Will Michigan's offensive line be better in 2018? That's the plan
You can use statistics to make just about any kind of point, but oftentimes those numbers just don’t lie. And when it comes to evaluating Michigan’s offense last season, the numbers were just downright ugly.
And there’s no getting around it.
Michigan’s offense averaged only 25.1 points per game a year ago, good — or bad — for 91st in the country out of 129 teams. They were No. 105 in total offense (348.9 yards per game) and an even-worse 110th in passing (171.2 yards per game).
It was easy to point fingers at every unit on that side of the ball, but it was the offensive line that caught the most heat. And rightly so, really. Michigan quarterbacks took a pounding in the passing game because of the leaky protection. That has to change in 2018 against this difficult schedule.
Change is the expectation.
“We’re really sick of hearing that,” veteran offensive lineman Ben Bredeson told mgoblue.com last week. “Especially as an offensive line, you’re expected to be the heart and soul of the team. And last year, we weren’t. But that’s what we’ve been striving to become this year. That’s been stressed all winter and spring in workouts by (new strength and conditioning) Coach (Ben) Herbert, and internally, we’ve been stressing that ourselves.
“As an offense, we need to come together and be stronger. But we, as an offensive line, we lifted and we worked hard each and every day. We knew there were going to be eyes on us this year because everyone needs to point a finger somewhere, and last year it was at us. We don’t want that to happen again. And things have definitely changed.”
Michigan brought in veteran coach Ed Warriner to coach the offensive line and he’s had an immediate impact. Bredeson said the line in making great strides every day in fall camp, “growing by leaps and bounds every day.”
Even Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh confirmed that on Monday that the line is showing progress.
“To see our (offensive) line facing up to that challenge has been very good,” Harbaugh said. “The offensive line, I really believe, is getting better. Ed Warinner is doing a terrific job. Yeah, the offensive line, I think, is ascending very nicely. Coaching the heck out of it. The guys are working hard. I think we are moving people better than we have. It’s been a big difference.”
Even though there’s going to be more shuffling along the line, the results are expected to be better. Cesar Ruiz is expected to slide over to center and Michael Onwenu and Stephen Spanellis are battling for a starting spot at right guard. The tackle spots are still up for grabs as well with Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Jon Runyon, James Hudson and Andrew Stueber all in the mix. Bredeson at left guard is the only lock.
“Camaraderie is at an all-time high,” said Bredeson. “And what’s impressed me most is just how (Warriner) has simplified the game. He comes up with these brilliant ideas, sits down and explains it in a way you can understand it. It makes us play the game that much faster. We don’t have to think about a lot of things. It’s just quick checks. He’s a great teacher and makes sure we understand things. You see it in the meetings, and it carries over onto the field each day.”