kalis said. "But this year, it's kind of cool that we can let it be our line and really come together."

A lot of work remains, even though spring practice wraps up later this week at Michigan. Funk is still mixing and matching while trying to find the combinations that work best, and the returns of Magnuson, Burzynski and Glasgow will change the formula in fall camp. He said everything is still a work in progress right now, including the leadership on the line.

Funk knows that both he and the unit received scathing criticism last season, but he says the only thing that matters is moving forward.

"You take your lumps with young guys, and then the following years you see the rewards," he said. "I don’t think that will be any different in this situation."

Nobody has to tell those young guys that they need to improve in a hurry. The outside noise is mere motivation.

"We got the label of not being a good offensive line way too much last year," Magnuson said. "That puts a lot of fuel to the fire when you play at Michigan because you have such high expectations."
Michigan’s spring game is less than a month away, so we’re going to try our best to look into the future and make five predictions for the next few weeks and what we might or might not see in the scrimmage.

Prediction No. 1: The offensive line isn’t going to be quite as far along as some would like.

The offensive line is the position group that must improve the most between 2013 and 2014 if the Wolverines want to be better offensively. As good as Devin Gardner, Derrick Green, De'Veon Smith or Amara Darboh might be, it won’t matter too much if the offensive line struggles like (or for as long a stretch) it did in 2013.

What is often thought of as a prototypical Michigan offensive line is one that is stacked with juniors and seniors, guys who have paid their dues, learned from upperclassmen and are physically and mentally ready to step in. However, that wasn’t the case last season and, as much experience as some players might have gained in 2013, it won’t be the case this fall.

[+] Enlarge Kyle Kalis
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesKyle Kalis and Michigan's offensive line should be expected to make strides this spring, but perhaps just small ones.
The offensive line will still be very, very young. The projected starters on the interior are a sophomore (Kyle Bosch) at left guard, a junior (Graham Glasgow) at center and another sophomore (Kyle Kalis) at right guard. Glasgow also has experience at left guard. Between the three, they only combine for 20 career starts at their respective positions.

The trio also doesn't have experience as a starting combo. Kalis appeared in Bosch’s three starts (against Michigan State, Nebraska and Northwestern) but didn’t start. But they have played together before, which is more than could be said for the group last season.

So while it’s still a very young group, there could and should be some gains made in the interior of the offensive line. So the problem flip-flops from what it was last season to what it is this season -- the tackles, the strength of the line last season. In 2014, those two positions will likely be filled by two redshirt sophomores who have limited experience.

Ben Braden, who appeared in just two games, is taking reps with the top group this spring and Erik Magnuson, who started seven games and appeared in 12 games last season, is the likely leader for the spot at left tackle. Both have the physical attributes to be excellent tackles: height, weight and long arms. But last season showed what talent without experience looks like, and the idea of some of that inexperience protecting Gardner’s blind side is a bit worrisome.

On top of that, Magnuson underwent shoulder surgery this winter and isn't participating in spring practices. Redshirt freshman David Dawson is taking his snaps at left tackle, just continuing the revolving door of youth on the offensive line.

Last year the competition for the positions went on for weeks throughout the season. In the perfect world, coaches would at least be able to see the two-deep throughout the spring. That certainly won’t be the case as Magnuson is out and reserve players such as Chris Bryant and Joey Burzynski -- who have game experience -- are unavailable this spring.

Because fixing the offensive line is at such a premium for the Wolverines and because fans have taken such notice to it, expectations are high. But those expectations still need to be tempered, especially through this spring. If people show up to the spring game expecting to see the 1997 Michigan offensive line out there, then they probably want to stay home and try to watch replays. This group will make strides, but those strides aren’t going to be massive this spring.

B1G spring position breakdown: OL

February, 28, 2014
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We're taking snapshots of each position group with each Big Ten team entering the spring. Up next: the big uglies.

Illinois: This is another group that appears to be in significantly better shape now than at the start of coach Tim Beckman's tenure. The Illini lose only one full-time starter in tackle Corey Lewis, as four other linemen who started at least eight games in 2013 return. Senior tandem Michael Heitz and Simon Cvijanovic are two of the Big Ten's most experienced linemen, and guards Ted Karras also has logged plenty of starts. Right tackle appears to be the only vacancy entering the spring, as Austin Schmidt and others will compete.

Indiana: The Hoosiers have somewhat quietly put together one of the Big Ten's best offensive lines, and the same should hold true in 2014. Everybody is back, and because of injuries before and during the 2013 season, Indiana boasts a large group with significant starting experience. Jason Spriggs should contend for first-team All-Big Ten honors as he enters his third season at left tackle. Senior Collin Rahrig solidifies the middle, and Indiana regains the services of guard Dan Feeney, who was sidelined all of 2013 by a foot injury.

Iowa: The return of left tackle Brandon Scherff anchors an Iowa line that could be a team strength this fall. Scherff will enter the fall as a leading candidate for Big Ten offensive lineman of the year. Iowa must replace two starters in right tackle Brett Van Sloten and left guard Conor Boffeli. Andrew Donnal could be the answer in Van Sloten's spot despite playing guard in 2013, while several players will compete at guard, including Tommy Gaul and Eric Simmons. Junior Austin Blythe returns at center.

