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October 15, 2013
News & Views: Borges on the line, running game
Offensive coordinator Al Borges briefly spoke with the media Tuesday evening. Here are the highlights:
News: Redshirt sophomores Graham Glasgow (now at center) and Chris Bryant and redshirt junior walk-on Joey Burzynski have all played significant snaps at left guard in the last three games.
The competition along the offensive line is very much ongoing. Borges compared it to the tailback position during his first season in Ann Arbor, when fifth-year senior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint did not emerge as the clear-cut starter until the Purdue game.
Borges: "We did a poor job of moving the line of scrimmage. We have to do a better job of that. There's nothing else to discuss. Sometimes, we targeted it well and still didn't move the line of scrimmage.
"What we have to do at this point is make it more competitive. I have told you guys since day one that that depth chart is in pencil. This week, we're auditioning more players, and we're going to see how they turn out. We're going to iron these mistakes out one way or another and find the five guys we feel can do it. And doesn't mean the five guys that were in there aren't going to be in there. We're going to give them a chance, too."
Views: Ideally, the offensive line does not have to make changes - for performance, injury or otherwise - at this point in a season. But this is where Michigan has found itself. And the only thing to do is accept it as fact, move forward and continue to try to find a viable starting five.
Glasgow appears to be the best option at center. He is most comfortable at the position, and the coaches really like his ability. Redshirt freshman right tackle Kyle Kalis doesn't look like he's going anywhere, either.
That leaves the left guard spot. Is Burzynski the answer? Have the coaches seen enough of Bryant? Can true freshman Kyle Bosch truly step in and contribute now?
These are the questions Michigan has to answer before the calendar turns to November. The Wolverines have this weekend and a bye the next to figure it out. Otherwise, November is going to be a long, long month.
News: Toussaint and freshman running back Derrick Green had 30 total carries for 28 yards against Penn State. Faced with a failing running game, Borges would prefer not to rely on redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner for rushing yards - but he'll do what he has to do.
Borges: "I don't like it, but you do what you have to do to win the game, end of discussion. Every week. 'How come your tailbacks aren't getting any yards?' Well, if no one is getting any yards, then you've got a problem. I would prefer the tailback, but if the quarterback is a guy who can beat you - I don't particularly like it - but we'll do what we have to do to win the game, simple enough.
"I don't want him carrying the ball 25 times a game. He isn't going to make it. Denard [Robinson] didn't make it. We should have learned something from that. And you saw what happened before we got here. It's hard for a quarterback to carry the ball that many times and stay in one piece. We're trying to avoid that, but there are going to be times, in the heat of the battle, if those are the things that work, you have to go do them. It's that simple.
"Our power running game wasn't that good, so we had to put some pistol in there, find some things that worked, some quarterback draws. It's not preferred, but battlefield decision dictate that you have to do things to help you win the football game. They may not have been ones that you planned originally."
Views: The Wolverines needed Gardner to run 24 times against the Nittany Lions - and they'll need him to use his legs, moving forward. There is clearly a problem with the running game right now, but Gardner looked like a beast when he took off.
When he has been given the opportunity to run some read-option looks, Gardner has shown a knack for making the right move. Why not mix some spread concepts in there and see what Gardner can do?
The offense is looking for a spark. The Wolverines don't have to look past their quarterback.
News: Gardner turned the ball over twice against the Nittany Lions, but otherwise looked calm and composed and made some very nice decisions.
Borges: "The thing I was really impressed with was Devin Gardner. His footwork has jumped a quantum leap in two weeks. After getting a couple passes intercepted in the first half and getting a fumble that really wasn't his fault at all, because he got blindsided, he recovered and showed composure through the whole football game. At no time was I ever in doubt that he could bring us back, and he proved me right."
Views: Yes, Gardner's turnovers are a major concern. But his two last weekend overshadow how well he played, especially in the second half.
Eventually, the mistakes and miscues are going to fade away, and Gardner will continue to make opposing defenses scratch their heads.
News: Michigan played for field goals in overtime - and it did not work out.
Borges: "Well, we have the best kicker in the league, at least we think, especially inside of 40 yards, so we were just going to position it so we could finish it. The biggest thing is, if you try and score or be aggressive and turn the ball over, then everyone is going to second-guess you. That was our approach."
Views: Realistically, it was a smart move. Fifth-year senior kicker Brendan Gibbons has been as close to automatic as you can get.
But at some point, you have to have a killer instinct. Take a shot - because Penn State wasn't playing for a field goal in that fourth overtime, regardless.