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October 16, 2013

News & Views: Magnuson taking reps at guard

Michigan coach Brady Hoke spoke with the media Wednesday afternoon. These are the highlights:

News: The competition along the line - specifically at the left guard spot - is going to be fierce. When asked if it was fair to say that left guard was only spot the coaches are "exploring," Hoke said, "Yes, I would say that's probably right."

Redshirt sophomore Chris Bryant, who started the last two games at left guard; redshirt junior Joey Burzynski, who replaced Bryant midway through the Penn State game; and true freshman Kyle Bosch, who would have to burn his redshirt are all names that have been thrown around for the spot.

Hoke added a new one to the mix Wednesday afternoon: redshirt freshman offensive tackle Erik Magnuson. Magnuson took over at right tackle when fifth-year senior Michael Schofield replaced an injured Taylor Lewan at left tackle at Penn State. And, for his first significant playing time, Magnuson looked sharp.

Hoke: "We'll see. The guys are working hard. I don't know right now. We have Bryant, Manguson, Bosch, Burzynski, [redshirt freshman right guard Kyle Kalis].

"Magnuson hasn't played guard a lot, but he's a really athletic guy, and he did some good things the other night that warrant trying to get the best five on the field. He's got a quickness to him. He has good feet. That's why we recruited him as a left tackle, because of his athleticism. What has kept him away from it as much as anything is he needs strength gains. Unlike some of the guys, like Kyle Bosch, who has been in the weight room a lot, Magnuson played other sports, so the lifting [is coming along]."

Views: This is an interesting development. When Lewan left the game against the Nittany Lions - considering the troubles Michigan has had in moving the line of scrimmage this season - the Michigan fan base was all gloom and doom.

But Magnuson had a very impressive outing for a freshman who was thrust out in a high-pressure situation. The coaches have never shied away from asking offensive linemen to try out new positions, if it would benefit the team.

Schofield moved down to guard in 2011, and Glasgow bounced from guard to center in the middle of the year. If the Wolverines can get something out of moving Magnuson to guard for the time being - at least until Lewan and Schofield move on after this season - then go ahead and try it. At this point, there's no harm in trying.

I'd be interested to see Magnuson play a little guard. At the vey least, his presence in the practice rotation will force the other guys to compete that much harder to retain or win the starting nod.

News: Indiana likes to push the tempo on offense to try and get as many plays off as possible.

The Wolverines will have to be ready for the quick turnaround.

Hoke: "We pretty much, all year, practice high-tempo. I run the scout cards for the defense, so I have the offensive line with him, and we go at a pace, so we can get reps, so we can see as much of it as we can as coaches and evaluate it. We do that constantly. We have two sets of skill people on both sides, so they're ready to go. The offensive linemen, they do a tremendous job of finishing, and wherever the ball was spotted, I'm running over there, and we go pretty quick."

Views: There was on play, in particular, against Penn State during which Michigan was not set - not even in three-point stances - and trying to get a new personnel group on the field when the Nittany Lions quick-snapped it and drew a penalty.

Hoke said that was due to trying to match up personnel with what Penn State was bringing into the game. The Wolverines like to rotate - and Indiana is going to want to stop that from happening as much as possible by getting set ultra-fast and, hopefully, wearing down the defensive players in there.

Michigan hasn't had an issue with dealing with hurry up - other than that one play against Penn State. I don't think it will be an issue against the Hoosiers.

News: Fifth-year senior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint is 10th nationally in rushing attempts, having already carried the ball 123 times.

That's a lot of wear and tear on a running back, especially with a struggling offensive line that isn't consistently opening holes for the ball carrier. Freshman Derrick Green, freshman De'Veon Smith, junior Thomas Rawls and redshirt sophomore Justice Hayes are all competing for more carries.

Hoke: "I think there's no doubt we'd rather have more than one running back, so we can share the load, whether it's Derrick, who played in a few spots, De'Veon, Rawls, Hayes got in and he's good out of the backfield. There's no doubt."

Views: The Wolverines need someone to step in and provide Toussaint with some solid back-up carries. Green hasn't gotten much of a chance, but when he has, he's shown some nice things, mixed in with some runs cut down at the line of scrimmage.

Most of the other backs haven't seen the field since the Central Michigan game.

But Toussaint probably can't keep pounding it at this pace. Offensive coordinator Al Borges said Toussaint was wearing down at the end of his 24-carry, 121-yard performance at Connecticut. He had 27 rushes last week. Someone needs to be able to give him a breather.


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