Maryland: Line play will go a long way toward determining how Maryland fares in the Big Ten, and the Terrapins will make the transition with an experienced group. Four starters are back, led by center Sal Conaboy, who has started games in each of his first three seasons. Tackles Ryan Doyle and Michael Dunn bring versatility to the group, and Maryland should have plenty of options once heralded recruit Damian Prince and junior-college transfer Larry Mazyck arrive this summer. Prince is the top Big Ten offensive line recruit in the 2014 class, according to ESPN RecruitingNation. New line coach Greg Studwara brings a lot of experience to the group.

Michigan: The Wolverines' line is under the microscope this spring after a disappointing 2013 season. Michigan loses both starting tackles, including Taylor Lewan, the Big Ten's offensive lineman of the year and a projected first-round draft choice. The interior line was in flux for much of 2013, and Michigan needs development from a large group of rising sophomores and juniors, including Kyle Kalis, Kyle Bosch, Jack Miller, Graham Glasgow, and Patrick Kugler. Both starting tackle spots are open, although Ben Braden seems likely to slide in on the left side. Erik Magnuson is out for spring practice following shoulder surgery, freeing up opportunities for redshirt freshman David Dawson and others.

Michigan State: The line took a significant step forward in 2013 but loses three starters, including left guard Blake Treadwell, a co-captain. Michigan State used an eight-man rotation in 2013 and will look for development from top reserves such as Travis Jackson (Yes! Yes!) and Connor Kruse. Kodi Kieler backed up Treadwell last season and could contend for a starting job as well. Coach Mark Dantonio said this week that converted defensive linemen James Bodanis, Devyn Salmon and Noah Jones will get a chance to prove themselves this spring. It's important for MSU to show it can reload up front, and the large rotation used in 2013 should help.

Minnesota: For the first time since the Glen Mason era, Minnesota truly established the line of scrimmage and showcased the power run game in 2013. The Gophers return starters at four positions and regain Jon Christenson, the team's top center before suffering a season-ending leg injury in November. Right tackle Josh Campion and left guard Zac Epping are mainstays in the starting lineup, and players such as Tommy Olson and Ben Lauer gained some valuable experience last fall. There should be good leadership with Epping, Olson, Marek Lenkiewicz and Caleb Bak.

Nebraska: Graduation hit the line hard as five seniors depart, including 2012 All-American Spencer Long at guard and Jeremiah Sirles at tackle. Nebraska will lean on guard Jake Cotton, its only returning starter, and experienced players such as Mark Pelini, who steps into the center spot. Senior Mike Moudy is the top candidate at the other guard spot, but there should be plenty of competition at the tackle spots, where Zach Sterup, Matt Finnin and others are in the mix. Definitely a group to watch this spring.

Northwestern: Offensive line struggles undoubtedly contributed to Northwestern's disappointing 2013 season. All five starters are back along with several key reserves, and coach Pat Fitzgerald already has seen a dramatic difference in the position competitions this spring as opposed to last, when many linemen were sidelined following surgeries. Center Brandon Vitabile is the only returning starter who shouldn't have to worry about his job. Paul Jorgensen and Eric Olson opened the spring as the top tackles, and Jack Konopka, who has started at both tackle spots, will have to regain his position.

Ohio State: Like Nebraska, Ohio State enters the spring with a lot to replace up front as four starters depart from the Big Ten's best line. Taylor Decker is the only holdover and will move from right tackle to left tackle. Fifth-year senior Darryl Baldwin could step in at the other tackle spot, while Pat Elflein, who filled in for the suspended Marcus Hall late last season, is a good bet to start at guard. Jacoby Boren and Billy Price will compete at center and Joel Hale, a defensive lineman, will work at guard this spring. Ohio State has recruited well up front, and it will be interesting to see how young players such as Evan Lisle and Kyle Dodson develop.

Penn State: New coach James Franklin admits he's concerned about the depth up front despite the return of veterans Miles Dieffenbach and Donovan Smith on the left side. Guard Angelo Mangiro is the other lineman who logged significant experience in 2013, and guard/center Wendy Laurent and guard Anthony Alosi played a bit. But filling out the second string could be a challenge for Penn State, which could start a redshirt freshman (Andrew Nelson) at right tackle. The Lions have to develop some depth on the edges behind Nelson and Smith.

Purdue: The Boilers reset up front after a miserable season in which they finished 122nd out of 123 FBS teams in rushing offense (67.1 ypg). Three starters return on the interior, led by junior center Robert Kugler, and there's some continuity at guard with Jordan Roos and Justin King, both of whom started as redshirt freshmen. It's a different story on the edges as Purdue loses both starting tackles. Thursday's addition of junior-college tackle David Hedelin could be big, if Hedelin avoids a potential NCAA suspension for playing for a club team. Cameron Cermin and J.J. Prince also are among those in the mix at tackle.

