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September 17, 2013Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges sat down with the media Tuesday afternoon to discuss the offensive line, the running game and other concerns. Here are the highlights:
News: The interior offensive line - with new starters at right guard (redshirt freshman Kyle Kalis), center (redshirt sophomore Jack Miller) and left guard (redshirt sophomore Graham Glasgow) - is still a work in progress.
Borges: "[The depth chart has] always been in pencil. We're going to continue to force people to compete - it's that simple. To say we're going to start firing guys left and right, no. We knew that, going through this, there was going to be some growing pains. There has been in the first three games, and not a heck of a lot that hasn't been expected. By the same token, there is an expectation that you should improve. That's my biggest issue with this game. I don't think we took a step forward, and that irritates me more than anything.
"The inside three, and that can shake out a lot of different ways, but the inside guys would be affected the most. Again, we want to give everyone a chance to continue to improve and compete. And if you're just changing people every time you're not happy with the way something is done, you're going to put someone else in who'll go through the same growing pains. You have to be very careful with that."
Views: There have obviously been issues with the offensive line, through the first three games. The youngsters in the middle held their own against NFL-caliber talent in the Notre Dame game - but gave up too much pressure and didn't create enough running lanes against Akron, a team they should have been able to move off the ball.
Through three games, fifth-year senior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint has racked up 13 negative-yardage rushes. A total of 41 of his 55 attempts have gone for four or fewer yards. Most of that is not on him; he simply hasn't had the room to operate.
Michigan has an interesting couple of weeks ahead of it. A game on the road at Connecticut is followed by an off-week before the Big Ten schedule kicks off with a home matchup against Minnesota. Do the Michigan coaches take the bye week as a chance to reevaluate the offensive line?
As Borges said, the lineup is in pencil. If someone like redshirt sophomore Chris Bryant proves to them that he deserves playing time, he'll get it. Look at the competition for the third cornerback position on the other side of the ball. Freshmen Channing Stribling and Jourdan Lewis and junior Delonte Hollowell have all played well enough behind the scenes to warrant playing time when the lights come on. If Bryant earns it, he'll get a chance.
News: The Wolverines put up 425 yards of offense vs. Akron and averaged 6.9 yards per snap. On the flip side, they scored just 28 points, punted four times and turned the ball over four times. Consistency is the name of the game.
Borges: "When you look at the video, there are some really nice looking plays surrounded by garbage. That's what happened in the game. How do you play a game like that? You turn the ball over, we had a couple of ridiculous errors that put us in bad situations. When we didn't do that, we moved the ball fine.
"You can't surround it with all the stuff we did. It wasn't just the turnovers, it was other stuff, too. Blown assignments, a few things that were hard to fathom for some of the stuff I thought we had down by this time. We just didn't execute the way we need to, and that put us in a lot of second-and-long situations, and we had some tackles for loss that were, at times, inexplicable. We have to do a better job coaching, a better job of forcing the issue. A great coach demands what he wants. He doesn't suggest it, he demands it, and that's the tone we have to take."
Views: Borges was pretty fired up when talking about consistency. He was frustrated, not only by the among of mistakes, but by the amount of mistakes that ultimately cost the Wolverines some potentially big plays.
Both Borges and Michigan coach Brady Hoke have referenced the two Toussaint long runs that were called back for holding penalties multiple times. With a young offensive line - which, let's face it, is going to make some mistakes as it learns to play at the level U-M needs - the Wolverines can't shoot themselves in the foot with so much negated yardage.
And Borges has a point - when it looked good Saturday, the offense was really good. The Wolverines posted eight plays of 20 or more yards, including a 48-yard pass to sophomore tight end Devin Funchess and three separate runs from redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner of 30 or more yards.
The problem is those eight plays represented 258 of Michigan's 425 yards on the day (60.7 percent). On the Wolverines' other 54 offensive snaps, they amassed just 167 total yards (3.1 yards per snap). That's not going to cut it.
News: Gardner threw three interceptions and got himself into trouble when he tried to force things and ended up making bad decisions.
Borges: "Those are the plays you have to use good judgment. You say, 'OK, when do I cut my losses?' There's a fine line between being a playmaker and making a bad decision. Sometimes, a playmaker steps over that line. As a coach, you have to make sure you keep him aggressive. You can't scare him into playing cautious. But at the same time, you have to play with more discretion. The quarterback influences the outcome of a game a lot, and you have to make sure he's making the right decision."
Views: This goes back to the same consistency issues that Borges was talking about with the team as a hole. Gardner started the game on fire, hitting 5-of-5 attempts for 77 yards, including a 48-yard strike to Funchess for the touchdowns.
Early in the second quarter, his stat line read 11-of-14 for 150 yards and a touchdown - and then he fumbled the ball on an option play.
He missed the mark on his next eight pass attempts, including two interceptions.
He has to get better at putting the last play behind him and moving forward.
News: Redshirt freshman wide receiver Jehu Chesson, whose first-career catch went for a 33-yard touchdown last Saturday, is improving every day.
Borges: "He's made a lot of headway. He's learning how to play the flanker position, and you could see on that play what we have seen in practice. He has some big-play dimensions, and he also has nice yards-after-catch ability, because he is so explosive. He's very fast. He's pretty tough. What is really impressive about Jehu is his blocking. He was getting after people downfield. That's nice to see, because it means he's willing to mix it up. I think you'll see more of him before it's all said and done. As he gains more confidence, he can be a real factor."
Views: Chesson's grab was one of the highlights of the entire afternoon, breaking out of a hitch route, outracing tacklers and throwing a nice stiff arm to spring himself for a 33-yard touchdown.
Chesson's blocking ability has been well-documented, but if he can become a consistent contributor in the passing game, it's going to mean big things for the offense, in general - especially for fifth-year senior wide receiver Jeremy Gallon, as teams are forced to loosen up their coverage on him to spread the defensive backs out a bit.