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December 13, 2013

Schofield speaks up to lead young OL

Michigan offensive line coach Darrell Funk likes to joke about fifth-year senior right tackle Michael Schofield's oratory limitedness.

Funk says Schofield said 25 words throughout Michigan's entire 2012 season.

"This year, I might be closer to 100," Schofield says with a smile.

With a rotating cast of young players cycling through the Wolverines' three interior offensive line positions - true freshman Kyle Bosch; redshirt freshmen Kyle Kalis and Erik Magnuson; redshirt sophomores Graham Glasgow, Chris Bryant and Jack Miller; and redshirt junior Joey Burzynski all started games at either right guard, left guard or center - the veteran Schofield was forced to speak up more this season.

"I felt like having young guys on the line helped me become more vocal," Schofield said. "Just trying to help the coaches. If I saw something, I'd pull them aside and talk to them about what to do.

"Especially with the guards, I could help out a lot, because I was a guard at one point. Me and Taylor were like extra coaches, helping them out with the little things. And that helped my technique, too."

That leadership was certainly tested in November, however, when the Michigan offense hit a wall.

In four games against Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern and Iowa - three of which were disheartening losses - Michigan scored a total of 67 points.

In the first seven games of the year, the Wolverines surrendered 55 tackles for loss and 12 sacks. In those four games in November, they gave up 48 tackles for loss and 20 sacks, with redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner getting pummeled on a consistent basis.

"I think the way it happened, with the quarterback getting hit so many times, it got to the offensive line," Schofield said. "Once we got to the Ohio game, we just went out and showed what we could do."

That's when Schofield, fifth-year senior left tackle Taylor Lewan and other upperclassmen, like fifth-year seniors Kristian Mateus and Erik Gunderson, changed the tune.

"We just tried to have more fun," Schofield said. "We kind of got away from that, because we were in a bit of a slump. We tried to go out there and have more fun. You could see the young guys respond to that.

"We were jumping up and down, trying to get everyone hyped. When we scored touchdowns, we all celebrated a bunch. We had kind of gotten away from that. In the Ohio week, we got back to it."

Whatever the group of senior offensive linemen did that week, it obviously worked. The Wolverines exploded for 603 yards of offense (7.4 yards per play) and 41 points, coming up just one point and a two-point conversion attempt away from pulling off a major upset.

"We went through a tough stretch, and I think against Ohio, we definitely picked it up, got a lot of momentum going," Schofield said. "Hopefully, we can roll it over to the bowl game and show what this offense can do again."

Through the struggles of the offensive line this year, Schofield has seen the young guys steadily improve.

Although he will not been in Ann Arbor to see or participate in it, Schofield is excited to see where the group goes from him.

"All the freshmen look totally different from when they got here," Schofield said. "They have all improved dramatically, especially now that they're getting a lot of reps in practice.

"In spring ball, some of them didn't know what they were doing, just running around going the wrong way. Now, they know what they're doing, and they're going full speed, 100 percent. You can tell it's night and day."

The Wolverines are losing invaluable talent and experience in Schofield and Lewan, but there is a talented group of youngsters who were thrown into the fire this year - and although it wasn't always perfect, that gametime will help them in the future.

Schofield points to Magunson as a guy who could make a huge leap in the future.

Like Schofield in 2011, Magnuson is a true tackle who spent the second half of this season at guard.

"I knew he would go through some growing pains, and we just did the best we could to help them along the way," Schofield said. "It's huge. From doing it myself, it helps you out, because now you know what they whole blocking scheme is. You know what the guard is going to be doing. You know how to help the guard on certain blocks, and you know how the guard can help the tackle. It all works together, and you know how the whole offensive scheme operates."


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