Rutgers: Continuity should be a strength for Rutgers, which returns its entire starting line from 2013. But production has to be better after the Scarlet Knights finished 100th nationally in rushing and tied for 102nd in sacks allowed. Guard Kaleb Johnson considered entering the NFL draft but instead will return for his fourth season as a starter. Rutgers also brings back Betim Bujari, who can play either center or guard, as well as Keith Lumpkin, the likely starter at left tackle. It will be interesting to see if new line coach Mitch Browning stirs up the competition this spring, as younger players Dorian Miller and J.J. Denman could get a longer look.

Wisconsin: There are a lot of familiar names up front for the Badgers, who lose only one starter in guard Ryan Groy. The tackle spots look very solid with Tyler Marz (left) and Rob Havenstein (right), and Kyle Costigan started the final 11 games at right guard. There should be some competition at center, as both Dan Voltz and Dallas Lewallen have battled injuries. Coach Gary Andersen mentioned on national signing day that early enrollee Michael Deiter will enter the mix immediately at center. Another early enrollee, decorated recruit Jaden Gault, should be part of the rotation at tackle. If certain young players develop quickly this spring, Wisconsin should have no depth issues when the season rolls around.
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Maryland Terrapins, Michigan Wolverines, Big Ten Conference, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Northwestern Wildcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Penn State Nittany Lions, Purdue Boilermakers, Wisconsin Badgers, Michigan State Spartans, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Jack Miller, Kyle Kalis, Evan Lisle, Patrick Kugler, Erik Magnuson, Kyle Bosch, Brandon Vitabile, Michael Heitz, Travis Jackson, Damian Prince, Brandon Scherff, Brett Van Sloten, Donovan Smith, Jeremiah Sirles, Rob Havenstein, Simon Cvijanovic, Spencer Long, Taylor Decker, Ted Karras, Pat Fitzgerald, Andrew Donnal, Zac Epping, Gary Andersen, Graham Glasgow, Josh Campion, Jon Christenson, Jordan Roos, Jaden Gault, Paul Jorgensen, Blake Treadwell, Dan Feeney, Michael Deiter, James Franklin, David Hedelin, Tommy Olson, Zach Sterup, Kyle Costigan, Darryl Baldwin, Miles Dieffenbach, B1G spring positions 14, Andrew Nelson, Angelo Mangiro, Austin Blythe, Austin Schmidt, Betim Bujari, Cameron Cermin, Collin Rahrig, Connor Kruse, Conor Boffelli, Corey Lewis, Dallas Lewallen, Devyn Salmon, Dorian Miller, Eric Olson, Eric Simmons, Greg Studrawa, J.J. Denman, J.J. Prince, Jack Konopka, Jake Cotton, James Bodanis, Jason Spriggs, Justin King, Kaleb Johnson, Keith Lumpkin, Kodi Kieler, Kyle Dodson, Larry Mazyck, Marek Lenkiewicz, Mark Pelini, Matt Finnin, Michael Dunn, Mike Moudy, Mitch Browning, Noah Jones, Pat Elflein, Robert Kugler, Ryan Doyle, Sal Conaboy, Tommy Gaul

Spring football started Tuesday, so the competition for positions is officially under way and under the watchful eyes of Brady Hoke and his staff. This week, we’re counting down the five position battles you should also keep an eye on during the next month.

No. 3: Center

Who’s in the mix: Graham Glasgow, Patrick Kugler, Jack Miller, Blake Bars

[+] EnlargeGraham Glasgow
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsGraham Glasgow moved over to center in 2013 and could remain there this fall.
What to watch: It shouldn't be a surprise that the offensive line is making an appearance on this countdown (and it won’t be the last time, either). There was a lot of shuffling at center last season. Miller started the first four games and Glasgow finished out the season. The interior offensive line struggled so much that it’s hard to really pinpoint anything, but it’s obvious the center spot was far from stout. Glasgow is remembered for his few badly botched snaps (against Michigan State and Nebraska), but he definitely showed improvement as the season went on. The big question will be whether he can keep the position, if it will turn back to Miller (unlikely) or if a younger guy such as Kugler or Bars (both took reps at center during bowl practice) can step in. Bars seems like a better fit outside, but Michigan made the move out of necessity during those practices. Most likely, this position race will come down to Glasgow and Kugler.

Glasgow was formerly a guard, and he's probably better suited there naturally. Kugler came in as a true center. At 6-foot-5 and 287 pounds, Kugler has good size for a center, though he needs to put on more weight. The average size of the six finalists for the Rimington Trophy last season was 6-4 and 304 pounds, so Kugler is still a bit small in comparison. However, Kugler is a bit more compact than Glasgow and has the benefit of spending a year in the playbook and weight room before playing a down for the Wolverines.

They say that if there’s going to be youth on the offensive line, it’s best to have it on the outside, which will likely be the case for the Wolverines in 2014. The opposite was shown this past season, as the youth was on the interior and Michigan averaged an almost-conference-worst 3.3 yards per rush and allowed 36 sacks, which was better than just two other Big Ten teams. Glasgow certainly has the upper hand when it comes to experience and the in-game chemistry he already gained with the likely guard starters, Kyle Bosch and Kyle Kalis. However, with Kugler’s football pedigree -- his father, Sean, is currently the head coach at UTEP and is a former offensive line coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills -- and his time spent solely learning the scheme with Darrell Funk, Kugler could make this a battle.

