- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Taylor Lewan said he believed what he heard and what he was asked, that through the first month of the season he thought the offensive line was struggling because that was what he was told.
Now, though, he believes something else. With one week of Big Ten play put away, the redshirt junior said he thinks this year’s line has a chance to be “special.”
So what does “special” mean, exactly?
“What do I mean about them being special? We’ve got a great bunch of guys,” Lewan said. “We’ve got guys that average out over 300 pounds. We’re athletic, have a bunch of athletic guys on the field. Ricky Barnum is a very athletic guard, Patrick Omameh, this is his fourth year starting.
“[Michael] Schofield has been playing at guard and now he’s excelling at tackle. Elliott Mealer stepped up to the challenge of Dave Molk. These guys want to be the best they can possibly be and that’s my goal, too, to be the best tackle I can possibly be.”
For the most part, this line has done a good job in pass protection and has blocked well when quarterback Denard Robinson has run the ball.
On Saturday, though, the linemen felt like they played well both in run and pass blocking.
“I would say so,” Mealer said. “It’s hard to argue with the rushing yards we put up but at the same time I think we can do better. But that’s probably an accurate statement.”
While Michigan has been putting football jerseys back into circulation all season long, Saturday’s will have some added significance. It is rare for an university to claim a President of the United States, let alone one who played football and did so at a high level.
Yet Michigan has one in former President Gerald R. Ford, whose No. 48 jersey will be worn Saturday by a yet-to-be-announced player.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt, the significance of having a former President of the United States of America and a graduate and a player,” Hoke said. “Believe me, it’s very significant.”
Sticking with Gallon
One of Michigan’s most curious areas of struggle has been at punt returner, where Jeremy Gallon has had only two returns this season for 4 yards with a long of 3.
Meanwhile, opponents have punted 22 times, and save for one return from Drew Dileo and one from Dennis Norfleet, Gallon has been involved with almost every one, either fair catching the ball or letting it go with varied success. Despite this, Hoke is sticking with Gallon.
As for why Dileo was back there on punt returns as well Saturday, where he caught one punt over his shoulder and returned it 10 yards, that had more to do with Purdue than Michigan.
“That’s because of the inconsistency the punter had going into the game,” Hoke said. “He would punt some 30 yards and why give up field position.”
This and that
Hoke said quarterback Denard Robinson practiced Sunday and is fine after it appeared he might have hurt his hand or wrist late against Purdue. ... Hoke did not provide an update on reserve defensive lineman Nathan Brink, who remains out indefinitely with an unknown injury. ... Hoke and his players all said they believe they will have no problem not looking past Illinois to next week’s opponent, rival Michigan State. ... Hoke also said Monday that he is not considering a change at tailback from Fitzgerald Toussaint, who is averaging 3.2 yards a carry.