Friday, September 5, 2008

Michigan Needs An O Ring

Forget quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, and defensive backs. Don’t worry about the intricacies of the single wing, double wing, T, I. Power I, Wishbone, student body left and student body right, triple option, ProSet, spread, or Statute of Liberty. Coaching may be irrelevant. Running or throwing quarterbacks are hapless without blockers. If you don’t have an offensive line, it doesn’t matter if you are playing Ohio State or Ohio Northern. If blocking is non-existent, then the offense will be anemic.

Michigan lacks an offensive line, which is not a critique of the individual players. It is unfortunately what it is.

Bo, an ex-lineman, was such a stickler for the O Line that he used a ruler to measure the linemen’s stances. Woe be to the linemen who deviated by a fraction of an inch.

Last Saturday’s game was an offensive disaster, especially in the first quarter. No matter how tricky or slick the handoff, a Utah defensive lineman was standing there. No time to pass either. The defensive game plan for Utah seems to have been: “Just run straight ahead; no one will stop you.”

Not withstanding the four years of Jake Long at left tackle and Adam Kraus lining up next to him, two problems have plagued the line for a couple of years. First, Michigan’s recruiting has fallen down in recent years, especially for offensive linemen and defensive backs. Only one OL starter returned from last season. An additional OL, who received extensive playing time last year, was expected to start, but he transferred to Ohio State with nasty comments on the way out about Coach Rodriquez.

Second, the right guard position has been a Bermuda Triangle as injury after injury has decimated the ranks. Early last week a DL was switched to the OL.

The first game in the fall is usually sloppy; missed assignments and stupid penalties are common. Utah certainly made its share of silly mistakes. Michigan started 6 freshmen and 6 redshirt freshmen against Utah, mostly on offense. The results were predictable. Even Michigan’s last play, the old high school Hook and Ladder, was poorly executed.

Miami of Ohio, tomorrow’s opponent, is usually a solid Mid American Conference (MAC) team, best known as the Cradle of Coaches. Head coaches who have gone on to fame elsewhere include Bo and Woody, Ara Parseghian, Paul Brown, Sid Gilman, Johnny Pont, Randy Walker, and Terry Hoeppner. Miami alums and assistant coaches who have succeeded elsewhere include Jim Tressel, Weeb Eubank, Paul Dietzel, Ron Zook, Bill Mallory, Carmen Cozzi, and Earl Blaik.

If Michigan can correct some of its mistakes and block better, it should win. If not, this season will unmercifully be long. The defense better show up on the first half this week.

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