Previous posts:
The struggles of the offensive line were well documented this season. With several starting lineups and no real cohesion until late November, the Michigan O-line acted as a real speed bump to the Wolverines offense ever finding any kind of momentum.

[+] Enlarge Kyle Kalis
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesThe good news in an otherwise tough season on the UM O-line is that young players like Kyle Kalis got plenty of experience.
THE GOOD: Several young players got game experience (this is the silver lining of having so many lineup changes throughout the season). So while it might have been frustrating that it seemed as though the offensive line never could find consistency with its five, the fact that several returning players -- Kyle Kalis, Graham Glasgow, Jack Miller, Erik Magnuson, Kyle Bosch -- all got real, in-game experience is going to be such a boost for them at Michigan. Obviously, it created havoc for the Wolverines in the short term, but in the long run it could be a good thing for Michigan. Also, it was good for Michigan to have Taylor Lewan named an All-American again this season. It keeps up Michigan’s tradition of having talented left tackles but also gives the players something to aim for.

THE BAD: Most of it. They say that if you’re going to have youth on the offensive line, then it’s best to have it on the outside. Unfortunately for Michigan, they had the experience on the outside. It was great for the Wolverines to have veterans at left and right tackle, but when you’re going into the season opener and your interior offensive line combines for zero starts, it’s generally a (really, really) bad thing. The fact that Michigan couldn’t figure out its starting lineup until far too late is the reason why the offense never got going and likely why Devin Gardner missed the bowl game (if he hadn’t gotten so banged up going into the Ohio State game, there’s a better chance he doesn’t injure his foot). For a program that emphasizes its strength in the trenches, this will be a season it looks to forget.

THE FUTURE: It could/should be bright assuming the talent that the Wolverines recruited is actually developed. Michigan really doesn’t have to worry about bodies. It has recruited the offensive line like crazy. In the 2012 class the Wolverines brought in four offensive linemen. In 2013 they brought in six, including five who were four-star recruits. And in 2014, they have commitments from two, including one who has already enrolled on campus. So as far as bodies go, they’re good. But this is where offensive line coach Darrell Funk needs to come in and really develop those players. The good thing about the players they do have is that they have experience on the interior, so as long as they can develop that, it should be much stronger than it was throughout the season.

Previous posts:
Quarterback.
Running backs.
Wide receivers.
Tight ends.

Youth serves Michigan in run game

November, 18, 2013
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Last Wednesday, Michigan coach Brady Hoke was still committed to the idea of Fitzgerald Toussaint being his lead tailback.

But a “head concussion thing” led Hoke to believe Toussaint wasn’t quite practiced enough. That injury -- which Hoke said no longer is ailing the redshirt senior -- left Toussaint on the sideline and forced the hand of the Michigan coaching staff to turn to some of its youth in the run game. And that decision paid dividends.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Green
David Banks/USA TODAY SportsFreshman Derrick Green had career highs in carries (19) and yards (79) against Northwestern.
Freshman Derrick Green led the way with 19 carries for 79 yards, and fellow true freshman De'Veon Smith toted the ball eight times for 41 yards. For the first time this season, it really looked like Michigan was able to establish a run game that looks similar to the power game the Wolverines’ preach about week in and week out.

“Both of those guys are pretty much downhill runners,” Hoke said. “They have a chance to end up north and south because of their size and their style. They have pretty good vision most of the time.”

Coming in to the Northwestern game, Green had just 40 carries all season while Smith had accounted for just 15 carries over two games. But against the Wildcats, the two averaged 4.4 yards per carry, which is far more production out of the tailback position than the Wolverines have been accustomed to through the Big Ten schedule.

Because of the freshmen’s production, Hoke now has quite the decision -- one that will play out over the course of this week -- on whether to stick with his veteran running back who hasn’t gotten it going, or to take a chance on his young guns.

“We’ll see where we shake out at the end of the week with who will be the first back in,” Hoke said.

But not all of the accomplishments of the youthful running backs can be attributed to Green and Smith. The youthful interior line -- freshman left guard Kyle Bosch, redshirt sophomore center Graham Glasgow and redshirt freshman right guard Erik Magnuson -- played its part and really created space for the Wolverines for the first time during the conference slate.

“The running backs played well,” left tackle Taylor Lewan said. “But we also gave them holes to run through. That was huge. It was a good team effort.”

“I think the three guys inside really established the line of scrimmage,” Hoke added. “When you watch the tape [the running backs] were able to get started better.”

But the offensive line (and whichever back the Wolverines go with on Saturday) will face a tough test in Iowa. The Hawkeyes have allowed just four rushing touchdowns all season and one quarter of all opponent rushes have gone for 0 or negative yardage.

But it’s not impossible to have success in the run game against Iowa. Wisconsin rushed for 218 yards earlier this month, and Ohio State rushed for 273 yards against the Hawkeyes.

