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September 24, 2013Michigan coach Brady Hoke talked to the media Tuesday evening, talking about the interior offensive line, what the Wolverines will focus on with the bye week and more. Here are the highlights:
News: With an extra week to prepare before the beginning of Big Ten season, Hoke and Co. are, in part, using this week to look at several position competitions and whether changes can or will be made along the depth chart. After disappointing performances in the last two weeks, the interior offensive line - with new starters redshirt freshman right guard Kyle Kalis, redshirt sophomore center Jack Miller and redshirt sophomore left guard Graham Glasgow - was singled out by Hoke as one area that will be under scrutiny this week.
Hoke: When asked if Glasgow, who competed with Miller this offseason for the starting center position, could possibly move to center, Hoke responded, "I'd hesitate only if we couldn't find a replacement for him [at guard]."
Views: The interior offensive line has received a lot of criticism in the last few weeks - and for good reason. The Wolverines are 120th nationally in tackles for loss allowed, with 32 for a total of minus-120 yards in just four games. Six of those have been sacks - the normal, power run game, which the coaches touted as the new focus of the offense, has produced far too many negative-yardage plays.
Is a Glasgow move to center the answer? It's tough to say, because, realistically, we have had a very limited look at him taking snaps at the center position (really, just the spring game). Will he be better than Miller? Only throwing him out to the fire would answer that question.
As for his replacement, that's what this week off will provide the Wolverines. If redshirt sophomore Chris Bryant, who has battled a host of injuries since he arrived on campus, can create quite a push - and if he can prove that he can do that consistently, that might be the ultimate answer.
Even with a bye week, the Wolverines have the figure it out quickly. Big Ten season is approaching rapidly, and with it comes more aggressive defensive lines. Right off the bat, the interior offensive line will have to cope with Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman, an All-Big Ten-caliber tackle who redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner knows all too well after a couple sacks last season.
News: Redshirt junior outside linebacker Jake Ryan, who led the team in tackles for loss (16) and sacks (4.5) last year, has been doing more and more in practice, including today.
Hoke: When asked if Ryan would be back in the fold for the Wolverines' Big Ten opener, Hoke replied, "I wouldn't think that would be the game he comes back. Sometime in October."
Views: Ryan set a mid-October return as a goal for himself this offseason. That would put him back on the field for the Wolverines' home game vs. Indiana. But many are wondering if Ryan can return slightly earlier, for Michigan's road game at Penn State.
For starters, it's terrific to hear Ryan is progressing so quickly. He's going to be back - it's only a matter of time.
But the coaches want to be cautious, and that's completely understandable. Ryan has a very bright future, not only in Ann Arbor, but on Sundays at the next level. As bad as he wants to play, it would be unwise to push him out there too quickly.
I'd rather had a 100-percent Jake Ryan a few weeks behind schedule than a tentative Jake Ryan ahead of schedule who may risk further injury.
The defense is playing pretty well right now without him. The Wolverines have nine sacks through four games - not ideal, but it is tied for 27th nationally. And their 25 tackles for loss ranks 33rd nationally.
Those numbers will spike once he gets back in the fold, but they're fine for the time being. Let him get completely back to his former self before tossing him out there.
News: Michigan currently ranks next-to-last nationally in turnovers with 12. Gardner has accounted for 10 of those by himself (eight interceptions), including a whopping seven total turnovers in Michigan's closer-than-expected wins over Akron (28-24) and Connecticut (24-21).
Hoke: "He's been Superman for a long time. Ever since he was a kid, he's been able to do whatever he wants out there, so he has a lot of belief in himself. It's a fine line, but you'd rather tame a bucking bronco than try to rile up an ole mare."
Views: Limiting turnovers may be the biggest concern for the Wolverines if they want to accomplish their goal of a Big Ten Championship.
Looking at the schedule ahead, the offense cannot continue to cough the ball up at this rate. A team like Michigan State, which has built its 3-1 record around capitalizing on turnovers, would feast on a four-turnover game.
Gardner absolutely gives Michigan the best chance of winning. If he cuts down on the mistakes and the interceptions, he could be one of the most dangerous quarterbacks out there.
And the bye week will certainly help. He can focus on just getting better, shake off those two games and come back with the same mindset that made him look so unstoppable Week Two against Notre Dame.
News: With the bye week, several proven starters, like fifth-year senior left tackle Taylor Lewan and fifth-year senior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint will receive a little lighter load in practice, giving younger guys a chance to step up.
Hoke: "With a guy like Taylor, he doesn't have to take 30 snaps in a scrimmage this week. [At running back], we can get guys like De'Veon Smith, Derrick Green, Justice Hayes and Thomas Rawls a few more carries."
When asked if a solid week might help one of those running backs get more actual game snaps, Hoke said, "That would help."
Views: The Wolverines rode Toussaint against the Huskies, because that was their best course of action - and it worked. Toussaint went for 120 yards and two scores on 5.0 yards per carry, the first 100-plus-yard performance from a Michigan running back since the 2011 Ohio State game (Toussaint, 120 yards).
But moving forward, it would be nice to see another back emerge and prove he has earned some carries.