Mealer talks about O-line improvement

OC Elliott Mealer talks about getting the run-game going, about Devin Funchess, about Mike Cox, about making the calls at the center position, and more.

Q: Your thoughts as an offensive lineman on the breakdown between Denard going off for all that running yardage, and yet the running backs not being able to do a whole lot?

Elliott Mealer: You know, that's definitely something that's on the offensive line as far as getting Fitz and the other guys more rushing yards, but as an offensive lineman, you kind of have the luxury, with Denard, that he makes plays, and a lot of the time as an offensive lineman you don't always know where he's going to go, so he makes us look good, but like you said with the running backs, we have to be able to – that's completely on the offensive line, and I think we improved a little bit this week from the first game, but we have to get a lot better and start playing Michigan football like a Michigan offensive lineman should, so we'll get that this week.

Q: With the Denard carries, I mean, he's a playmaker, but do you feel like on those particular carries you guys are blocking the way you need to be blocking?

Mealer: Yeah, I think the plays that he was successful on with touchdowns and long runs, you know, we blocked it good, and he just kind of takes it off and makes his owns cuts, so I think of it as his style of play and a good blocking scheme combination of the two.

Q: You mentioned that you thought you guys were better against Air Force than you were against Alabama. Where did you make improvements, and where else do you have to make improvements going forward to get Fitz going?

Mealer: I think part of it is that Air Force has a really unique defense. A lot of confusion, I guess you could say, and I thought we handled that well. So that aspect of it, and the mental part of it, I guess, getting guys where they need to be, was good. But I just think we need to be more downhill as an offensive line, you know? Making obvious holes for Fitz, and like I said, just playing Michigan offensive line football, and that's something hopefully we'll get into this week is just pushing guys around.

Q: How comfortable have you gotten with the aspect of making all the calls upfront?

Mealer: I think pretty comfortable. You know, since I've been playing center in camp and things like that – and I think anybody would say this when you're playing center – since you're making the calls, you feel very comfortable. You know, whether they're right or wrong, you at least know where you're going and where everybody else is going, so I really like that position, and I think I've done a good job of that part of it, at least.

Q: When did you first notice Devin Funchess in practice, maybe in the pre-season, and kind of be like ‘hey, this is a guy that could be an asset for us'?

Mealer: You know, it's kind of hard to say. I mean, during camp I think a lot of the freshmen were standing out in certain ways, and they made plays, and him in particular, you know, he's done a great job in camp, and I think – obviously you guys got to see that two days ago during the game. But he's kind of been – I guess he's shown that in camp – shown that he's been a good player, and so I guess it wasn't too surprising when he got out there and had a really nice game.

Q: Barring injury, do you see yourself playing center for the rest of the season, or could you and Ricky make a few more switches, or…?

Mealer: You know, as far as I know, that's the only position that I'm really playing, is center. I've played every position since I've been here; left tackle all the way across to right tackle, so I think I have the ability. If for whatever reason a switch needed to be made, I would be able to, but right now center is my main position, that's my main focus, and that's really the only position my focus is on.

Q: Facing Mike Cox on Saturday—what's that going to be like going against a guy that you used to block for?

Mealer: You know, it's kind of neat, you know, getting to go against somebody that you used to play with, but obviously I won't be going directly against him, but you know, he's a player on another team now, and we have to prepare for him just like any other team. Maybe after the game it'll be nice saying ‘hey' to him and seeing him again, but for now we're just treating him as another running back from a team we would play against any other week.

Q: Taylor called him "elusive." What do you remember about his style of play?

Mealer: You know, he played hockey when he was younger, and I don't know, he was the fastest 7th grader on skates in the world or something like that. So a lot of – when you watch him play football, you kind of see, like, he looks like a hockey player. You know, he makes those sharp cuts and things like that, so he's very dynamic in that sense, and makes cuts, and obviously he's a really good running back as far as the way he plays the game, so I'm sure he'll be a good test for our defense.

Q: What do you say to maybe younger guys who might be thinking you guys are just going to show up and roll over U-Mass like you're expected to?

Mealer: I think Coach Hoke's done a nice job of putting the idea in our head that that's not the case. When you're playing Michigan, you're going to give them your best shot, so we realize that. Every team, especially when they come into the Big House, is going to give us their best game, and they're going to be excited as can be, so the guys understand that. Coach Hoke does a nice job, and I think us upperclassmen, and guys that are playing, do a nice job of relaying that to the younger guys, that there's no pushover teams. U-Mass is going to be a great team to go against.

Q: Piggybacking off that, a lot of the upperclassmen were around when you guys played U-Mass the last time, and they gave you a game. Is that a lesson you guys take into this, or is that too far gone that it doesn't really play into it?

Mealer: I don't think that we're particularly thinking about that this week. We're really, I think, focusing on Michigan more so, and we obviously have some corrections we need to make on ourselves, so I think a lot of our focus this week is going to be ‘what can Michigan do to get better'? And that is a lesson, you know, like I just said, we know we're going to get everybody's best shot, so I think we're always prepared for that, and we're not looking past these guys at all.

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