With the advancements the young interior line and young running backs showed against Northwestern, it should be a very interesting matchup in Iowa City.

“We weren’t perfect but some of the movement we had at the line of scrimmage -- trust me, that’ll be tested this week because of how Iowa plays the line of scrimmage and who they have playing it,” Hoke said. “We’ll be tested, but they got movement [against Northwestern] and it was really good to see the combination blocks working together.”

What we learned: Week 11

November, 10, 2013
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Michigan dropped its first win in the Big House under Brady Hoke, and the Wolverines dropped further in the Legends Division. This team is still a pretty big mystery, but here are three things we learned about Michigan on Saturday.

1. They're in trouble. Coming into the Nebraska game, I had said that 2-2 in November would be a probable outcome for the Wolverines. After seeing how this group played, 1-3 wouldn't be a bad guess either. The offense still doesn't have an identity and couldn't find momentum at all. There's a good chance the Wolverines split their road games at Northwestern and Iowa, and even though we always say records don't matter for The Game, play does. And the Wolverines are not playing at a level that's going to be competitive against the Buckeyes. This team realistically could finish the regular season 7-5.

2. The defense is more clutch than the offense. In past years, late in a game with a win on the line, it would've made sense to put your money on the offense. Denard Robinson was a playmaker, and while he wasn't the most consistent guy in the world, he often created something out of nothing. That clearly isn't true about the offense this year. The defense gave up a late 75-yard drive to the Cornhuskers, but even so, it consistently is the more clutch group on the field. And if there's a game that comes down to either Michigan's offense in the red zone or its defense, the D might be the better choice.

3. There are too many issues on offense. With football there isn't usually a simple answer when teams are struggling, but with the Wolverines there are just too many issues. The offensive line is a place to start -- it lacks chemistry, and the interior linemen aren't getting enough push. This was the second game in a row that Graham Glasgow has snapped a ball completely over Devin Gardner's head. Which brings us to Gardner. He doesn't have the same pocket presence he appeared to have early in the season. Gardner has looked disjointed and is clearly struggling, but part of that can be blamed on the fact that the Wolverines don't have a run game. Fitzgerald Toussaint or Derrick Green need to take the pressure off Gardner, but they haven't. There's that O-line again. The wide receivers and tight ends have been good this season, and Jake Butt is a bright spot showing growth in an offense that has appeared stagnant. But overall, there's a lot to fix and not much time to do it.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke gave his team a bit of a lighter schedule during this bye week -- getting back to practice Thursday while doing lifting and conditioning throughout the week. Hoke said they would focus on getting the team healed a bit and begin thinking about Michigan State (Nov. 2, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC).

The Michigan offense has lacked consistency this season, so this week will give the Wolverines an opportunity to find that and jell more as they begin what will be a tough stretch to end the season. Defensively, Michigan had appeared stout until last weekend against Indiana, so this off week gives that group a chance to regroup and examine what went wrong.

Here’s a closer look at what this week means on both sides of the ball.

Offensively

Offensive coordinator Al Borges has a lot of talent on his side of the ball, but it hasn’t always come together to show the most cohesive, productive unit.

[+] EnlargeAl Borges
Lon Horwedel/Icon SMIAl Borges is still examining his options on offense.
Michigan will always start up front, so that seems a good place to begin. The offensive line has gone through multiple starting lineups, and still, nine weeks into the season, the Wolverines don’t know what their best unit is up front.

Taylor Lewan, Michael Schofield and Graham Glasgow are safe at the tackles and center spots, but it doesn’t really matter how well those three play if the guards let pressure through on both sides. Kyle Bosch, Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson and Chris Bryant all seem to be battling for those guard spots. With two full weeks to prep for the Michigan State game, it does seem likely -- at least with what the coaches want -- as though the starting group against the Spartans will be what Michigan will go with the rest of the season.

“We’re not eliminating anybody,” Borges said. “We still have some talented kids in the wings. We’re trying to keep this thing competitive. … We got to this point where we’re pretty functional now, because we’ve kept it competitive. We don’t like doing it this way. We’d rather just have the same five from the beginning, but it hasn’t worked out that way.”

The O-line showed cohesion against Indiana and gave quarterback Devin Gardner plenty of time in the pocket. Gardner likely spent the week watching film with Borges to figure out how to attack the Michigan State defense. The Spartans boast the best defense in the country and have given up fewer than 14 points per game this season.

Gardner is going to need to continue improving his accuracy, as MSU will make sure to put its defense in prime positions to make plays on the ball. Already this season the Spartans have accounted for five defensive touchdowns.

However, they haven’t had to game plan against a tandem as unique as Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess. Both are effective but completely different as playmakers, and when one draws attention from a defense, the other seems to make big plays.

The Wolverines were ultra-effective in the pass and run game last weekend largely because they showed such a diverse offense, which in turn opened up the game for Gardner and allowed him and the playmakers to make plays.

“We’re not becoming a spread team … but we’re going to have that dimension in our offense,” Borges said. “We’re going to have the ability to take you sideline to sideline; we’re going to have the ability to mow you over. … If you have both, certain games one is going to be better than the other.”

