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October 2, 2013

News & Views: Hoke announces OL changes

Michigan coach Brady Hoke sat down with the media Wednesday afternoon and discussed the Wolverines' new starting offensive line.

Here are the highlights.

News: The interior offensive line will undergo lineup changes, after the players spent the bye week competing for playing time. Redshirt freshman right guard Kyle Kalis will retain his position, while redshirt sophomore Graham Glasgow moves from left guard inside to replace redshirt sophomore Jack Miller at center.

Redshirt sophomore Chris Bryant will replace Glasgow at left guard.

Hoke: "Those guys have all done a tremendous job competing, and if we were going to kick the ball off today, Graham would be the center, and Chris Bryant would be the left guard, with Joey Burzynski and Kyle Bosch being a part of that mix at some point, possibly. Jack has done a great job of competing, but Graham would start and Jack is always ready to go.

"If we kicked off now, that's what we'd do, but you never know. There are still some days left."

Views: Last week, Hoke said the only way he would consider moving Glasgow to center - where he competed with Miller throughout the spring at summer - would be if someone emerged as a viable candidate to replace him at left guard.

Bryant has proven to the coaches that he deserves to be out there, and the changes have been made to a unit that has received its fair share of criticism for the Wolverines' offensive struggles through the first four games.

Something needed to be done about the offensive line situation; that much is clear. Through four games, the Wolverines had surrendered 32 tackles for loss and ranked No. 113 nationally in TFL per game (8.0).

Michigan have also surrendered six sacks of redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner and rank a middling 51st nationally in rushing offense (194.3 yards per game).

If this group clicks and can open a few holes in the running game, it will mean big things for the Wolverines' hopes of taking home a Big Ten Championship this season.

News: Although he has yet to play center in a game, Glasgow has plenty of experience at the position, vying for the starting center job throughout spring and summer. Hoke is not concerned about Glasgow's ability to make the transition.

Hoke: "He has played center every week, too. Not gameday, but during the week. Trying to put the best five on the field is always the biggest challenge. As far as what he has to do positionally, snapping the football is the biggest difference. There are some calls that he'll go through, and he has done those since the spring. Snapping the ball, he's done since spring.

"He's a little bigger, a little rangier. He's 6-5. The weight and strength are all positives, too."

Views: Before the season, Miller and Glasgow were asked what each other's strengths were at the center position. Both said the same thing: Glasgow was the more physically imposing of the two, and Miller has more understanding of the mental aspect of the game.

At this point - and this is not a knock on Miller - the Wolverines could use a little more physicality inside. After a year in the system, Glasgow understands the calls and checks he needs to make well enough to do them - and if he can get a push in the middle, that will go a long way.

News: Bryant, after a season-ending injury caused him to miss the entire 2012 season, is finally healthy.

Hoke: "Chris has been close all year, to be honest with you. His knee became a problem for about three or four days, and then he had a little nick in the shoulder, a boo-boo. He has come through that pretty well."

Views: This new offensive line alignment obviously cannot work if Bryant isn't healthy - and he has never really been fully healthy since stepping on campus.

This is the best he's felt since his injury in 2012 fall camp. But if he can stay on his two feet - and his shoulder does not become a reoccurring problem - he has a ton of potential. He can move guys off the ball - and that's exactly what Michigan is looking for right now.

News: Gardner, after turning the ball over seven times in the last two games, has spent the week getting back to the little things, like focusing on footwork and throwing technique.

Hoke: "All of us needed to go back to fundamentals, but he's a high-profile guy because of his position. He needs to focus on stepping through throws, getting his hips turned, the timing of the drops. All those things, he has done a nice job with all week."

Views: Gardner has all the tools to be a great quarterback - and he has shown that when he puts them together, he can truly light opposing defenses up. There's been a problem in the last few weeks, but there is nothing so fundamentally wrong with the way he has played that suggests nothing can be done to fix it.

He's just a few solid drives away from building up his confidence and reemerging as the same Gardner he was before this recent slump.

A lot of his issues - pressing when nothing is there - can be traced back to a lack of time to throw, because of the offensive line. If this new group works out, and Gardner gets hot again, this offense will be right back on track.

News: Redshirt junior outside linebacker Jake Ryan is getting more and more into the swing of things, including, now, participating in full-contact drills.

Hoke: "He's doing a lot more every day. Oh yeah, he's been doing [full-contact drills]. We're smart with it, though."

Views: It seems like every week, there's another positive update on Ryan's progress. At this point, he has to be close to getting the full go-ahead from trainers and coaches.

If it's not next week, for the Wolverines' trip to Penn State, then it seems likely he'd be back for the Indiana game, giving him one to shake off the rust before things get really interesting in November.

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