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April 8, 2014

Offensive line remains a work in progress

There was a collective shudder Saturday during Michigan's final spring practice, and it wasn't the wind leaving the 15,000 fans unsettled, but the familiar inconsistent offensive line play that handicapped the Maize and Blue a year ago.

Unofficially, Michigan rushed for 69 yards on 26 carries (2.7 yards per rush) when its first- or second-string offense was on the field this past weekend. Those two units also would have surrendered five sacks had the quarterbacks been 'live.'

Saturday was not the line's best performance, but both offensive players and defensive players said not to overreact to one practice out of 15.

"The offense actually had us in our last scrimmage," fifth-year senior linebacker Jake Ryan said. "They made a lot more plays than we did."

"Not every day is going to be perfect," redshirt sophomore right tackle Ben Braden said after Saturday's practice. "Some days we were really good, and some days we were not.

"Today wasn't as best as we can play. We did some good things. There were some things I could have done better, and we have to go back and look at the tape and keep looking forward. Keep improving."

Asked what the strength of the offensive line is after 15 spring practices, Braden said it's not a man or a particular grouping, but the competition between so many linemen eager to start this fall.

"We're always pushing each other as much as we can," he said. "Always looking what we can do to get better, help each other, help ourselves. We're not scrambling but we're always looking back at the previous practice to see what we need to improve on, and how we can get better.

"As an offensive lineman, it's you that makes the offense because everything is won in the trenches. We're all just focusing on competing with each other."

In the summer months, while skill players work in 7-on-7s, the offensive linemen will review film and go through technique drills, led by the veteran players. Braden knows he needs that work, and so does redshirt sophomore classmate Kyle Kalis, and sophomore Kyle Bosch and on and on.

Freshman Mason Cole could really use more work on his fundamentals, and he needs to spend countless hours in the weight room, but the rookie is ahead of the game, starting with the ones in the spring scrimmage.

"Mason is doing really good," Braden said. "He's a really young guy, but he definitely stepped up and took a good role, learning as much as he can. He's very athletic and I'm looking forward to what he does in the fall and the years after that."






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