Defensively

Michigan’s defense looked so solid … up until last week.

But it wasn’t the point total or the yardage total that disappointed defensive coordinator Greg Mattison the most. Instead, it was the fact that there weren’t 11 helmets running to the ball on every play. If the Wolverines want to take care of business next weekend in East Lansing, that (and many other things) will have to change.

[+] EnlargeJake Ryan
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarHow close Jake Ryan is to 100 percent will impact the Wolverines' defensive plans.
Mattison said he’d spend every second this week planning for the Spartans’ attack, which has gotten stronger every game since Connor Cook took the starting QB job. But even with that, Mattison said he feels good about what kind of team will take the field in a week in East Lansing.

“I feel very confident in our guys, because we’re going to work every second to do it,” Mattison said. “I know we’ll have Michigan defense back on that field the way it’s supposed to be when we play that game.”

The coaches haven’t come out and completely said what their plan is for Jake Ryan at this point. But if he is 100 percent and still has that quick step and instinct, it doesn’t seem like they’ll continue the three-play rotations they’ve employed with Ryan, Brennen Beyer and Cam Gordon for much longer.

If Ryan begins picking up more reps for the MSU game, it wouldn’t be too big of a surprise to see Beyer moved back to the defensive line to bring an extra body and experience to that group, while also being able to give Ryan a break here and there.

The secondary needs to clean it up this weekend. The Wolverines allowed several big plays over the past two weeks, and on many of them it seemed as though the defensive backs were right there but didn’t finish. But almost doesn’t cut it in football.

Mattison said Saturday’s disappointment for each position group on the defense could be a positive experience in the long run, as it’ll fuel each player for the rest of this season.

“That experience from Saturday -- you can’t pay for that, that feeling, and them seeing how it isn’t supposed to be,” Mattison said of the Indiana game. “You can’t pay for that. If you’re going to be a great defense, they’re going to remember that for a long time.”
Putting together the Michigan offense this season has been a bit of a puzzle for coach Brady Hoke and his staff. But the part that has proven to be the most difficult is also the part that gets it all going -- the offensive line.

The Wolverines have started three different offensive lines through seven games. And while Michigan had its best game -- statistically -- last Saturday, it was against one of the worst defenses in the Big Ten.

Obviously the big test in two weeks, you're playing one of the top five defenses in the country and in our conference in all the categories. We've got a lot of work to do before then.

Coach Brady Hoke on the Wolverines' next game at Michigan State.
Even with that, Hoke was happy with the push from the offensive line and the protection it provided for quarterback Devin Gardner.

“I liked the progress that they made,” Hoke said. “And even the guys who weren’t starting, the weeks that they had were significant in their development. The competition that we always have, I think, is helping us as a football team.”

That competition so far this season has provided enough talent for Hoke to shuffle faces around on the O-line. The three players who have started every game are Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield at the tackles and Graham Glasgow, first at left guard, and then moving over to center when conference play began.

One of the bigger personnel surprises was redshirt freshman Kyle Kalis being moved out of the starting lineup. Coaches had spoken highly of him from the beginning of fall camp, but even though he lost his starting spot to redshirt freshman Erik Magnuson, Hoke said that Kalis is still in the middle of that competition.

“I think he’s probably responded like you’d like him to,” Hoke said. “He has had a good week of practice -- came out and was physical, really understands that we’re going to need him. The next five games I can assure you we’re going to need every guy that we have in both fronts to play their best football.”

And they might be using that depth as they already have this season. Here’s a look at who played where through the first seven games this season.

Central Michigan to Connecticut:
LT: Taylor Lewan (Erik Magnuson)
LG: Graham Glasgow (Chris Bryant)
C: Jack Miller (Joey Burzynski)
RG: Kyle Kalis (Erik Gunderson)
RT: Michael Schofield (Ben Braden, Magnuson)

Minnesota and Penn State:
LT: Lewan (when Lewan got injured: Schofield, Gunderson)
LG: Chris Bryant (Burzynski)
C: Glasgow
RG: Kalis (Burzynski)
RT: Schofield (Magnuson)

Indiana:
LT: Lewan
LG: Joey Burzynski (Kyle Bosch)
C: Glasgow
RG: Magnuson (Kalis)
RT: Schofield

It will be interesting to see what Hoke and his staff decide to do with his group going forward.

On Monday, Hoke announced that Burzynski would be out the rest of the season with a torn ACL so that opens up the left guard spot again. When Burzynski exited the Indiana game, Hoke inserted Bosch, a freshman who held his own.

Whether Bosch can keep that spot, or if Hoke and his staff decide to shuffle more players around the line, will be something that plays out over the next week and a half as the Wolverines prepare for Michigan State.

The Spartans are the country’s best defense, allowing just 228 yards per game, including just 59 rushing yards per game. Considering the rushing performance the Wolverines had against Indiana, they’ll be heading into that game feeling confident, but they’ll certainly have their work cut out for them.

