No team lost. No team won. But what Saturday nights scrimmage showcased is that Michigan still has some work to do. A lot, a lot of work to do. And it all starts on the offensive front.
Last year Michigan averaged 125.7 yards per game on the ground, good for 103rd in the country. They have since graduated Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield to the NFL, U-M’s most experienced lineman by a huge margin. Currently, the most experienced lineman is redshirt junior Graham Glasgow, who has 13 career starts.
With so little experience up front, U-M has to look to its youth, and it showed on Saturday. There were no holes, little protection, and the quarterback’s were running for their lives, and at times it looked like the 2013 season all over again -- maybe even worse.
And Michigan’s defense, well, they looked like world beaters. They swarmed, they made tackles in the backfield, overall, they were just flat out aggressive. The defense looked elite. With that being said, maybe it just wasn’t Michigan’s night offensively? Maybe U-M’s defense is that good or even great? And that very well may be true.
Or maybe this offense can run the ball after all. Maybe we just didn’t see it on Saturday. And Michigan coach Brady Hoke eluded to just that after the scrimmage.
“The other night we ran the ball pretty well,” Hoke said of the run game. “Again, you can’t play well one Saturday and not as well the next. There is another level of consistency there. Yeah I thought the defense [played better], and to be honest with you – they should. I mean there is more veterans over there. More guys with game experience. I think defense to some degree gets always head of the offense. It’s been like that forever, but we need to catch up offensively pretty fast.”
If that’s the case, maybe it’s a matter of consistency. And that will happen when you’re starting freshman and sophomores on your starting front. The starting first team offensive line consisted of: freshman Mason Cole (LT), redshirt sophomore Erik Magnuson (LG), redshirt junior Jack Miller (C), Glasgow (RG) and redshirt sophomore Ben Braden (RT). And don’t forget sophomore Kyle Bosch, redshirt freshman Patrick Kugler and redshirt freshman David Dawson, who are all in the mix as well. Redshirt sophomore guard Kyle Kalis was held out due a minor back issue. So the lineup could change more with the inconsistent play, and that was showcased on Saturday night.
“I don’t think you can pin point anything particular,” Hoke said of the offensive line deficiencies. “You got to play with leverage. You got to positive with you footwork. Your hips got to get down the field. You got to finish blocks. It sounds easy, but when you got a defense [that] moves a lot, we blitz a lot – it puts a little more pressure on them.”
Now the pressure is on Hoke to find a starting offensive line, and he has less than two weeks to do it. The question is, will he?
If Hoke does, he’ll need a running back to emerge. While no running back stood out with the inconsistent play of the offensive line, sophomore Derrick Green did start the scrimmage with the first team offense.
Green was able to end the scrimmage with a goal line touchdown, however, he had an uneventful night as he struggled to find an open running lane in the offense. And while he got the start, no running back separated themselves from the rest on Saturday.
“I think he’s had a good week,” Hoke said of Green. “Again, I don’t know if any of them tonight, in my opinion, again this is without watching the tape, but we got to keep improving there. We got to keep seeing things a little better.”
“You know they all have their positives,” Hoke said. “Yes, you want somebody [to emerge]. By when? Hopefully by Wednesday or Thursday of this week. We would like to be pretty settled.”
Settled or not, Hoke is and should be “concerned” where his run game is at the moment, especially with Appalachian State coming up on the schedule on Aug. 30.
“I would be lying if I wasn’t concerned about all of our football team,” Hoke said. “You know, and that’s just being a coach. Do we need to improve still? There is no question about it. I think the run game, like I said the other day we ran the ball pretty well.”
“Other day” needs to turn into every game day. And that folks, remains to be seen.