So just how much can actually be accomplished on a bye week, for a team that generated more questions than answers in the fortnight leading to it? The bottom-line answers begin arriving at 3:30 Saturday afternoon, when Michigan looks to once again save the Little Brown Jug from a rare disappearance.
Jerry Hanlon knows what the Wolverines will try to do. He's been there. He worked through bye weeks, on the way to winning 13 Big Ten championships alongside Bo Schembechler, and a couple more after Schembechler retired.
While fans' eyes often glaze over at terms like "fundamentals," the veteran coach insists they shouldn't. Present Michigan coaches have stressed them throughout the two-week period between the Wolverines' narrow escape at UConn and the Big Ten opener against Minnesota tomorrow.
Especially in the first week of those two, the Wolverines had a chance to get back to the basic movements that can make the different between a 30-yard breakaway run and a tailback getting swarmed after a step. That first week, Hanlon noted, was not about the Golden Gophers.
"You don't necessarily have to just work on what your opponent's offense and defense is for the upcoming week," Hanlon said. "You've got a little time there where you can say, 'Hey, we don't worry about who we're playing. Let's get back to playing how we know we can play.'
"I think that's what they tried to do. They tried to get back to the fundamentals, look at the things they're doing badly, and see if they can't correct some of those mistakes. Not coming off the ball properly, if you're not playing your secondary in good coverage - all of those things they can look at on tapes, then go out there and work on those kinds of things."
Brady Hoke announced changes on Michigan's offensive line this week, moving 6-6, 303-pound redshirt sophomore Graham Glasgow over to center and inserting 6-4, 316-pound Chris Bryant in at left guard. Hanlon, Michigan's offensive line guru for much of his assistant coach tenure, noted a bye week provides more time to make such a move, along the line to mesh.
Coaches can't be afraid to pull the trigger in such situations, he insisted, even at the expense of the chemistry built up over the first four games.
"If we thought we had a better player to put in there, we hooked him in right now," Hanlon recalled. "When I talk about cohesiveness, it takes time for that to happen. But if you get a young man hurt, and another kid has to go in and play, he has to feel comfortable going in there. The other kids understand they're going to have to pick him up a bit.
"When you have a whole week or two weeks to get used to each other and put somebody in, I don't think it will be a problem. The thing I look for is, are their techniques good enough to allow them to be a good football player? You look at those tapes to see if they're coming off the ball, if they're doing the things that allow you to be successful. That's the most important thing.
"If they master the techniques, and they have the mental attitude to get after it, then you've got an offensive lineman. That's what you have to look for. If somebody is not doing the job, you're not going to sit there and watch it all day long. You're going to put somebody in there who you think can. They're trying to find the guys they think can do the best job."
Where lineup changes aren't made, the focus involves changing some of what has created problems in the first place. For Hanlon, that often gets back to the men up front.
"Number one, you look at the tapes," he said. "You sit with the kids, and show them. You look at their footwork. You see if they're coming off the ball. You look at where their head and hand placement is. You make sure they aren't too high, and if they are too high, then you show them on the film.
"You take them out there and work with them and film that, to see if they aren't doing the things they're supposed to do. It's a great teaching time. You can look at the tape and say, 'Here, this is what you're doing. Let's see if we can't improve on this.' Then tape it during the week and see if that improvement is taking place."
Michigan turned the football over a dozen times in the first four games. While that has put a good deal of focus on redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner, he's only one cog in a much bigger machine, Hanlon noted.
When that machine is malfunctioning, the issues are often widespread.
"As far as taking care of the ball is concerned, nine out of 10 times, if you block better and give your quarterback a little more time, then you're not going to have as many bad throws or interceptions," he pointed out.
"You always work on ball control. In other words, if you're running with the football, if you start to get into any kind of traffic, you make sure you secure the ball at both ends, so you have it in a proper position where it can't be kicked out of there or pulled out.
"Then, they look at the receivers to see how they're running their routes. We're going to meet a lot more man-to-man. As you're running good routes, you make it a little easier for that quarterback. Look at those tapes and see how you're doing, how you're getting off a defender.
"ARE you getting open and giving him a chance? Then you go out and work on those things."
The work has been done. It has also included getting more pressure on the quarterback, covering better in the secondary, and a host of other aspects that seemed a little off-kilter through a hair-raising 4-0 start.
Schembechler himself said it: "You get better, or you get worse." The next measuring stick for that movement is at hand.
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