“Obviously the big test in two weeks, you’re playing one of the top five defenses in the country and in our conference in all the categories,” Hoke said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do before then.”
Michigan will travel to Happy Valley on Saturday for its 17th meeting against Penn State. So, in preparation of the game, Michigan beat writer Chantel Jennings and Penn State beat writer Josh Moyer sat down to discuss four key questions surrounding the contest.

What's the X-factor for the Michigan-PSU game?

Jennings: Whether Michigan can get control early. If this is close going into the fourth quarter, I don’t like Michigan’s chances. It should come as no surprise -- especially with a young QB like Christian Hackenberg -- that Penn State gets better as the game goes on. The Nittany Lions have scored 21 first-quarter points but 65 fourth-quarter points. The crowd will be behind Hackenberg and his offense so if it comes down to a fourth-quarter stand from the Michigan D I just don’t see it happening.

Moyer: Turnovers. I know, I know -- they're an X-factor in every game. But bear with me here. Neither of these teams often finds itself on the right side of the turnover battle -- both are tied for 97th this season in turnover margin -- and they've both managed to win in spite of that. And it's a toss-up Saturday to see who'll take advantage. Michigan is turning the ball over, on average, a little bit more than twice a game. Only 17 FBS teams are worse. On the flip side, only a dozen teams in the FBS have forced fewer turnovers than Penn State. Something has to give. For either team to finish even plus one would be big.

Which player is the most important?

[+] EnlargeDevin Gardner
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesThe maddening inconsistency of Devin Gardner will play a major role on Saturday in State College.
Jennings: Michigan QB Devin Gardner. This could be a high-scoring game depending on how Michigan’s defense handles Hackenberg and whether Gardner is himself or just a shell of himself. If the Gardner who showed up against Akron and UConn is on the one who takes the field this Saturday, things could get ugly fast. Penn State isn’t the friendliest of environments, and we’ve seen how mistakes pile up on the road. The offense hinges on his performance and if Michigan wants to win, Gardner needs to take care of the ball and run this offense like he can.

Moyer: Gardner. The opponent's passing games have dictated a lot for PSU. Just look at their two losses: Blake Bortles was the key in the UCF-PSU game, and Indiana's passing game posted 336 yards. Gardner might not be a better passer than Bortles, but he's easily the best athlete under center that PSU has faced. If he escapes the pocket, Penn State is in trouble. If Gardner plays like he did against Akron and UConn, Penn State wins. If he plays like he did against Notre Dame and Minnesota, Penn State loses.

What's the matchup to watch?

Jennings: Penn State’s secondary against wide receiver Devin Funchess. After the Minnesota game, teams are going to key in on Funchess. Physically, I can’t really see many defensive backs in the country having the inherent advantage in this battle, but I think it’ll be very interesting to see how the sophomore handles the added pressure and coverage.

Moyer: DT DaQuan Jones vs. U-M interior. The 318-pound tackle is Penn State's most dominant defensive player, and the Wolverines' interior isn't exactly a strength. Graham Glasgow made his first start at center last week, and Jones has the ability to take over a game. He's second -- yes, second -- on the team in tackles with 30, and he leads PSU with two sacks and 6.5 stops in the backfield. If Penn State's defensive line gets a good push Saturday, or U-M's tailbacks have difficulty running up the middle, it'll almost certainly be due to Jones.

Which team has the advantage?

Jennings: If all things were equal and it just came down to each team playing to its potential, I’d say Michigan would have the advantage. However, the Wolverines have not played well on the road and Beaver Stadium is going to provide a huge challenge. Communication issues are going to pop up and considering this will be just the second start for this group as a unit on the offensive line -- and just the second start with Glasgow and Gardner together -- I have to believe mistakes will be made that will heavily favor Penn State.

Moyer: Michigan. The main issue surrounding the Wolverines seems to be which Gardner will show up. The main issue surrounding Penn State is ... well ... there's a lot more than one issue. That's the problem. There has been no No. 2 receiving threat, the running game has been inconsistent, the linebackers have looked lost at times, and the secondary remains a weakness. To me, that seems to be too many question marks against a ranked team. Inconsistent or not, the Wolverines have made the plays when they've needed to. The same cannot be said of Penn State. Could Penn State pull this one out? Absolutely. But it would most certainly be an upset.
The first bye week of Michigan’s season has come and gone, and we’ll see how much not playing last weekend will help the Wolverines in their homecoming game this weekend.

Here are five things to watch as Michigan gets back on the field tomorrow.

1. Devin Gardner bouncing back. Following the Notre Dame game, Heisman hype surrounded Gardner. Now he’s saying that he deserves the amount of recent criticism he has gotten from fans and the media. That’s quite the swing for anyone, even someone as confident and sure of himself as Gardner. He admitted he strayed from his technique in the Akron and Connecticut games. With a week off to take a step back, spend more time in the film room and work more on the basics, he could step on the field as an entirely new player ... or he could reappear as a turnover risk. However, with the combination of Gardner’s attitude and Minnesota’s defense, expect Gardner to take a few steps forward this game.

2. The new interior offensive line. The Wolverines’ offensive line was inexperienced and lacked chemistry. Now, at the very beginning of the Big Ten season, the Wolverines are changing it up and hoping for the best. Moving Graham Glasgow to center will give Michigan a slightly bigger presence on the inside, but again, they’ll be starting from scratch. He has started four games at left guard and has worked at center through practices but he has never had to direct the line and work with Gardner during game action -- let alone the Big Ten opener. Chris Bryant will likely pick up his first start at left guard, which is again, not the most promising scenario for Michigan. He has been dinged up with knee and shoulder issues and has only appeared in one game so far this season. Perhaps the Wolverines’ O-line will take a few steps forward against the Gophers, but expect the occasional step backward as well.

3. The defensive line moving on up. The Wolverines showed progress with their four-man rush against Connecticut, and with a bye week to get back to the basics (which Greg Mattison had said they needed) as well as time to work together, expect them to continue their movement against Minnesota. They’re going to continue to funnel and shuffle guys through, but we’re still waiting on Frank Clark, while he has been impressive, to have his coming-out party. Saturday seems like a perfect time for that to happen.

4. A possible role change with Devin Funchess. The Wolverines haven’t had a consistent downfield threat this season. At times, Joe Reynolds has shown promise and Jeremy Jackson has shown potential, but that hasn’t exactly resulted in big gains. With Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo as Gardner’s current safety nets, it makes sense for Michigan to try something out, like moving Funchess into more of a receiving role down the field. He has tons of pro potential and has always been a better pass catcher than blocker, so don’t be too surprised if you see him line up as a wide receiver against the Gophers.

5. Run game, fun game. The best the run game has looked was against Connecticut, but even so, it wasn’t the way Michigan wants it to be. This week Brady Hoke said that he might give Fitzgerald Toussaint (5-foot-10, 200 pounds) a few less carries from here on out just to mix things up and to get different players/bodies out there. So if you see Derrick Green (5-foot-11, 240 pounds) and De'Veon Smith (5-foot-11, 224 pounds) out there this weekend, don’t be too surprised. And if this sparks the Wolverines run game, be even less surprised.

Planning for success: Michigan

October, 3, 2013
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Brady Hoke has told his team before that “the only noise that matters is what [they] get constructively from the coaches.”

But after two narrow -- and difficult -- wins over Akron and Connecticut, Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner said he has heard it from the outside too. And that noise hasn’t been positive.

[+] EnlargeDevin Gardner
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesMichigan QB Devin Gardner has stumbled lately against UConn and Akron, but hopes to get back on track Saturday against Minnesota.
“When you play as bad as I played, you kind of earn that,” Gardner said.

For the past few season he had seen how quarterback Denard Robinson had to deal with the criticism and scrutiny. He had counseled Robinson during those times and saw what he’d go through when he put the Michigan defense in difficult situations or threw a poorly timed pass to one of his receivers.

Now, those kinds of experiences and push back are put on Gardner. And while Gardner said that he likes to just have quiet during those times and then move on, Hoke said that he knows Gardner understands how much the team believes in him, the same way in which Gardner believed in Robinson the last few seasons.

“He has got a lot of guys that have his back -- when you think about the 114 other guys who have a lot of faith and belief, and the coaches and all that,” Hoke said. “I think he’s resilient. I think he’s smart. I think he’s confident.”

In the Wolverines’ games against Akron and Connecticut, Gardner made mistakes he hadn’t made in quite a while, mistakes that a redshirt junior shouldn’t make.

On Wednesday Gardner said that a few of those mistakes and errors had come about because he had stepped away from his fundamentals and techniques. While players work countless hours to try to avoid doing just that, Gardner said it’s easy to go regress into bad habits during hard moments in games.

“I took a psych class and [they said] it takes 10,000 hours to get out of a habit or something like that and when you get in the heat of the moment or something like that you can revert back to the old ways of doing things so it’s so easy to do that,” Gardner said. “We just have to stay focused.”

Hoke said that Gardner had responded well in the bye week and that he had seen his quarterback returning to the basic techniques and nuances of the position, which will be key if Michigan hopes to strike any kind of offensive rhythm against Minnesota.

Part of finding that groove will be creating plays that are based not on panic mode or desperation, but on what the Gopher defense is giving Gardner. In the past, Gardner seemed to be able to create offense out of nothing, exploiting defensive holes with his athleticism. But recently he didn’t do that very well.

“Sometimes you try to do too much and get a little outside yourself,” Gardner said. “You just have to stay grounded, stay focused.”

This Saturday in the Big Ten opener the Wolverines will likely be breaking out a new offensive line for their matchup with the Gophers -- one that features Graham Glasgow at center and Chris Bryant at left guard, as well as a run game that could see more of Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith helping out with Fitzgerald Toussaint’s carries.

These changes could prove to be crucial to Michigan’s success moving forward. Or, they could prove to be more hurdles, thrown in unsuccessfully at the beginning of the conference season.

But the bye week should’ve helped alleviate some of the growing pains the Wolverines could experience with these personnel changes. And it definitely gave Gardner more time to get in the film room and get back to his fundamentals.

But did he spend 10,000 hours training last week like his psych class would suggest?

“Not quite 10,000,” Gardner said. “But almost.”

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